“It’s ok buddy,” I prodded Flynn. “Just jump in.”
We were in Playa del Carmen a few weeks ago and I was trying to get Flynn to play in the swimming pool at our hotel. “But it’s too cold,” he insisted.
“Don’t worry, it will feel warm if you just get in and wait a few minutes. You just have to jump in all at once, like ripping off a band-aid.” He looked at me skeptically. Ripping off a band-aid was a concept I had explained before, and one that I knew he understood, even if he didn’t quite believe it was true. He stood on the first step of the pool, trapped between his desire to go play on the pirate ship in the middle of the water and the comfort of the warm sun.
We’ve been in Guadalajara about 22 months. 22 months means that we’ve been here for two Christmases, two rainy seasons, two gritos, and two earthquakes. We were smart enough to ask in advance this year when the Mother’s Day breakfast would be at Flynn’s preschool, knowing they wouldn’t volunteer that information until the week before. We have favorite grocery stores and Flynn can be overheard saying “go Chivas!” when we are playing foosball and he gets to be the red team.
In short, we’re comfortable. And we like it here. We put Guadalajara at the very top of our list when we were bidding three years ago, but that was a last-minute change. Because we were bidding off of a special list for those posted in DC, we knew there was a good chance we were going to get our first choice. After ruling out all the places that didn’t have a job for both of us, we were left with about ten options. Instinctively, almost without thinking about it, we threw some of the more glamorous posts in the top few spots. Did we want Rio or Sao Paolo? Which one was closer to the beach again? Which one had hipper high rise apartments? Will we be there for the World Cup and the Olympics? In the end, cooler heads prevailed. We ultimately made our decision based on boring things like commute, proximity to the US, and what language we wanted to learn. The day before our bid list was due, Guadalajara found its way to the top.
When we got the official word that we were heading to Guadalajara, there was some disappointment. I guess we would have a shorter commute, but we weren’t going to the World Cup or the Olympics. Making practical decisions just feels so… practical. Nonetheless, we learned Spanish while also learning about mariachis and Mexican politics. We convinced Flynn that moving to Mexico would be exciting, while sort of trying to convince ourselves of the same thing.
Despite our initial buyer’s remorse, we soon felt at home in Guadalajara. Our housing is great. The city has a lot to offer. Our boys have a great nanny. Flynn is speaking Spanish like a pro. There’s delicious, affordable food. We’ve all made good friends. On top of all of this, though we had heard about the grind of consular work, we both really like our jobs. Without a doubt, we would stay another year if they would let us. We even hypothetically talked about what school we would send Flynn to next year.
But the fact is that we will not be staying another year. We have a new adventure waiting for us in a part of the world neither of us knows, but that we are both optimistic about. Transitions are a fact of life in the Foreign Service. They can be hard, even if you’re excited about what’s to come. Meanwhile, we still have a little over two months here in Guadalajara. We’re trying to enjoy the time we have left and not focus too much on our upcoming move. That’s becoming harder and harder as we plan our pack out, review our travel orders, and apply for our Indian visas. We make our grocery lists more carefully, knowing that buying two bottles of Coke Zero might be a good idea, but that three for one sale on jumbo peanut butter jars could be a waste. When a light bulb burns out, we are more inclined to just let it be (our bathroom is super dark now, Alex reminds me).
There is a big part of me that still thinks about the hypothetical school that Flynn would attend next year in Guadalajara and that tries not to dwell on the fact that my travel orders have my car being shipped to Belgium for some reason (I should probably look into that), or that I’ve probably been to my last Chivas game.
But there’s another, smaller part of me that wants to skip over the next two months, all the logistics and tying up of loose ends. Flynn’s best friend is moving away this week and we can already see how rough the slow procession goodbyes is going to be. Part of me doesn’t want to draw out the inevitable. This part says that when it is time to move on, then it is time to move on. This is the part of me that wants to just rip off the band-aid.
Flynn ultimately decided that “tomorrow” would be a better day to go play on the pirate ship. The water was too cold and the sun too warm and inviting. So instead we walked over to the small bar and grill near the pool and ordered a pair of sweet, frozen, chocolaty drinks, the same ones we ordered the day before. Later in the week, when he was ready, and when the water wasn’t as cold, Flynn had a blast pretending to be Captain Hook, steering his ship through Never Never Land, with Jonah at his side as Mr. Smee. But for that day, Flynn wasn’t quite ready to rip off the band-aid, and I can’t say that I blame him.