“Just keep moving forward and don’t give a shit about what anybody thinks. Do what you have to do, for you.” - Johnny Depp, 52
While I love Johnny Depp for saying it, trust me, when you are over 50, no one has to tell you not to give a shit about what other people think. I do think many of us need to be reminded, as Mr. Depp elaborates, is to focus on how not giving a shit can make us more authentically happy, rather than letting the attitude slide off into hopelessness.
Expat life, at least where I live in Mexico, is practically defined by doing whatever you want to do and as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, and not giving a shit about what anyone thinks about how you go about it. We know that many people back home, deep down, think we are crazy coming here. We don't care.
I'd venture that most expats think that if you decide to remain in a country where you cannot have affordable healthcare, a living space that inspires you, time for friends and some adventure in your life in the U.S, then it's you who are crazy.
Yet, in spite of having only a few decades left, there are those people over 50 who still willing to work for an extra five years at a soul-sucking job for an additional $75 a month in their social security check. When you consider that those ten years may be the last vital healthy years you have left, is it really worth it?
It wasn’t for me, and it wasn’t for any other expat I know in Mexico either. We believe that the years between 55 and 65 are pretty damn important. We don't think we should be held slave to lifestyles we developed 30 years ago to support our families and youthful ambitions. Conditions change. Things that will make you happy do too.
Focusing on what matters to you means that you will say “No” more. “No” to the job you hate, “No” to the children and family members who say they love you but can’t find time to see you, “No” to having more than you need, “No” to living the life others expect you to live, “No” to making cupcakes when you don’t feel like it.
Not giving a shit is sorely under-rated as a superpower. I first learned about not giving a shit after my divorce. I recognized and never forgot it’s fearsome power. Not giving a shit can be like finding a gold coin at the bottom of a deep dark well.
"My bucket is list is pretty short, but my f**k it list is growing every day." - seen on coffee cup
A man in his 20’s, against the advice and opinion of his friends, one day decides to turn down a job at Microsoft and instead goes backpacking through South America. He doesn’t give a shit about the money, he’s more concerned about having life experiences rather than life regrets.
"Oh, those crazy young people," you say. Why? Our lives should be about having experiences rather than things for as long as our wheels turn, not just when we are young. Experiencing the new, taking risks and exploring doesn't have to be limited to the young. In fact, who has moe reason than an older person to go for what they want?
When you decide to start living your life on your own terms, expect some push back from family and friends. No matter how well your interests match up with theirs most of the time, sometimes your friends and family will give a shit about things you don't. [For more, take a look at a book that really delves into the subject by Sarah Knight, which I ran into long after writing this post.]
An insurance company has a funny commercial about just how different people’s priorities are. In it a James-Bond type character is being attacked by bad guys as he disembarks from a helicopter. His mother calls at that very moment to tell him she need to find an exterminator.
The tagline is “Calling at a bad time….it’s what mothers do.” He just keeps fighting the bad guys, without feeling the need to explain himself while she’s talking to him over the phone about what is important to her, the things in her life that matter - exterminators and making dinner.
Let people do what they do. Do what you have to do. Do it for yourself, your health, sense of adventure, and in the case of Mexico, financial survival perhaps.
Coming up with your personal priorities and focusing on them without the old distractions is one of the things makes getting older so fabulous. Few things in life truly matter. Those things are pretty easy to figure out by this point. Don't ignore them.
But enough of that. Even with a relatively routine life in the U.S., you can still find things not to give a shit about while you are planning your escape (once you live in Mexico, letting go will become second nature). For practice, you can start by not giving a shit about
The news - Getting pretty repetitive huh? Not only have you already heard everything, you’ve also heard the responses to everything.
Your friends enjoy telling you the highlights. Let them. If you want to know how people are reacting to an event, just recall everyone’s response to the last time it happened. In Mexico, you can get a little or much news as you want. Poco a poco, you will be liberated entirely.
Any material possession you have not touched in the last two years - You won’t miss it and if you haven’t touched it in two years, you don’t need it. Take a picture of it if it's associated with a fond memory and focus on things that count.
When expats are interviewed as to the biggest mistake they made in coming to Mexico, dragging too much stuff with them is often cited. You don't need more than a few suitcases. You can learn this on the front end, or learn it in a few years and answer surveys that it was your biggest mistake.
To0 many articles of clothing - Once when I returned to Denver, the land of 50 degree temperature swings, I lived for two months on 10 pieces of clothing. Six complete, well-accessorized outfits for each season is all you need. Throw in a coat and few jackets for cooler weather. Then notice how those pieces were the only ones you were using anyway.
Owning your current house - Does your living space really match who you want to be now, or does it better reflect your life 20 years ago, when you were raising children and/or married?
Do you really still need two extra bedrooms, the quarter acre and the great school system? Rather than mindlessly, irrationally believing that you aren't a citizen unless you own a home, sit down and do the real math. Many people cash out, rent a nice condo and use the money for securing a comfortable retirement without the stress of lawns a home renovations.
That extra dollar or two tip - For just a few dollars, you can be someone’s hero.
Chasing people - As a professional fund raiser for most of my career, I had to chase people, sometimes people I didn’t like. It sucked.
Even hating it, this was the hardest habit to break, so fixated was I on being liked. (Chasing people is not to be confused with making the first move, which I heartily endorse). If you're an expat in Mexico, you don't have to chase anyone. You are automatically part of the tribe.
Pot luck dinner contributions - Seriously, if you don’t feel like cooking that day, just take the extra wine bottle of wine, or be the one who builds the bonfire. You don’t have to bring the covered dish or the brownies unless you want to.
Getting older is finally knowing what (and who) you love, lining everything up with that….and not giving a shit about anything else.
When the music changes, so should the dance. Are you still trying to dance to music that's no longer playing? - - Ventanas Mexico
Maybe you just need to give a shit about something different. Wake up your creativity in Mexico. Ventanas Mexico
The Guardian's must-read list of other things you should give up. (Although I'm going to keep flossing).
David Cain on the Art of Not Giving a Shit - with a helpful info-graphic
Coming up: What do they (Mexicans) really think? I dunno...may we should Ask A Mexican
Most recent: With a name like Pueblos Magicos, how can you not want to go?
About the author:
Kerry Baker is a partner with Ventanas Mexico which provides insight and resources to those considering expat life in Mexico, including "If Only I Had a Place," a guide to renting luxuriously in Mexico for less, written specifically for the aspiring expat.
Its chapters give you a system of renting well while establishing the social infrastructure you need for a rich expat life - even part-time. A listing of rental concierges gives you people in all the popular expat destinations to review any prospective apartment or home before you commit.
Her first book is the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best Spanish language tools on the web. You can use it's interactive links to study from anywhere from your laptop, e-reader or tablet.
Create a new lesson plan every day or use the ones in the book. Discover the tools and features you will never find in a Google search.