It often takes years to realize that your parents have wisdom, never all encompassing of course, but more than enough if you’re lucky to have been raised by good people. When I was running in the park yesterday, a flash of this wisdom materialized in front of me. My dad has a lot of sayings, many of which will immortalize him for better or worse as long as my brother and I tell his stories to our children and our friends unwittingly pass them on to their children, probably attributing them to someone else, possibly even themselves. For as long as I can remember, my dad has told me to, ‘Always smile, you’ll make friends, meet people, and disarm even the meanest looking guy.’ Neither him nor I follow this to the letter, because there are moments when it isn’t a good idea to smile, especially when confronting a large aggressive man. Sometimes it is better to look squarely at them so they understand that although you are under no illusion that you would win a physical confrontation between the two of you, you would make them pay and you might just get lucky. That situation is rare though and my father and I are similar in the way that we don’t guard our smiles, especially when meeting people. I was reminded of this saying while I was running on a wide asphalt road permanently empty of cars and temporarily empty of runners down the side of the small mountain that covers a nearby park. I saw the man from a ways off, and even from a distance he looked rough. He had dirty clothes, a hard tanned face, and he drove himself forward with his chest and shoulders, balled up hands swinging at his waist.
I instinctively smiled and said hello as we approached each other, and then I cursed myself for not keeping my mouth shut. Fortunately, it turned out that I was the asshole of the two of us, and the man’s face instantly creased into a huge smile. ‘Hellohowareyougoodafternoon!’ streamed out as quickly as he could manage it before I passed by, and I only had time for a ‘Goodthankyou!’ before he was gone. It was time enough to notice that his hair was nicely combed, that he was probably a laborer going home for the day, and that he had given his smile to me, now plastered stupidly on my face. I immediately thought of my dad and how true his words were, especially in that moment. Wise words if not quite as lyrical as my favorite Rick Cousinsism ‘Don’t sweat the petty things, pet the sweaty things.’
Internet was installed in my apartment yesterday, so now I’ll have ample opportunities to Skype with my family and hear my dad’s witticisms repeat themselves. I’m not comfortable with this new addition to my living situation because I know that although I will have easier access to communication, work, and entertainment, I’m not sure that these are things that I want to have easy access to. I will be forced to summon willpower, if only mild, to restrict my Internet use, and that this ridiculous yet utterly common reality will not make me happier. Possibly this means that I will just develop stronger willpower and that having Internet will eventually be a boon to my life, but all I know for sure is that I have enjoyed the past five days of not having internet at home. I read more, wrote more, and took my time cooking food, all good things. I have recently begun to think about this idea of happiness as I’m rounding my 25th year alive and it is starting to occur to me that I won’t exist on this earth forever and therefore I am obliged to be more conscientious of my time in this form.
I’ve never worked a desk job before, and despite the fact that my soul and body both hurt when I sit in front of a computer, my work here has been fulfilling. I don’t believe that humans are designed to sit in front of screen all day, and I’ve been working on different ways to cope with by body’s rebellion against this facet of my work. It’s certainly possible that my inability to sit all day is due to laziness and privilege, but if that’s so, I believe that I should be grateful to these two vices for protecting me from an anti-human life thus far. That being said, working on a study protocol to give HPV vaccinations to abused girls has put things in perspective and helped ground me back to why I came to Mexico in the first place. Doing background research infuriates me, breaks my heart, and reminds me of how far we humans have yet to go. I have the privilege of thinking about happiness, time, and life, but so many people are just trying to survive their horrors. No matter how many Burger Kings, Starbucks, and Subways that Mexico city puts up, that reality is much more obvious here than back home.