Updated: Jun 26, 2018
I won't lie - we've been postponing the packing process for quite some time. It's easy when you have lots of excuses, with "Oh, but all our furniture is already packed and in storage, so we really don't have much", being the absolute winner. But with just over a week before the plane roars down the runway (and my seatmates giving me and our yowling cats filthy looks, no doubt), there's wasn't much room for further prevarication. So, like a midget at a urinal, I decided to just get on with it. Yesterday, I found an empty cardboard box in our Florida Room and started filling it. That simple act changed our cozy little rental house here in North Florida - our sanctuary, our haven for the last 10 months - into "not our house anymore". It was like flicking a light switch.
Of course the concept of "home" has never been firm for either my husband or me. My husband, being a rather angry punk rock kid and far too smart for his own good, spent almost his entire life in the mid-Atlantic states, but somehow still stuck out like a pair of tits on a bull. He admitted to getting sniffly when Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen sang "Who Said You Can't Go Home" during a televised Hurricane Sandy benefit concert, and claimed the New Jersey dive flag tattoo on his chest was burning, but he's never felt much affinity for any one place. For me, the concept of a "home" has been even more vague. Having moved countries several times as a brat, I've always looked different and sounded different, no matter where I have been. From a very young age, I found myself asking, “What is home, anyway?” I’ve felt like the odd man out everywhere I’ve lived since infancy, when I first moved from Egypt to the UK with my family, and even as an adult, when I moved to New York at 25 with the intent of working at a corporate job that had a lot of travel. I suppose, then, my life has been nomadic by necessity and eventually, by choice - as an adult, I've actually chosen not to fit in anywhere.
Somehow, I doubt I'll blend in seamlessly with the locals in Mexico, which is the setting of our next chapter. Although I've taken a few Spanish classes and been grimly bashing away at DuoLingo for the last few months, the language does not come naturally to me. I'm also aware that I sound like a gobshite - as my Spanish teacher gently put it, "You sound like Harry Potter reading a Latin dictionary". The good news, though, is that the caves of the Riviera Maya are thronged with dive professionals who are footpads, vagabonds, waifs, ne’er-do-wells, and strays themselves: people who junked the idea of fitting in and all the attendant trappings of a "nice job" and a "nice" suburban life. Like me, they’re outsiders everywhere they've gone. It’s only logical: they’re cave divers. Even in the caves, where one feels most "at home", one is very conscious of being a guest in an absolutely alien environment. People don't belong in water-filled tunnels with thick layers of rock over their heads. They'll drown. It's only by seeking out training and mentorship, by using specialised equipment, and slowly accumulating experience, that people can survive in a submerged cave. By definition, therefore, cave divers don’t naturally fit into even their preferred environment.
And maybe, just maybe, there's a lesson to be learned for me there. My best hope of making a success of this next chapter in Mexico is to keep burbling at astonished locals in broken, horribly-accented Spanish in the hope of making a connection, so I can survive. Befriending other folks who have trodden the same path I'm about to take, and heeding their wisdom. As always for me, cave diving is analogous to life. Perhaps that's why, although cave diving does not come to me naturally - I have no great talent for it, and have had to work very hard to get where I am - I have become so thoroughly enamored of it. It has saved me, in every way that a person can be saved. It has given me friends, a life partner, a bit of acceptance about my perennial misfit status in life, and now, the gateway to an existence that I have only ever dreamed about, but is now set to be a reality: a cave divers’ BNB host in Mexico.