Would You Be Upset In Belize?
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Sunday January 29, 2013

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Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, due in 2014.
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Would You Be Upset In Belize?

Life is hard enough without having to deal with bad drivers who don’t use their turn signals. And it’s more than just people who don’t use turn signals – it’s all kinds of things in traffic when we drive our metal pods around town pretending that we’re incubated from others. Only, we’re not. We’re all in this thing together trying to live our lives. Still, there are times when the actions of others, people who aren’t as aware as you and I about how we should all be courteous to one another, get under your skin.

A couple of weeks back while taking my kids somewhere, I complained about one of these selfish drivers. I don’t recall what it is they did, but it was something stupid – and I got upset and maybe tossed an expletive out there. Ok, maybe two. Then it dawned on me that if we were in Belize, I wouldn’t be upset. I’d have let this person slide without blinking. Hell, I would have probably smiled and waved. Because when you’re in a place like Belize, with its slow pace and friendly people, you leave all the stress of America behind. All that garbage is forbidden in Belize. In Belize you “Go slow.” There’s really no other choice. Belizeans understand that Americans live at a different pace, and so once we arrive there the locals, wary of our ‘I want what I want NOW’ outlook on life, try to get us on their pace. And they do it with their smiles. I had no problem slipping into their friendly pace during our visit last summer. When we returned home I even tried applying these foreign concepts here for a couple of weeks. But when I smiled and waved at people as I drove past them on the way to work – they mostly looked at me like I had three heads. Eventually (pretty quickly) I slipped back into my American ways. Then, after getting upset at the selfish driver that day, I turned to my daughters and said, “You know what’s weird? If this were Belize, I wouldn’t be upset. I’d just let it slide.” It’s true.

So now every time I feel my blood begin to boil about something stupid I say to myself, “Would this upset me in Belize?” And the answer is invariably – no. As a result, the running joke in our house when anything upsets one of us we ask the person, “Would you be upset in Belize?”

It’s a great measuring stick to gauge what’s really important in our lives and what’s worth getting bent out of shape about. Most Americans I know could stand to gain this kind of perspective.

Photograph and story by Jim Mitchem

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