Two days after landing in Mexico City I snagged a hostel job, acting as waitress-cook-barista and tending to an international array of guests in exchange for a bed in a dorm room. The first ‘roomie’ I had was Jennifer, who just happened to be from, of all places, San Francisco. We chatted about Bay Area life (nice to do after being away a month), and Jennifer dispensed motherly life/dating advice and shared tales from her travels throughout Mexico.
I guess my current mission is to get to know my family. I didn’t tell you this, but I was adopted and five years ago my biological family found me. I’m just getting to know them and also getting my kids independent so they can leave the house. So it’s about family right now. My mission is to have closeness and independence at the same time.
Biologially I have a younger brother who I just met. He’s developmentally delayed. When my uncle died, we went to his funeral and told him [about me]. They were afraid to tell him about me before, because they were afraid it would upset him. My biological mother was dead and he was upset about that. So, I just met him.
It was really neat. It’s really going from never having that genetic destiny to having a family — it’s a really special feeling.
My life philosophy is The 85% Solution. 85 percent of the time, do the right thing. You can cut yourself some slack for the other fifteen percent. You’re always trying to do the right thing- exercise, eat right. But i think it’s just as deleterious to your health to beat yourself up if you have chocolate cake or maybe drink too much one night. So 85% of the time you do the right thing.
It means something different every time I come to Mexico City. It’s the place where there’s so much art, so much culture. It’s very modern, very cosmopolitan. But still ….I don’t know how to explain it, it’s very hard to explain. You feel the history here. The pre-Columbus history. The indigenous history. And actually being part indigenous myself, it’s good to see people living that mestizo lifestyle. Mixed cultures.
On being American
I never say I’m American, especially when I’m traveling throughout the Americas, because everyone in the Americas is American. But to be from the US… well, I feel more like a global citizen. I don’t feel too attached to one country.
But where you’re born is like winning the lottery. I’m allowed to travel. I have opportunities: I went from being homeless to having an education and having money to travel. So I feel like having that opportunity was good. Leaving the US, it’s nice to leave the US problems.
Do you believe in the American Dream?
No, I don’t believe that, not at all. I was blessed with resources that most people don’t have. Most of the programs that I used to get through school no longer exist. I can’t imagine being a teen parent now, it would be too hard. Now they changed the welfare program so that you have to work. You can’t go to school. So if I were a teen parent now, today, and they told me I had to work, maybe I’d be a manager at Starbucks. But I think the world is better off with me curing cancer than spitting a latte. I don’t think the American Dream is open to everybody. It’s open to a lot of people who don’t even take advantage of it. I was given the gift of being able to learn quickly in a traditional setting, and not everybody has that. The US doesn’t provide for people who learn differently.
What’s one amazing life experience you’ve had?
I’ve had so many. So there’s huge ones like meeting my family, having my children. But this is a travel story, and it happened in Veracruz Mexico. It’s a very small story: We were out getting ingredients to make Cuba Libres: Coke, Havana Club, and the store didn’t have limes. We tried to go to another store to find limes, and we couldn’t find limes. So we’re driving back to our place and right in front of us was a lime truck. It was so full that limes were falling out of it. So we pulled over to the side of the road and got some limes. And it was like the universe was giving us limes. Being a scientist I don’t really believe in the universe doing things for you, but it was just really fun. We asked for limes and limes fell from the sky. Every time you travel, every time you leave your comfort zone, you learn something about yourself, and it helps you grow as a person. So, the more you travel, the better.