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I was born a searching, seeking person. Restless, curious, never at home in whatever home I had, never satisfied with whatever I was doing to earn a living.

My early adult life was given over to single parenthood, following the loss of my wife in 1974. Single parenthood is two full time jobs at once. It does not leave much time for anything else.

Single parenthood, or at least the bulk of its demands, ended in 1988 when my son elected to enter a boarding school for his last two years of high school. During the next five years I remained busy with software development.

But in 1993 I reached a point where my software, though not in its final form, was sufficiently developed and stable that I was able to take some time off. And I did. From 1993 to 1997 I put very little time into my business. Rather I gave those years over to various other pursuits I had not had time for before.

A principal enterprise in this period was asking myself two simple questions:

Of all the jobs I could get, what job would I most like to have?

Of all the places I could live, where would I most like to live?

The job question was not difficult to answer.

By 1993 I had developed enough revenue in my business that I had surplus funds to invest. It was also a boom time in the financial markets and I became fascinated by the study of investment management. I seriously considered becoming a professional trader. But I ended up dropping that pursuit for three main reasons:

I sought someone to tutor me in the field but could find no one.

I reasoned that at my age, then nearing fifty, I would never become as good at money management as I already was at programming.

I found that good money management requires hours a day spent in monitoring world events, homework that appealed to me not at all.

That left programming, the only other sort of work I had ever done for a living that I really enjoyed. Without considering other alternatives, I decided to stick with programming.

Where I might like to live was a more complex consideration.

I approached the matter by spending perhaps a year thinking not of any specific places but rather of qualities I would like to find in a place. Later, I reasoned, I would look for a place that met the criteria. I came up with several main criteria:

High altitude

Warm, dry climate

Wide open sky

Low population density

Cheap real estate

Prevalence of hispanic language and culture

Easy access to a catholic church

 

These qualities are pretty simple, based on convenience, taste, practicality, comfort. Except for the one about hispanic language and culture.

Why, pray tell, did this appeal to me? I knew no spanish; I had never set foot in a hispanic country; I had never even come face to face with an unassimilated hispanic person. So why this hispanic interest?

I did have a very little bit of exposure to things hispanic in my early childhood.

There were the saturday afternoon westerns that we boys went to see in the fifties. Many of these had some mexican characters, and a few words of spanish in the dialogue. We boys incorporated into our cowboy and indian play some of these words and characters.

And there were the mournful songs that Mary McDonough, a teacher at our school, sang and played on her guitar. Songs in english, to be sure, but with mexican themes and musical styles, and with something about the harmonies and rhythms that spoke unspeakable feelings to me.

And there was the Alamo, which every boy knew about, or at least knew the american side of the story. But what was that mysterious pull that made me wonder about the other side?

And there was Pancho Villa! Somewhere as a child I learned about him. No more than that he was a fighter and a mysterious, romantic figure that the people loved. But that was enough.

And so a chord was struck early in childhood, and so it reverberated, however faintly, down the years, and so it began to resonate with force when I began to think about where I might live.

Mexico! Magic name! Magic land! Magic people!

But why? The other boys of our town were exposed to the same things I was, things they put away with the close of childhood. Why not me? Why did I return to these things years later?

I return to where I started this chapter. I am a seeker, restless, curious. But those words label, they do not explain. I find no explanation for why I should have leaned in a hispanic direction.

Yet as I thought through the issue of where to live, this hispanic interest resembled more and more my interest in Roman Catholicism. It was not so much an interest as a force that seemed to be pulling me somewhere. And that somewhere seemed to be some sort of home, some place I had never been, nor would ever be born into; yet that in some way was more my home than any other place I had known.

Thus was formulated my plan for where to live. The criteria I had listed pointed to the deserts of Chihuahua and Sonora. And these lay in that country that had begun to exert such a pull on me. There was nothing rational about that pull, I knew. But it was strong.

Now Mexico is a long way from east Tennessee; and as I knew nothing about it or about its language I judged that a move directly to that country would be more than I could handle. Nor did I think it feasible to operate my business from a foreign country, nor for that matter even at a distance from my clients. But I nevertheless formed a plan in three stages:

Resume development of my software, and improve its remote support capabilities so as to permit me to live at a distance from my clients.

Locate myself on the southwestern border of the United States; continue my business while exploring the other side, making myself familiar with Mexico and learning some spanish.

Upon retirement from my business, move across the line.

Thus had developed by 1994 or 1995 my long range plan to locate myself in Mexico.

 

2004 Joseph Mansfield

 

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