I’m at the beach relaxing. I have my 2 dogs by my side, a coconut in my hand, the sound of the ocean waves gently crashing against the shore while I get my daily $7 USD beach foot massage. It’s a perfect peaceful Thai afternoon.
That is until I was woken up from my midday nap by an older Irish couple fighting behind me. They have become beautiful rage monsters unleashing fury upon one another.
What is a “beautiful rage monster?” Allow me to demonstrate.
Here are some of the things I overheard from this unhappily married couple:
“The good times are being outnumbered by the bad times and I’m not fucking doing this anymore.”
“1 good night. 14 bad nights.”
“You going out to your sleazy bars with American trailer trash.”
“You can’t do fucking a thing without her.”
“What exactly can she do for me that I cannot do you myself?”
(I believe this is referring to the man’s daughter)
“I was married once. I can’t believe I got married again.”
(Have you read my blog?)
“I’m going to hop a plane to Vietnam and leave you here. I’ll go out every night.”
(Vietnam is great can I come with?)
I think the line that stood out to me most was “the good times are being outnumbered by the bad times.” Relationships are a lot of work (which is why I don’t want one – I don’t like working). Every relationship is going to have their bad moments, but when the “good times are being outnumbered by the bad time,” I think that relationship has hit its expiration date and it’s time to part ways.
Imagine using this scale ⚖️. On one side are good times and another side are bad times. When the bad times weigh more than the good times, I think that’s a sign to exit. Life is too short to be in a completely optional bad situation.
People have a choice whether or not they want to be in many of the bad situations they face: career, relationships and even health (within reason, as many people do not exercise regularly or eat properly and then wonder why they’re not healthy).
How Often Do Couples Argue and Sleep On the Couch (In America)
And because I was curious about how often couples fight or sleep on the couch, I did some quick research. MattressClarity.com is an amazing resource for this information. Surprisingly, Hawaii had the most arguments per month (47) with Wyoming leading the way in most nights slept on the couch (17! More than half the month!). Congrats you guys!
There’s a reason almost everybody who is married says “marriage is a lot of work.” In other words, it’s a job. Most people already have 1 job. Who wants 2 jobs??? No thanks!
Let’s talk about the rudest habit in the world. If you’re not guilty of this habit, congratulations on either being self-aware or older than 40 (and you can remember life before mobile devices). But chances are, you’ve seen this behavior before or you were a victim of it and you made a mental observation. Or maybe you were like me and guilty of this behavior, realized you needed to make a change for the benefit of your relationships, and you did.
As a single guy living alone (with my 2 dogs) in Thailand, I eat a majority of my meals at restaurants by myself. This gives me a great excuse for staring at my iPhone the entire time. During the times that I’m on a date or with a friend, I make it a priority to keep cell phone usage to a minimum (with the exception of vlogging … “hey guys” … more on this later).
What Does It Mean???
If someone is staring at their phones the entire time that they’re on a date or with friends, this can mean a few things, all of which are bad:
-They have run out of things to talk about
-They find whatever is on their screen more interesting or exciting than the person in front of them -They’re bored with the company
If you’re with a significant other or a group of friends, how is it acceptable to be staring at your phone the entire time? I understand periodically checking your phone, but I’ve been witnessing some next-level rudeness. Check out my man below – he’s straight up playing PUBG Mobile while at dinner with 3 friends. I think the girl sitting across from him is his girlfriend. Or maybe not. It could be just a friend. Maybe the guy next to him is his boyfriend. That stuff doesn’t matter. What does matter is that regardless of what the relationships are at the table, he’s making a very clear statement : what’s happening on my screen is more important and more interesting than anything you people have to say.
As a side-note, games like PUBG require almost 100% focus which means that you can’t even carry a meaningful conversation while playing it. Games like Candy Crush (is this game still relevant?) you can play and have a conversation because it’s relatively mindless (you’re just matching colors). One wrong move in PUBG and you’re dead, just like the relationships with the people you’re eating with.
When It’s OK to Use Your Phone At The Table
First, I strongly recommend always putting your phone on silent mode when at a restaurant. This way, your phone doesn’t make sounds that trigger everyone around you to check their phones thinking it was theirs. This has happened to all of us (“was that your phone or mine?”). And let’s be honest – we’ve all used it as an opportunity to check our phones.
