A Foot on Each Side

My life is in San Diego. We live here. I’m as involved locally as I’ve ever been. My work is here. My friends are here. My home is here. My bills are here. Everything is here.

I live here in Rolando.

My life is also in Tijuana and Ensenada, two cities in Baja California, Mexico. There’s simply no denying that.

For a long time it’s felt like I had a life “there” and a life “here.” They felt separate. Here in San Diego I understand the culture a lot more. Obviously, language isn’t a challenge. I know the laws and customs and it feels natural. In our adult lives, Kristen and I have not lived anywhere longer than we’ve lived in San Diego. It’s our home.

But in Baja California, while I’m learning the customs, laws, and language it also feels really comfortable, welcoming, and as home-y to me as where I live in San Diego.

I feel at home in both places. Is it the exact same in both places? No, of course not. But both are home… in my mind, they aren’t separate at all.

As I’ve been learning more and more I’ve discovered that I’m not alone. There are lots of people who live with a foot on both sides of the border between Mexico and the United States.

This is what life in the borderlands is like. It’s unique in some ways. It’s different. And it’s very special.

I’m definitely not alone in this. In fact, one of my favorite podcasts is produced right here in San Diego by KPBS about life in the borderlands. It’s called Only Here and I highly recommend you give it a listen. It’ll give you a taste of what I’m talking about in this post.

One Full Life

It’s not two different lives. It’s one life with two places. It’s not cheating San Diego to have friends in TJ or visa versa. In reality, we are one region. Not everyone wants to cross back and forth, not everyone is capable or interested. But you simply cannot understand San Diego or Baja unless you know both. We live in the borderlands… a natural region divided by an unnatural international border.

We aren’t two societies, we are one. We might have different languages and customs but we are really the same people group, as whether we acknowledge it or not our lives are inseparable.

For me, there’s connective tissue, ligaments, skin-in-the-game, blood, sweat, and tears on both sides of the border. I’m not favoring one or the other. It’s one full life that happens to be planted in a place straddling an international border.

And it’s beautiful. It’s weird. It’s natural. It’s challenging. It’s easy. I love it. And, oh baby, it’s complicated.

It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

So Now What?

I don’t know. Does there have to be a “So now what?” I don’t think there does.

So what now? Nothing.

Maybe I continue learning Spanish and the culture of Baja and one day we retire to or immigrate to Mexico? And maybe we don’t? I mean– I want to do that. But I don’t always get what I want. And sometimes what I want changes over time, too. I mean, “what I want” is a really stupid way to navigate life if you ask me. I’m no hedonist.

In truth, while I’m known as a person who thinks strategically about everything, maybe it needs to be said that I do so with open hands?

I’m open to whatever God wants with my life. Period. End of story.

There was a time where we never dreamed of living outside of Chicago. There was a time where we said we owned our dream house in Romeo. We could see ourselves living there forever. There was a time we dreamed of planting a church in Ireland. There was a time I thought we might move to Haiti. I look at my next-door neighbor Don, who has lived on this block since 1954, and I think… I kind of want that, too. We talk about moving to the Central Coast. Or the mountains. Or Mexico. I catch myself looking at farmland in Oregon and Iowa.

This is my life right now. A foot here. A foot there.

I like life on Virginia Avenue, too.

Kristen and I are dreamers and doers and wanderers and stayers and risk taking, risk avoiders, comfortably uncomfortable except when we’re comfortable types.

I’m happy here. I love our life here. And I’ve loved our life everywhere we’ve lived. (OK, except Oroville. We hated Oroville. Sorry, not sorry Oroville.)

But my posture is now and will [probably] always be to hold stuff with an open hand. I might be the narrator but I don’t want to be the author of my life story. If God’s writing an interesting story about me I need to cede control and walk in faith.

We’ve come this far in faith. Why stop now?

It is always hard to see the purpose in wilderness wanderings until after they are over.

John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress


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