After a couple of very successful new year’s eve parties that ended with me biking home at 8:00 A.M. in a freezing winter day, I woke up to the first day of 2020. I started to notice a feeling that I’ve had the whole day. I feel … like I am waking up, hungover, after a one-year-long party. 2019 was a crazy rollercoaster ride and I experienced it all in a small city in the middle of nowhere, Western Europe. My dearest Enschede!
While stubbornly chasing my dream of researching the history and philosophy of global networks of climate activism, I stumbled upon a fortunate series of events (also known as a grant) that allowed me to both write a proposal for a PhD project and become a regular crew member in Tankstation (a volunteer-based venue for art exhibitions, music shows, dinners, and general hanging-out).
I would spend my evenings drinking pilsner while tending Tankstation’s bar, taking pictures of the food on the plates and the bands on the stage. Frequenting that place introduced me to a community where money has almost no value. I flourished among friends who loved to invest their time cooking, serving, planning, building-up, not as a business but just for the sake of doing something cool together. I got a glimpse of how a world that is not obsessed with economic growth but works in harmony with the environment would look like.
Being a part of Tankstation’s crew opened the door for me to a fascinating underground scene of artists and musicians in Enschede. I met an insane number of audiovisual artists, DJs, photographers, festival organizers, yoga instructors, rebels, and ravers. I spent a lot of evenings getting into profound conversations about art, technology, and culture. I also spent a good amount of time dancing like nobody was watching. I would enjoy for hours the sets of talented local and international DJs, modular synthesizer musicians, live coders, and whatnot. Perhaps I had one too many drinks, but I also experienced a different kind of partying:
I gladly completed a research honours’ program at the university, received an honours diploma and submitted my research proposal to various institutions that could fund my PhD. I was euphoric to learn that my proposal got awarded by the university. The graduate school committee concluded that my idea of looking at how Internet platforms are mediating the evolution of contemporary political conflicts had a lot of potential, it was a highly relevant project, and could mean a serious breakthrough in my field. We made a cool video about it, but I still had to wait longer to find out whether I was going to get funding for actually carrying out my research.
The waiting time came along an invitation to organize an art festival. I had never done anything remotely similar in my entire life, but I figured I would never know what that was like if I never tried it. This project gave me experiences of a lifetime. I found myself reaching out to all these amazing colorful people in the art scene and actually collaborating with them! Hard work turned into a two-day vibrant, beautiful party in a dream-like environment. On the day of the festival I was overflowing with joy, running around with timetables and phone numbers in my hand. I wore a royal guard hat. I felt incredible.
But the funding for my PhD research was still on hold while climate activism was at its peak. I started to get really impatient. I figured if I couldn’t research climate activism yet, then at least I could experience it in-the-flesh. This time, I went beyond walking in environmentalist marches. I joined the peaceful blockade of an Amsterdam’s bridge and nearly got arrested by the Dutch police (my mom doesn’t know that). I then joined the local Extinction Rebellion group in Enschede and helped organize a campaign for joining one of the Global Climate Strikes.
When I wasn’t volunteering at Tankstation, or organizing festivals, or advocating for keeping fossil fuels in the ground, I was getting back in touch with my musical side. I was finally able to buy an ukulele and devoted myself to master the E-chord on it, relishing in any noticeable progress. I also saw Bad Bunny and John Mayer live!
To me, the year reads like an absolute dream. But in all honesty, living it left me completely worn out.
The rejections to all my scholarship applications eventually wasted my passion for community work and activism. It also wasted my wallet. The truth is I’ve had to live quite cheap since I moved to Europe. While the wonderful privilege of chasing my dream job makes the sacrifices all worth it, it doesn’t pay rent and it doesn’t give me a European passport.
So I finished the year by accepting a job as an engineering consultant in Eindhoven. I am moving to a different, bigger city in a few weeks. I will likely spend most of 2020 exploring new places and trying to remember how to be a Mechatronics engineer.
I have such mixed feelings about it! On one hand, I am excited to take the challenge: an office job in The Netherlands. That’s wild! On the other hand, I feel so comfortable and happy with my current lifestyle and inside the Enschede community: the people at the university, the artists, the activists, the crush, and some of my oldest friends from this side of the world. I will have to change my wardrobe, my habits, my attitude. Although new jobs are usually a reason to celebrate, my heart finds the bittersweet taste of failure in this outcome.
But the show must go on and the one-year party is over. I know I have to work even harder to be able to do my research in the future. I want all of us to understand better how Internet platforms are influencing our way of tackling decisive political challenges for our civilization. Who knows how and when I will get back on my philantropic track, but this detour does not mean I am giving up on reaching my goal. I found my way of helping the world become a better place and I’m sticking with it.
Now, while helping the world become a better place may sound like a silly, even disingenuous, enterprise, it is exactly what has kept me moving forward during this intense experience of existing as a human being on Planet Earth. I am married to that enterprise, that is my truth. With all its perks and with all its nightmares, I embrace and wear my truth with pride and that is the scariest thing I have ever done in my adult life.
I’ll leave you with a writing assignment I did when I was 8-years-old. I found it a few months ago during my summer back in Mexico. Do take into account that I was in catholic school so try to overlook the references to Jesus. It’s also in Spanish, but I made an English translation. This writing made me realize that apart from all the wild experiences I’ve lived these last 20 years, not a lot has changed inside of me.
“What do I expect in this year 2000?” dated January 1st, 2000.
I have always felt desperation about the suffering of my brothers and sisters, the wars, floods, shortage of food and injustices. Knowing their suffering makes me feel it too. This is why I hope for peace and justice. I pray to God for his help to get these people out of their misery. I also hope my family is united, to have more friends, and that we don’t fight one another. I also hope this year is a year of celebration, that governors, mayors, and presidents realize that power is useful to help the people; that thieves stop stealing; that gangsters stop writing on walls; that people will stop cutting down trees and hunting animals; that kids follow Jesus Christ. Because I hope for a world full of peace, love, coexistence, understanding and friendship among everyone. THE END.