What does success mean to me? – How Mexico has opened my eyes and my heart

This morning I took part in a conference about product placement and entrepreneurship. I used to work in PR/Communications for several start-ups and I am familiarised with the concepts, strategies, and challenges founders are faced with especially at the beginning of their projects. What is success?, a question so often asked in that context. I used to have a clear answer to that. However, it struck me that my own concept of success has changed so much over the past two years.

It’s been two years that I moved to México. I have changed. I knew that I would grow but I did not know how much I could get a look behind the curtain and see a part of life utterly unknown to me in the European context.

I like to identify myself as Latin American born in Europe. Or simply, as Argentinian born in the south of Germany. I was raised with two cultures and languages, two world views and perspectives, yet, I was heavily socialised by the German, European environment and structures.

I got to know the world, as I was growing up, as a German, from a eurocentric perspective. That did not change when I went to university in Aberdeen and Dublin, despite being in an international environment. The dominating narrative was still European, or, eurocentric. What I am amazed by is my ignorance about it. I was not aware of my privileges, despite talking about them. I was not aware of the multi – facetted views on sustainable development, despite taking courses about it.

Then I came to Mexico, and this country healed me in so many ways. It opened my eyes and it opened my heart. Suddenly, I found myself being affected by neo-colonial structures. I only recognized this because I was a chameleon being able to identify completely both in the European and the Latin American context.

This is the reason why I do not identify as 100% German – whenever I meet Germans in Mexico, I notice how different I am to them, simply because Mexico and Latin America is my home, is my roots, and is cultural background. At the same time, I am very well aware of the responsibility I carry as white, privileged woman in Mexico, always running the risk of being considered as White Saviour. I educate myself. I ask Mexicans critical questions about my behaviour, I ask them for permission and their opinion before giving a conference about coffee to a German audience. I am here as a visitor, nothing belongs to me and I don’t have the right to anything.

The definition of success as earning a high income or being popular with your own brand has become, for me, so far away. It has become questionable, seeing things from a perspective of (neo-) colonialism, racism, gender discrimination. I am no longer impressed by white men who believe themselves to make the world a better place. I admire the old man that always walks the street in plain heat selling ice-cream. Also, he always gives you a smile when you pass and the only thing you should do is buy ice-cream and enjoy it to the fullest, knowing someone just gifted you a big portion of happiness.

Being happy is my new definition of success. Because for such a long time, I have been so unhappy, being stuck in a narrative of competition, of self-improvement, of tying my self-worth to productivity. Nothing teaches you more about yourself than life itself. So often we talk about empathy, so often it is the big word in conferences, and yet, it is the thing I least see in the world. Because if there was empathy, authentic, true empathy, the world would be a different place. It would be happy.

We would have left behind stereotypes, neo-colonial structures, we would have stopped to live a life that is destroying our home, the planet.

After the conference, I felt a little sad. I don’t have the clients I am supposed to have. My client, in those terms, is a dying planet that I try to make aware of. With my music, I offer a space for reflection, for inspiration, a place of happiness, a place where you get a break from a busy everyday life, a space where you simply are yourself. With my words, I tell stories hoping to make you feel loved, supported, and connected. Hoping the stories barely hears, like those of coffee producers, reach more ears. Because the world is loud and only a few have the power to shout.

I could be bitter about the world, but I am not. Being bitter would mean to be part of a narrative I reject. I choose to be hopeful, and to be happy. I have all reasons to, the support I receive of a community is beyond words. It is love. We all can make the world a kinder and more tolerant place, we just have to believe in it and utterly refuse to fall into bitterness. That is success to me.

This article has been written in Be Top Co-Working, Aguascalientes. Thank you for the inspiration.

Nastuh Abootalebi

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