To provide some value from this article, I wanted to put together a list of some scenarios where it’s OK to use your mobile device during meals as well as the total amount of time that should be dedicated to each scenario :
Food photos (1 minute, upon delivery of meal): Exceptions can be made for food photography. We’re at the point where it’s completely acceptable to take a picture of your meal as soon as it comes out. Food porn photos get a free pass. Unless you’re with an actual food blogger, food photos should take 1 minute max. Any more than this and you’re just a bad photographer. Accept it.
Food photos inception (1 minute): Taking pictures of your friends taking pictures of their food.
Work e-mails (10 seconds, every 15 minutes + time to respond): Expecting urgent work e-mails are also OK. We live in a world of digital nomads where urgent e-mails could be expected at all sorts of ridiculous hours. It doesn’t take much time to check for new e-mails so I give this task 10 seconds every 15 minutes.
Confirming plans (20 seconds, every 20 minutes): If you’re socially active like I used to be in New York City and Los Angeles, then you might be operating on a tight schedule which means you need to check your phone to see if your next appointment is on-time or running late. If they’re running late then you get to spend more time where you’re at. Winning!
Vlogging (average length of vlog + 50% time): If vlogging is one of your sources of income or you’re trying to make it a source of income, then you can vlog (within reason). My vlogs are usually 1-2 minutes long so I only need 3 minutes of footage before edits (2 minutes + 50% = 3 minutes). If your vlogs are 10 minutes, then you would be given 15 minutes (but if your vlogs are this long, then you should either ask permission before the meal, or this behavior is already expected of you).
Fact-checking (30 seconds, per fact check): Sometimes you’re having a debate or you’re referencing something and nobody knows the actual answer. A quick fact check or google search is acceptable. Our phones are sources of infinite knowledge so we can refer to it in times of need.
Relevant imagery (30 seconds, per image): Sometimes you’re talking about a meal you had, a place you went, or a person you dated. Pulling our your phone to complement the conversation with imagery is totally acceptable. It’s much easier to show a picture of Jim or Shirley than it is to describe them.
Family emergency (10 seconds, every 5 minutes): If you’re aware of a family member or close friend having a health problem, then you unfortunately might be expecting an emergency phone call or text. You get a free pass to check your phone as often as needed but I think 5 minutes is a reasonable increment. In this case, it’s also recommended to keep your sound on.
So that’s it. Those are the only times that it’s acceptable to be on your phone during a meal at a restaurant. It should be no more than a few minutes total. If the average meal is 60 minutes and you’ve had every reason to check your phone listed above, here’s how it breaks down:
That’s it. No more than 13.33% of your meal with friends or significant others should be spent on your phone, and this is if you’re into foodporn, you’re expecting urgent work e-mails, you’re confirming plans, you’re a vlogger AND there’s a family emergency.
What You Can Do To Stop It
I think that us as individuals have a responsibility to address this situation head on. A few approaches that I thought of are:
Verbal Communication (confrontational approach): Clear your throat in an aggressive manner and talk to the mobile device addict while they’re in the act with a stern, but polite tone. Ask them if they know how it’s making you feel. “Ahem – Jim/Shirley, are you aware of how you’re making me feel right now?”
Digital Communication (passive aggressive approach): If you don’t like conflict, then send them a text message while you’re sitting across from them. If you want to be even more passive aggressive, send them an e-mail with the subject “Hey, R U OK?” or “We Need To Talk.” Nobody likes conversations that begin with “we need to talk.”
Airdrop (funny approach): If they have an iPhone and their Airdrop is on, take a picture of them while they’re staring at their phone instead of talking to you and Airdrop them the photo. Not only will this get your point across, but it will interrupt whatever is happening on their screen. Bonus points if they’re playing PUBG and your Airdrop pop-up alert causes them to die. Headshot!
Do Nothing (worthless approach): Or you can do nothing and just stare at your phone too. Cool friendship bro!
Checking Instagram feed can wait. Checking Facebook newsfeed can wait. Checking TikTok can wait. Checking Bumble can wait. And you know what definitely can wait? Fucking PUBG.
Welcome to the third installment of BeFreeMySheeple.com’s The Inspirationals where I interview people who inspire me.
This week I interviewed Agnes, a beautiful, successful and strong woman who I went to high school with (the prestigious Bronx High School of Science). Agnes recently went through a challenging and difficult divorce but came out on the other side feeling happy and free. Most importantly, she felt like herself again. This might sound like a weird interview to release on Valentine’s Day, but I believe the most important person to love and take care of is yourself before you can share your love with someone else.
