The biggest lesson I took away from Mexico City: let the surprises work themselves out. Try not to plan life to the T.
It’s been six months since my last Founders Note. 10 years ago, I started the series as a monthly whimsical update, a safe space in this digital magazine where I can freely share personal thoughts from behind the scenes of interviews with chefs, hoteliers, non-profit founders, small business owners thriving as game changers in different parts of the world. 10 years later, I’ve evolved into a different woman. A grown-up version of myself is depleted from the dire need to share on a public platform. In the era of the 40s, I relish nurturing a secret garden of emotions and dispositions. I’ve come to love claiming my own safeguard. I cherish privacy.
Despite that growing quietly is, surprisingly, quite joyful. Decoding how to share on social media and on JST without sharing too much has shifted into an art form. Hence, the six-month break from this series. I think I’m close to figuring it out, so here it goes…
A few weeks ago, I didn’t know what to expect when I landed in Mexico City. What I later learned was, there were surprises at every moment of the day. Significant or minute, each tickled my inquisitive and adventurous self. So this was the real lesson: welcome the beauty of the not knowing, embrace the surprise.
My last memory of Mexico was in Puerto Vallarta – senior year in college, aka: Spring Break 2002 full of debauchery, pure careless fun. 21 years later, this would be my first time in Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX) – a coveted destination on most avid travelers’ map particularly since post-COVID. In the last year, foodies and art fanatics have flocked to the capital city as if it’s a more affordable Paris, destination weddings and bachelorettes parties have been popping up, left and right, from Polanco to Roma (both popular neighborhoods in CDMX.)
I quickly learned that this city was beyond a weekend getaway, even my 12-day itinerary didn’t suffice. CDMX is bursting with infinite art, limitless restaurants and street foods to devour. I wanted to taste a different mezcal, tequila and beer at every bar. The more chamoy, the better. I indulged in baby corn covered in ant sauce, munched on crispy crickets that crunched like salty potato chips. I knew Mexican food tasted good, but I had forgotten that authentic Mexican food was beyond mouthwatering.
One day, Regina, director at Casa Polanco where I was staying, texted an address of a designer’s showroom situated just behind the hotel. “You have to go,” she wrote in her text. “You’ll love everything there!” When I walked through the iron gates that alluringly unveiled a secret garden, colorful stairs escalated to a narrow door which disclosed a room full of modern art paintings and glossy sculptures. Seconds later, I met Sara, a Mexican jewelry designer who was showcasing her collection inspired by India though she lives in New York City.
While she offered me champagne, there were local ladies admiring pieces of dazzling jewelry, decorating their fingers, draping their necks and accessorizing their lobes with Sara’s gems. Even I was fully immersed, sinking my body into a black velvet chair, chatting with them about Asia and Europe. Then, the moment of Instagram exchanges arrived. After Sara handed her phone to me, I searched for my own profile so we could add each other, “Wait,” I asked, looking at the name of our mutual friend whose name I didn’t recognize but was a follower, “who is this?”
“Oh, how funny!” Sara said, full of excitement. “He’s my friend who owns several hotels in the city! Let me text him and see if he can join us for dinner tonight! That’s hilarious that the world is so small! We’re meeting here now, we have this mutual friend that we had no idea about and you’ve never even met him!”
I sat in that gallery for another glass of champagne, getting to know Sara and the gallery owner, Claude, about CDMX’s art and food scenes. Claude wasn’t a fan of Frida while Sara highly recommended her favorite seafood restaurant: Contramar. Later, her longtime friend, an editor of Vogue Latin America, showed up just as the hotelier she texted earlier revealed that he wasn’t able to join us. But, Sara was right. Beyond the major landmarks and Michelin stars, there lies beneath true discoveries. The world is full of surprises, behind each door, another microcosm of new faces with bubbly champagne and insightful conversations awaits.
A few nights later, a group of friends from Tulsa showed up to celebrate our friend Jose’s birthday. When we walked through the doors of Guilt Night Club in Roma, none of us knew what to expect. But the second we hiked up the stairs from the entrance, a full-blown drag show was extravagantly pumping right in front of our bewildering eyes. My friend Andres immediately set up a table area where we danced, sang, and admired what was essentially a first-rate production that, quite frankly, belonged on a cruise ship. Every tune was karaoke-level gold: Pop (Kelly Clarkson,) nostalgia (Whitney,) disco (Cher,) dance (ABBA,) and of course, heartbreak (traditional Spanish songs that I didn’t understand but thanks to my friends’ translation, I couldn’t help but gestured along to every tragic chorus.) None of us knew how many tequila shots we inhaled that night, but for most of us, that might still be ranked as our best night in CDMX.
As it turns out, these are two of my most favorite memories in Mexico City. Neither were planned, both were fabulous blasts. These are the moments we should be living for. Unexpected drag shows, shots of high-quality tequilas without a single hangover, and browsing through beauteous jewelries with “ladies who lunch” in Mexico City.
Sometimes, when we plan life to the T, it sucks all the fun out of it. Sometimes, life has a lot more to offer when we walk into it blindly. That’s the biggest lesson I took away from Ciudad de Mexico. Let the surprises work themselves out. Your most magical memory may just be right around the corner, waiting to be embraced.