It’s been almost five months since I moved to Mexico for the second time, and to Mexico City, it’s sprawling metropolis of a capital, for the first time. My last experience in Mexico was what I like to consider big city-provincial. Guadalajara may be the second largest city in the country, but it retains an oddly small town feel whilst offering up a ton of the experiences and destinations that many cities can only dream of. It was a time filled with little to no real responsibilities and ready-made, pre-packaged friends. But, really, who’s year abroad isn’t? Now, after giving myself some months to mull it over, here are my thoughts on living in Mexico City.
Living in Mexico City
My living in Mexico City experience to date has been vastly different to that of my year abroad in so many ways. It was exciting in a wow-my-future-is-wide-open and I’m terrified kind of way, but also felt weirdly humdrum, because I’d been through it all before. There were no pre-flight butterflies in my stomach, just my trademark desire to get to where I was going so I could get on with the pivotally important act of making lists and getting my brand spanking new life in order.
This move to Mexico was defined at first by an urgency, an urgency to get to where I wanted and fast. I was ordering mattresses and shopping for storage before I’d even finished my orientation week with the British Council and I’d practically pitched my boss my timetable before we’d even introduced ourselves. Classic Lauren, really. I’ve always found it hard to enjoy the journey without thinking about the huge fucking iceberg that could be waiting round the next corner.
Even so, it felt new and fresh and something interesting to spout off in anecdotes at all future dinner parties (side note: are dinner parties even a thing? It feels like something my grandparents would have done).
Not much after it came to be defined by an uneasy sense of loneliness. My multiple jobs were occupying all my time, leaving little time to socialise and I was already fretting about the ‘oh, so I guess you have tons of friends?’ questions down the line, to which the answer would be ‘well, no’. Teaching English isn’t exactly my calling and it was beginning to feel more of a chore as time went by and with regards to my freelance writing work, I was having this huge, life changing experience and yet the reality of it was all passing me by as a sat tap-tap-tapping away at a keyboard telling readers about all the fantastic things to do in Mexico City. They say karma’s a bitch, but I think irony can be just that little bit worse.
Equally, maybe that was just the crashing realisation many graduates have when the slap in the face that is real life hits them post-uni and they figure out that living takes a backseat to working for a while. Unless you’re dossing about doing a Masters, that is.
Every time I meet someone new or I meet up with people I haven’t seen for a while, they never fail to ask me the following question within the first five seconds: ‘So, do you like Mexico City?’ and my response is always just as well choreographed as their no-longer-listening head bobs. It always starts with a purposefully lukewarm ‘umm…’, before I swiftly bore them with the fact that I live in the south and work in the north and spend a lot of time on the metro and don’t have that many friends, actually, and that I really want to just experience it all a bit more, you know? And then I round it all off with a ‘so, yeah, you know, it’s not bad!’
Unlike Guadalajara, Mexico City could swallow you up whole if you gave it half a chance; it’s chaotic, bursting with life, energy and promise but with a thinly veiled undercurrent of fear, danger and, honestly, a low-level terrifying amount of air pollution. I’ve yet to feel truly safe in Mexico City. I’ve yet to feel truly at home. And there’s nothing wrong with that – if you expected to love everywhere you ever visited or lived then I’d probably lowkey consider you a bit like that super-enthusiastic guy Phoebe dated for a hot minute on Friends (I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix reruns recently).
If I had to sum it up, contrary to what the rest of this post might suggest, I don’t actually hate living in Mexico City. It’s just not for me, you know? I want to live somewhere where I feel safe walking around alone, or where I don’t need my housemate to go to the cashpoint with me when I take out money for rent (seriously Mexico, get with the programme about direct debits already).
So, what next?
Anyway, right now Mexico City is defined by another kind of urgency again. An urgency to get out and explore – I’ve set a date and I’m leaving, so I’m occupied with endeavours to see and do all that I want while I’m here because who knows when I’ll be back again. I’m echándole ganas, you might say, grabbing Mexico by the balls.
This is the exciting kind of urgency, but again, the type that keeps you up all night wondering if it would be cheaper to fly to Guatemala or take a bus and work your way through the country using hostels or Couchsurfing with friendly and hospitable strangers. I’m an overthinker by nature, you see. Either way, I’ve lessened my work load and I’m ready to do.