Before we get into the interview, I want to be clear that I personally do not believe in the institution of marriage. I see more risk than reward when it comes to getting married. A core part of my personal happiness comes from optimizing my lifestyle towards maximum freedom and independence. This is best summed up by this Karel Donk excerpt. I strongly encourage everyone to read his entire blog post. It’s a bit of a long read, but I think it’s worth it.
“Marriage encourages people to become dependent, and thus to give up their individuality, independence and freedom…People naturally want to be free, and any relationship that limits people’s freedoms will cause trouble. The desire for freedom is intrinsic to human nature; we are born free individuals. In a relationship where a person’s freedom is being limited, it’s only a matter of time before they start to (often subconsciously) rebel against it…people in exclusive relationships eventually start to develop a desire to escape, which results in secret hostility towards their partner…If you truly love someone and want to continue to do so and enjoy their company for as long as possible, you should avoid relationships with them in the traditional sense at all costs — and this includes marriage.”
I intend to write a detailed blog post about it at some point. Without further ado…
BeFreeMySheeple.com’s Exclusive Interview with Agnes
Adam Francisco: Agnes – thank you so much for opening up about what’s usually a private and personal topic. My hope is that other women and even men can feel inspired by your story. How long were you together for before getting divorced?
Agnes: We were together for five and a half years and married for the last three and a half. I’ve been officially divorced for 4 months.
Adam: How is the single life treating you?
Agnes: Single life is interesting. It definitely took some getting used to! I haven’t been single in so long that many times I need to remind myself that “Yes, you absolutely CAN do this because you ARE single!” Being single is great and I’ve been learning new things about myself. I lost a lot of myself during the time that I was married…A LOT. That’s my “single life” experience so far…I am discovering what it means to be me.
Adam: We are happy to have you back! How your marriage was in the beginning?
Agnes: In the beginning it’s supposed to be great, right? Except it never really was for me. It wasn’t great for me ever, even in the beginning. Getting married was the next step in our relationship and so that’s what we did. Our thought process was that it wouldn’t change anything in our relationship if we were married. What my thought process should have been is that there’s no need for us to get married because it wouldn’t change anything in our relationship. We didn’t love each other more or less, it was just business as usual.
Adam: What did you even like about him that made you want to get married?
Agnes: He made my life a lot easier. It was convenient, as fucked up as that sounds. And I should have recognized it as such, and I should have left it at that. But I was at a very vulnerable and insecure time in my life, and he helped me get back on my feet: emotionally and financially. I had everything to gain from it. I’ve been meaning to thank him for being that person for me during that time, but the person that he turned into during the divorce made me rethink ever thanking him for ANYTHING.
Adam: Isn’t it amazing how the person you once loved and were willing to commit the rest of your life to can become somebody that you don’t even recognize, and possibly even dislike? I can understand the appeal in having stability but that doesn’t sound like enough to make a commitment to a lifetime together. How long after you were married did things go sour?
Adam: [Laughter]. Damn. What was the marriage like?
Agnes: The marriage sucked. The relationship itself wasn’t so great when we got married. That’s another reason why I think I decided to get married; it was supposed to “fix” things in the relationship.
Adam: I’ve know a few couples that also thought marriage would instantly heal everything that was wrong in the relationship but instead, things like wedding planning just ended up distracting them from the truth.
Agnes: I know right? SO stupid. That’s some ass-backwards thinking. I did EVERYTHING for him. I cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, etc. I felt like I had a child instead of a husband or significant other.
Adam: Sounds more like an insignificant other.
Agnes: [Laughter]. I guess it’s a cultural thing too because I was raised by my grandmother in a Korean household where she did everything around the house. It wasn’t that I was consciously making an effort to do everything…that’s just who I am.
Adam: After living in Thailand the last six months I’ve learned that many Asian countries still live in a very patriarchal society with clearly defined gender roles that we would consider to be “traditional” gender roles in the US.
Agnes: Yep. Anyway, we didn’t go out to dinners, we weren’t going on vacations, and most importantly, we weren’t even having sex.
Adam: Wow. No sex? Isn’t that one of the so-called benefits of marriage? Permanent access to sex?
