Have you ever re-watched a movie from your childhood, and caught a theme or joke you completely missed when you were younger?
With each year that passes, I find that I learn fewer completely new things and instead learn secondary iterations of concepts I already thought I fully understood.
As I write this, I’m in Mexico City for a three week visit and my heart is full.
Every time I come to the city, I expect to serve and to leave something of value.
Ironically, it’s usually me that leaves with a different perspective.
Lost in Translation
There is something beautiful and exciting about not completely understanding the person you are speaking with. I remember coming to the city in 2015, and having NO clue what some of the beneficiaries were saying when we visited the safe house. That visit consisted of connect 4 marathons and Uno games where people might have broken all the rules.
During my second visit in 2019, I was tasked with teaching a few classes on business principles and I thought that Google Translate would be an accurate translator for me to communicate with… I was definitely wrong. My friend Ixel graciously translated for me, but I definitely bored the girls half to death with my boring and way too long lessons on building their businesses and brands.
When I returned from my trip in 2019, I resolved to practice my Spanish. I dusted off this software that I had long forgotten about, and finished the five course class in five months… Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, and I hardly practiced after finishing the course.
During this current trip, I resolved to try and use my “traductor” as infrequently as possible. It’s been chaotic and yet the trip has been filled with so many laughs and memorable moments as I try and find the words to communicate what I mean. Everyone has been so gracious as I ask them to repeat their phrases and “como se dice” has become my most common phrase.
I’ve learned that there is something beautiful about struggling to find the right word without the help of my phone’s translator. I joked around with my friend Jess that me using my translator was like “phoning a friend” in “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” Every time I need to “phone a friend,” I disconnect from the conversation I’m in. By attempting to limit my usage of the translator, I’m able to stay present. Even though it’s not the smoothest process, it’s taught me so much about how communication in any friendship or relationship takes work.
In many ways, we all speak different languages that are informed by our experiences, trauma, and history. Sometimes we are so concerned with saying the right thing, that we disconnect from the present in order to find the “best” way to say something. In doing so, we cease to listen and the authenticity of the moment is lost as we listen to respond instead of listening to know the person we are talking to.
Laughing at Myself
For those of you who don’t know, I accrued a massive amount of debt during 2018-2019. Partially due to poor coping mechanisms and a toxic work environment, I spent a TON of money on escape rooms, trips, and things that I thought would make me happy.
In hindsight, I was just trying to escape my day to day reality and in order to do so I literally locked myself in rooms with friends and tried to escape in sixty minutes.
After returning from Mexico City in 2019, I wanted to return as soon as possible, but I had SO MUCH debt that I literally couldn’t do ANY thing. I had avoided a budget for as long as I could and I was so afraid of knowing where my money was going, that I did everything I could to avoid attempting to get my finances in order.
I literally lived paycheck to paycheck even though I made a decent salary, and if I had been fired or had a medical emergency, I would have been on the street in five minutes.
In February of 2020, I came to the conclusion that I definitely had a problem, and I decided to take a personal finance class.
The first task was to save a thousand dollars for a starter emergency fund, and I wasn’t even able to complete this step until after the class was completely finished. It was depressing and painful to begin budgeting. All of a sudden, I was aware of where all my money was going. I got so sick of handmade sandwiches and having to say no to getting lunch at work. I cried a little when I realized how much money I was losing to interest.
In order to try and achieve my financial goals, I began to gamify my experience. I used T-mobile Tuesdays in order to get free Burger King Whoppers. I fought over mailer coupons with my roommates in order to get cheaper food. I filled out a ridiculous number of surveys to get free food. My budget tracker became my best friend as I tried to buy groceries for as cheap as possible. I started saying no to my initial impulses to buy things and I started donating any extra crap I had.
By the grace of God and many sandwiches later, I was debt free in November.
If you know me, you know that I have this habit of getting really excited about whatever I’m into at the current time.
I blasted my social media accounts with the importance of budgeting and saving and would literally try and pull in anyone that would listen. I’m sure I sounded like an MLM schemer with how aggressive my marketing of Financial Peace University was. So to everyone who I harassed, thanks for being patient with me!
Ironically, in 2021 as I was dealing with last minute trip preparations, I got a call from my old FPU instructor asking me to table lead for the spring FPU class. In the process, I wrote a handful of emails to the individuals at my table, where I shared about my experiences and did my best to encourage and affirm them.
So of course, IF YOU KNOW me, you know my life is just filled with these crazy coincidences that I call divine appointments.
Anywho, after I purchased my tickets two weeks before I was supposed to be in CDMX, I talked with the project volunteer organizer and without knowing of my experience with debt or FPU, she suggested that I talk to the girls at the safe house and transition home about….
You guessed it: personal finances.
As I presented my short presentation on budgeting yesterday, I incorporated some visuals that I hoped would help the girls remember the importance of money management. On a whim, I decided to share in broken Spanish about my own experiences con deuda.
I couldn’t help but laugh at myself a little bit as I presented. The girls’ eyes went wide when I told them about how much debt I had accrued and they asked me if I had learned my lesson.
I told them I had, and it was a great throwback to my conversation with my friend Cheyenne a few years ago about how our own struggles often give us the authority to speak on those subjects in the future.
Sin Miedo: Without Fear
In order to keep my taco weight at a minimum this time around, I had inquired with my host family about the presence of nearby parks or basketball courts. Luckily for me, Benny, the founder of el Pozo De Vida and his son Micah play basketball multiple times a week.
Basketball is a little different here. There’s the rims which seem to be a lot less bouncy. The basketball itself seems to be a tad smaller. And the play style here is a lot more pass oriented compared to the isolation heavy style on the West Coast.
One of the craziest things about basketball here is how fearless and savage the girls are.
Where I’m from, Basketball is this male dominated sport, in which seeing a girl in a pickup game is a rarity.
In the one week I’ve been here, I’ve seen girls play that can literally run circles around most of the guys here.
Three pointers? Of course.
Ball handling? I’ve seen girls keep possession while being double teamed by guys that towered over them.
Defense? SO MANY STEALS.
Driving? They’ll literally take the contact from two dudes in the lane as they euro step to the basket
HONESTLY. It’s insane.
I’m fan girling over here, but I realized something as I was matching up against them.
They attack the basket facing what many would consider to be insurmountable odds stacked against them. But even if they are nervous, they appear to be fearless.
I WISH that I had that level of fearlessness in the game of basketball and in real life…. Unintimidated by the odds or the obstacles, I aspire to that level of courage and boldness.
Unbeknownst to any of the people that I’m playing basketball with, they have been teaching me about perseverance and courage on the court and off of it.
So if you have felt like you can’t do something because you aren’t qualified or because there are too many obstacles in your way, just remember the fearlessness of these ballers and be encouraged that you too can beat the odds.
It’s only been a week, but it’s been a non stop journey of excitement and rest.
Wherever you are in life, I hope that you are encouraged by what I’m learning here in the city.
P.S. If you want to help support El Pozo De Vida and you live in the U.S. text pozo11 to 44321. Their eleventh birthday is this Thursday and we are trying to get people to donate $11 for their 11th birthday.