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Live to Work or Work to Live? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     "Ven aqui! Mira, mira!" I passed through Customs and emerged into a mob speaking another language. The people, the language, the poverty of this city all intimidated me. For the next month I was to live here with a family in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Not knowing a soul, what my new home would look like, or how my relationship with this family would unfold, I was nervous. Suddenly, at 17, I was on my own.

When I arrived at my host's home I saw clearly that my experience of traveling abroad would not be what I had envisioned. No one was even there to welcome me! As I held in the tears, I knew I had to take control of the situation.

When I finally did meet my family, I realized the first thing I needed to change: I no longer could rely on speaking English. So, I dove into Spanish and began making conversation, not only to ease my anxiety, but also to form a connection with them.

Breaking through that language barrier started the process of breaking down other barriers. By the end of my stay, we'd had countless discussions, and I will never forget their story their trip to California. I was struck by their perception that Americans seem to live to work, rather than working to live. They could so clearly see the heart of my culture. Their family works hard to maintain a balance between their professional and their family lives.

During a Sunday family gathering, I watched three generations come together to celebrate a special occasion. I saw how much they valued each other, spending time with extended family. This seemed different from my family of six. Experiencing the closeness of my surrogate family opened my eyes to the lip-service Americans give to family and family values.

As a result, I want to prioritize my family above my work now and in the future. While I want to be well-educated and successful, I now know what I value in life above all else: family.

Returning to the airport a month later was a completely different experience. Now I understood the shouts, and the people no longer seemed like foreigners. I was surprised to discover that leaving a city that had inspired me was more difficult than coming to a city that had once frightened me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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