Agnes: Would you believe it if I told you that the sex stopped maybe 2 years into the relationship, possibly sooner?
Adam: That means you guys didn’t have sex for almost 4 years. I heard an expression once, “If you like sex, stay single. If you don’t like sex, get married.”
Agnes: Yep. That’s what most people’s reactions were when I told them about the “no sex for 4 years” bit. I didn’t cheat on him because I had no self-confidence. ZERO. I couldn’t even attempt to attract another man. I felt unattractive, and my life, appearances and actions started reflecting exactly what I was feeling.
Adam: That’s so hard to believe because I see such a beautiful confident woman in front of me.
Agnes: Aww, thanks, Yeah, I hated it because I’d never known myself to be such an ugly person. I was feeling so unattractive and depressed that I stopped hanging out with my friends.
Adam: In the time you needed your friends the most, you felt completely isolated from them.
Agnes: He didn’t like it when I hung out with my friends because he didn’t have any friends of his own that wanted to hang out with him. Also, he wouldn’t drink because he had his stomach pumped twice in his early 20s for alcohol poisoning and drugs and judged the shit out of me whenever I would come home from dinner and drinks with friends.
Adam: It sounds like he took his personal issues and transferred them onto you. This already sounds like a lot to deal with but was there a final straw that compelled you to get a divorce?
Agnes: When he criticized me for being “too ambitious.” Like what the fuck? Is there even such a thing as being too ambitious? I realized that HE was the one who was complacent and lazy when he criticized me for being too ambitious. That’s what someone weak does to bring you down – they make you feel small by somehow turning your attributes into faults.
Adam: Sounds like one of your strengths threatened him so he tried to turn it into a fault
Agnes: And his laziness was getting out of hand. He wouldn’t help out around the house and he was gaining a lot of weight. He gained 40 pounds from when we first started dating. Forty pounds.
Adam: Wow. That’s a lot of weight. Was he pregnant?
Agnes: [Laughter]. Fitness has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember but when I was with him, I’d given that up as well. The first two years of our relationship was a rough time in my life and so it isn’t fair to place all of the blame on him. But he definitely was a contributing factor, that’s for sure. And it’s like he almost didn’t want me to look my best or do anything that pushed my limits. Like for example, when I told him that I’d be running the New York City Marathon, his response was “you know that you don’t have to finish it if you can’t, right?” Like excuse me? What the fuck kind of a response is that to someone telling you that they’re going to be participating in one of the greatest races of ALL time?
Adam: That’s insanely rude.
Agnes: I was dumbfounded when he said that. Right now, in my single life, I wouldn’t even consider dating anyone that doesn’t take care of themselves. Working out and maintaining their appearances gives you an insight into so many other aspects of that person’s life. It’s not just about looking good. It’s like if you can’t take care of yourself, how can you give a shit about anything or anyone else?
Adam: I agree. I think obesity, with the exception of the rare health issues, shows a lack of self-awareness, self-discipline and most importantly self-love.
Agnes: 100%. I was realizing more and more that we literally had nothing in common, and that’s what ultimately led me to the divorce. We thought differently about almost everything and that just isn’t sustainable for any type of relationship.
Adam: How did you feel the day you were officially and legally divorced?
Agnes: I was in Chicago for work when I received the email from my lawyer. I jumped up out of my seat and yelled “FUCK YEAH, FINALLY!” So yeah, I was devastated…NOT! It literally felt like I had rid myself of a huge burden. It’s so strange how just a piece of paper can hold so much power over your life. The marriage certificate held me captive and the divorce decree set me free.
Adam: I can only imagine how empowering that would feel. How has your life changed since then?
Agnes: I’ve completely changed as a person, inside and out. I look better now than I did in my 20s, and I’ve gotten my self-confidence back. I walk, talk and act differently and people react to me differently. I think I like that part the best: people reacting to me differently because I put forth a much different vibe than what I did the last 5.5 years of my life. “You get what you give” is absolutely right; if you put forth positive vibes, you’re gonna get back positive reactions. So much of my life was spent saying “no” during the time that I was married that I am now making sure that is NOT what my life will be ever again. Sidebar – when I was married, I’d even start my sentences with “No, but..” without realizing it, and it was really upsetting when someone pointed that out. Now, I tell people that I’m not saying no to anything anymore and that’s led me to some amazing experiences, encounters and memories in just the last couple of months! I carry myself differently and think differently than I did when I was married and it couldn’t be a more welcomed change.
