A Conversation With An Immigrant on U.S. Life
October 15, 2010
I had an insightful conversation with a Mexican immigrant the other day.
We also might have had a round of margaritas, which could have enhanced the perceived value of the conversation, but nevertheless, I wanted to share it with you.
It went something like this:
ME: So, I imagine you came here with some expectations about the U.S. What have been your greatest disappointments thus far? (Seriously, I should have been an anthropologist.)
HIM: Besides the fact that no one knows how to make a real margarita?
ME: What, you don't like the margarita?
HIM: I'm just kidding. I just think it's (pauses)…interesting how you Americans lick these big pieces of salt off of the rim, as if you were a cow.
ME: I'll be happy to have your salt if you don't want it.
HIM: Is that a serious proposition?
ME: After another one of these it might be. Anyway, disappointments. I want to know what your big, fat disappointments have been about life here in the U.S.
HIM: Well, to be honest, I think the thing that I notice most is how you're great at making life look good, but very poor at actually living it. The focus is very narrow and revolves only around money. You don't seem to be very good at relaxing and enjoying the money you've made; instead, you're out there making more money. I just wonder: How much money do you really need?
ME: Funny–there's a saying that says that you can never have enough money. I guess people take that to heart.
HIM: The other thing is that time seems to pass more quickly here. In Mexico, an hour feels like a day, a day feels like a week, a week feels like a month, and a month feels like a year. Here, it's the opposite: A year feels like a month, a month feels like a week, a week feels like a day, and a day feels like an hour. I feel like I'm in a rush all of the time. I hate that.
ME: Thoughts on why that is?
HIM: Yeah – everyone is always stressed, worried, and over thinking everything. Your brain never has any downtime. It's constantly working. In Mexico, you worry about eating. Once you've got that covered, your time is yours–it does not belong to overbearing thoughts that completely consume you. We're grateful to have food on our plate; everything else is a bonus. Then we can live in the moment, instead of constantly trying to control the outcome of all of the future moments.
ME: Interesting. I'm going to make a note of this conversation in my blackberry.
ME: So I can write about it on my blog.
HIM: See what I mean? You can't even be in the present moment now because you're already thinking of what you're going to do in the future.
ME: That's not because I'm an American; that's because I'm neurotic.
HIM: What does the word “neurotic” mean?
ME: It means I get very upset if certain philosophical Mexican immigrants do not order a second round of margaritas before I'm done typing.
HIM: So neurotic is a synonym for alcoholic?
ME: Very funny.–
I think most of us would agree that we're a time-poverty nation, with many of us wanting to get off the merry-go-round but unsure just how to go about doing so.
I once wrote about the U.S. Concept of Time and how our attitude toward time as a tangible resource forces us to become engaged in a never ending battle to mold, shape and bend time to our will. We view it as a limited entity, and therefore have to speed up our lives in order to fit it within time’s confines.
Because of this mindset, we’ve evolved into a society of do-ers, where action is applauded, and anything less regarded as lazy, unmotivated and weak.
I encourage you to check that post out here, if you haven't already.
Beyond that, though, why do you think that time seems to move so quickly here in the U.S.? Is it our strict adherence to deadlines and our worship of the clock? Is it a psychological thing, because our minds are so buried in a mountain of to-dos, as my Mexican friend might suggest? Is it because of our value of productivity?