It’s eighteen days before we pack the last of our belongings into our car and lock our apartment for the last time. Less than three weeks before we’re officially homeless, heading to Virginia to live with my parents while we make the final preparations before leaving the country. Every day, our place gets emptier: the bookcases gone, the dining room table, the entertainment center. My parents have taken two van loads to Virginia already, boxes of things to sell in yard sales, and a few boxes of mementos to keep.
With every single box that leaves our apartment, I feel lighter. I feel more limber, more flexible, I’m able to breathe better, to sleep better. Jesse and I look at each other and our look says, “I can’t wait” and “This is so right” and “Lord what on earth are we doing?” all at the same time.
What, exactly, are we doing?
I suppose you could say we’re jumping ship.
We’ve played the game, we’ve followed all the rules, we’ve checked all the boxes: the house, the cars, the corporate job, the retirement fund, the occasional vacation. We’ve run the suburban rat race the best we knew how, and it should have worked, and everything looked so good on paper, but do you ever have that feeling that the walls are closing in on you? Because when we came back from China in 2014, we looked around ourselves, looked at all the stuff in our house, and it felt suffocating.
We downsized. We had yard sales. We threw away. We donated to Goodwill. We moved to Charlotte: from a three-bedroom house with a stuffed attic and garage to a two-bedroom apartment with zero storage outside of a couple closets. We downsized again—a massive effort after last Christmas that involved multiple carloads of things to Goodwill and dozens of stuffed trash bags.
Every time something left us, that suffocating feeling would lessen.
But something still wasn’t right. Because it wasn’t just the stuff, it was the whole game. Because what we found ourselves wanting more of was the one thing we couldn’t have: time.
Time together. Down time. Free time. Flex time. Empty space and blank calendar pages. Freedom.
One day I’ll write more about how the Mexico idea was born and the process of narrowing an enormous list of countries down to this one. But suffice it to say, we dreamed this up last summer, and we’ve spent the last year focused single-mindedly on bringing it to reality.
Now as I type this, I sit in my office, a pile of papers next to my desk that still need to be scanned and thrown away, a pile of musical instruments and tools behind me that Jesse’s selling, a stack of library books on my desk that will probably be the last books I check out from that library. It’s starting to feel real. Which is exciting and terrifying in almost equal measure.
I also joined a gym. Just for this month. Who does that? I didn’t exactly mean to. I was going to take all the free classes offered in my area this month before leaving—I had a list. And then I took the first one on my list at Orange Theory across the street from our apartment, and I was immediately hooked. They let me sign up for a month and put in my 30-day cancellation notice on the same day. This month is Jesse’s birthday present to me this year, and I’m loving it. Four times a week, I’m in the gym and I’m pushing myself as hard as I can without injuring myself, and I’m soaked with sweat, and my muscles are screaming, and I’m thinking of absolutely nothing except not falling off the treadmill during sprints.
And that feels so good. Because my stress levels would flatten me this month otherwise. But every other day I go to the gym and I pour out all that stress, I wring it out of my body, and I come out stronger and clearer than I was before.
It feels good to just be a body for a while.
What I want from Mexico is a time to be a body, for a time to be just a human being. To create a new life on a clean slate. To wipe everything away. To sell it all, to close the door, to finish the chapter. I want the important things in my life to be buying avocados. Finding the best cup of coffee. I want to feel the sun on my skin and I want to be still long enough to store that warmth deep inside my bones. I want to look at my suitcases and know that’s all the stuff I have to manage.
Until then, I will pack all the boxes. I will scan the papers. I will drag myself out of bed at an ungodly hour to go to a gym and focus on myself, on my body, on what I can do now that I couldn’t do before, and I will know that this is only the beginning. This is where I begin my new life, this is where I take my strength, this is where it gets interesting.
Lord, help me.