Adam: What an amazing turnaround. Are you happy?
Agnes: YES! I really am. It feels amazing to have to answer to no one and to be able to have control over your own life. I dictate what I do, where I go, and who I spend time with. These are things things that I really couldn’t do when I was married because I always came second. Now I live for me. I’ve never been this selfish before and I’m “sorry not sorry” for it. I’m slowly starting to see that life isn’t all about securing that high-paying job. It’s about you finding out what truly makes you happy, that’s it. I’ve spent all of my adult life, except for the last couple of marriage-free months, overcomplicating damn near everything, literally. It’s gotten me absolutely nowhere, and I’ve missed out on so much stuff! I have so much catching up to do. I couldn’t tell you how happy that makes me: the thought of just living my life!
Adam: You are speaking my language. What advice do you have for somebody who is thinking about getting married?
Agnes: Really evaluate what it is that you think you want from getting and being married. You need to manage your expectations for the marriage because chances are if you don’t, you’re going to end up disappointing yourself. There’s nothing that you can’t do with your significant other while not married that you’ll all of a sudden be able to do because you’re married. You can absolutely have kids without being married. And if you’re worried about optics or what other people think, then you probably shouldn’t be thinking marriage in the first place. Religious obligations are something completely different, so I’m leaving that alone. Just know that at some point in your marriage, that you’re going to become second, and that you’ll get used to being second. You’re going to lose yourself somewhere down the road, become resentful, and then you’ll end up being this ugly miserable old maid, which you clearly are not. Know what it is that you are willing to sacrifice and stick to it. Yes, relationships are about compromises but once you’re bound by marriage, you’ll see how easy it is for the both of you to take each other for granted and take advantage of each other. Set your boundaries, know your worth, and stick to it.
Adam: This is the hard truth and it’s personally why I do not see marriage happening in my lifetime. What advice do you have for somebody that is trapped in a bad marriage?
Agnes: You are worth so much more than what you think you are worth at this very moment. The thought of having to “start over” is a daunting task and it seems like you wouldn’t even know where to begin. I think this just means that you’ve become dependent on the other person to carry you through. There’s nothing wrong with building a life with your significant other, but there’s a problem if you’ve lost your sense of self during that process. You need to be able to stand up on your own before being able to join forces with another human being. And if you’re a perpetual relationship person like I was, then there’s no better time than now to learn what your capabilities are. You never want to be in a situation where the other person holds you back. That’s a terrible place to be and it’ll change you as a person, and I promise you that you won’t like what you become.
Adam: Would you get married again?
Agnes: As of now, I’d say no. But you’re never supposed to say never, right? Being married changes people. It makes them stop trying. It’s weird. They stop courting each other, stop trying to look their best for each other, stop doing anything that can be considered thoughtful or romantic. At least that was my experience. But maybe it’s just that I was married to the wrong person. Who knows.
Adam: Based on my research, this is more common than you think and unfortunately many of the “happy” marriages we see today are likely to end up exactly where you were within the next couple of minutes months years.
Agnes: And if I were to marry again, it would be a completely different experience from the beginning because of how much I’ve changed as a person since my divorce. I know what I’m worth and I know what I need, and I will absolutely be demanding that the person I’m married to treat me in a way that fulfills both of those requirements.
Adam: Do you want to have kids one day?
Agnes: I would like to have kids in the future and that would be a reason for me to be married. Not to have the baby, but to raise the child in a stable and secure, family environment. I had a pretty unusual and sometimes rough childhood, and I turned out tough as nails. It was a 50/50 chance of whether I turned out this way or absolutely fucked up, and I don’t think it’s fair when those odds are already presented to the child from the moment that they’re born. I’d like to be able to provide them with all “the right things” to the best of my abilities.
Adam: Agnes – thank you for such raw and honest answers. If any readers have additional questions, can they reach out?
If you’re in a bar and you’re not wearing an engagement or wedding ring and you’re talking to a guy for 10 minutes and you tell him “I’m waiting for my family” and then you exchange social media, the guy you’re talking to assumes that you’re waiting for parents or cousins or grandparents and that you’re single. And then when the sole family member shows up and it’s the husband (“oh this is my husband”) you just caught everyone off-guard including yourself and now everyone’s uncomfortable :
(1) the husband’s pissed you’re talking to a younger man who happens to be a muscular Latino possibly named Carlos or Francisco with 2 unfairly cute dogs (2) the wife is uncomfortable because she got got (3) and I’m confused because you just went from single to married real quick).
This could have all been prevented if you substituted “I’m waiting for my family” with “I’m waiting for my husband.”
(I would rather be single and deal with this than get married and my wife making me deal with that)
Some Social Media Reactions From Women
@simply_livvie: “Shady shady. Meanwhile I’m always telling guys I’m waiting for my husband. And I ain’t married lol”
“Haha wtf who says that? Even if I were waiting for my sister I’d say “sister.” Calling 1 individual person “my family” is weird in itself. At least she didn’t say “someone” or “a friend.” Haha”
@nikinikz: That’s scandalous. Who says that they’re waiting for their family and it’s their spouse !?? Hahahahahahaha! #busted
“Who say I’m waiting for my family?!?! She’s asking for trouble”
@abbiesmith233: “Damn when I was married if a guy even looked in my direction I’d tell him to eat shit and die.”
Welcome to the second installment of BeFreeMySheeple.com’s The Inspirationals where I interview people who inspire me.
This week I had the honor of interviewing one of the most resilient human beings I have ever met. Amidst deteriorating economic and political conditions in Venezuela, Aida was forced to leave her home country. Despite this, she has remained positive and was able to launch a successful career in France as an educator while also pursuing her master’s degree.
How I Met Aida, a Venezuelan Migrant
I met Aida on August 12th, 2017 while I was out with some of my drinking buddies bar-hopping in West Village, New York City. As I was heading into The Fat Black Pussycat (one of my go-to bars since my early 20s) on West 3rd Street, Aida was standing outside the bar talking with a few friends. Being that I already had a few drinks that night, I had the courage to strike up a conversation with Aida. I thought typical New York City nightlife banter would ensue, but this conversation was very different and completely unexpected.
When I met Aida I was living in a bubble generally unaware of what else was happening in the world outside of the US. She quickly explained how Venezuela was dealing with 1,300% inflation, which when compared to the inflation rate today, sounds like a gift (today it’s hovering around 3,000,000%…seriously). It wasn’t just an economic crisis…the country was quickly spiraling into a humanitarian crisis. The middle class was wiped out almost over night. If you were doing OK before, you were almost certainly living in extreme poverty now.
Before you read our interview, this documentary on YouTube provides an overview of what’s happening in Venezuela today. As the video description says, “The downfall of Venezuela serves as a modern-day macro tragedy. Once the richest nation in Latin America, Venezuela is now a broken economy enveloped in crime, corruption and hyperinflation.”
BeFreeMySheeple.com’s Exclusive Interview with Aida
Adam Francisco: Aida – thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with me and talk about what life was like in Venezuela. I feel like a lot of people aren’t aware of how serious the Venezuelan crisis is. What was life like for you before?
Aida: Life wasn’t that hard before. We still had shortages of basic things like food and medicine but the inflation rate wasn’t that high and it wasn’t increasing that quickly.
Adam: So what happened?
Aida: Everything got worse because of the sudden drop of oil barrel prices given that everything was subsidized by the government. The government also practiced expropriation which affected productivity. What is important to make clear is that Chavez’s economic system was socialism and that shit doesn’t work! Everything is Chavez’s fault. He also chose the successor before he died.
Adam : So when Maduro took over, how did life change?
Aida: Everything got worse. Working became less and less valuable. Money became worthless. Lots of money was being printed by the central bank which added to the inflation. Prices of things skyrocketed and higher prices combined with less production meant not enough supply for everyone! Everything started deteriorating : streets, cars, home appliances (due to power rationing), water supply (due to water rationing). People from civilized countries like USA can’t even imagine what it’s like to live under those degrading, inhumane conditions. My parents did not work so hard their whole lives to end up living in such misery. You cannot survive in Venezuela unless you work in the black markets “importing” basic products at the frontiers.
Adam: You say importing in quotes because from what I’ve read and watched online, the importers take the items that are meant to go to the people, so they can re-sell it on the black market for financial personal gain, right?
Aida: Exactly. It is more like smuggling. Life during the current regime was so much harder for me. Reality was difficult. Life was reduced to just surviving every day looking for food or trading products. I had 3 jobs while studying at university and still couldn’t even think of moving out of my parents house because paying rent is impossible. Real estate financing started to be in US dollars which we couldn’t and didn’t have access to because the government imposed currency exchange controls. I really felt during those moments that I would never be able to flee this dictatorship. Life was just so miserable in Venezuela.
Adam: This is such heartbreaking stuff. What was the final straw that made you decide to leave Venezuela?
Aida: So I was going to law school for 2 years and I got depressed because I realized it wasn’t worth a thing studying laws that would never be applied. Venezuela is not a state of laws, but a state of legitimacy. The regime just kept creating more laws to legitimize all the crimes and anti-constitutional decisions. I realized I should take advantage of public education to study something that enabled me to go abroad and practice globally so I started to major in Languages (Foreign Language Teaching), specializing in French.
Adam: That’s a really smart move.
Aida: I had already taught myself English, Italian and French from watching TV and listening to music. I made this decision in 2012, the year that Chavez died. I hoped things could get better so I could stay and contribute to the redevelopment of Venezuela through education but that clearly wasn’t happening so I had my plan B which was applying to job offers reserved for excellent students. Ultimately I ended up getting a job: teaching Spanish language in France. There wasn’t a final straw that made me think of leaving Venezuela, but an accumulation of things that would make anyone want to flee their country.
Adam: It’s amazing that you were able to come up with a plan for yourself post-Venezuela.
Aida: Yes, I had a plan. This is essential for people who plan to prosper and making a living abroad just like a citizen of that country. I always hated the idea of arriving to country and being unable to have economic rights and freedom. My plan was to have a guaranteed job waiting for me after I left Venezuela which is very hard to get.
Adam: So why France?
Aida: I chose France because I already spoke the language and because they have an amazing social system of healthcare and education, which was especially important for me as I still wanted to get my Master’s degree. Fleeing Venezuela and getting to France wasn’t easy. I had to pass through very tough situations for a young woman all alone.
Adam: On the way to France, you had to stop through the US and you chose New York City as your layover which is when we met. In your short time there, what did you think about New York?
Aida: My experience in New York City was full of contrasts but what I liked most about USA was the freedom. I was able to walk alone at night and not be worried about being murdered or raped. It was such an incredible feeling to have that freedom that I was no longer able to have in my own country.
Adam: Things we take for granted in America. It’s refreshing and sobering to hear your perspective. So how is your job going in France?
Aida: I love it. I’m working part-time as a teacher while I finish my 2nd major this year in Business Administration. Then I can finally get my Master’s in International Trade. I believe what keeps nations from having wars is cooperation by finding common economic interests. To do this, we need freedom. We need guaranteed liberties.
Adam: Are you happy?
Aida: I’m happy because I always wanted to live abroad and learn from other cultures. It’s just that I never thought I would do so without being able to go back home and without knowing when I’m going to see my family again. This is very hard, but I’m the owner of my happiness and responsible for it. I have to think this way because I can’t change the way things are right now. I am living in the moment.
Adam: Are you still in contact with your family?
Aida: Yes, I speak with my family everyday! Fortunately they are fine. My parent are still in Venezuela as well as some of my aunts and uncles but most of my cousins and friends are abroad. Even if I wanted to go back to Venezuela, it is no longer the country I grew up in. There are no longer people there I can relate my social life to. It doesn’t exist and it breaks my heart. My friends and family are all around the world now. Venezuelan exiles will reach 5 million this year! This is such an incredible migration phenomenon. Most of the Venezuelans on Instagram are creating their stories from all around the world.
Adam: What changes do you think need to happen in Venezuela?
Aida: People need legal security. This means we need real institutions that guarantee the rule of law! We need economic freedom, less dependence on natural resources and less dependence on the government to subsidize basic needs. Venezuelan citizens need emancipation from the government. These principles are essential to motivate productive and economic growth. Also, social and cultural aspects need to change because the Venezuelan people depend on and therefore love welfare. This is a problem that needs to be fixed with education and critical thinking for choosing a better type of government. And I’m sorry if my English was poor. It’s been awhile since I last spoke English!
Adam: Your English was better than many native speakers! I’ve always been absolutely amazed by your story and how you were able to overcome such an awful situation that you had no control over. I hope this interview can help raise awareness of the Venezuelan crisis as well as act as an inspiration for people that find themselves in a bad situation. You are proof that it’s possible to overcome tremendous odds and find happiness.