As a First-Gen American-Mexican, Quitting My Job to Live a Slower Life Was Difficult but Worth It

As a First-Gen American-Mexican, Quitting My Job to Live a Slower Life Was Difficult but Worth It

Despite having lived a fast-paced life, I have always been mindful of my mental health and thought I was doing a decent job at balancing the hustle with wellness practices. Sure, I went to college full-time on the weekends and during the evenings, all while balancing a full-time job in New York City as a beauty editor. However, I made sure I was consistently practicing yoga in an attempt to keep myself balanced. I did the same thing for grad school, stretching myself thin to make both things work while trying to stick to my Headspace schedule. “I’m prioritizing my mental health,” I’d lie to myself. My parents were able to do it, so I should as well.

Both my parents moved from Mexico to the US to pursue their education at Harvard. Post-college and post-MBA, they went on to have illustrious careers — my father has held leadership roles at major banks and tech companies while my mother is considered one of the 100 most powerful women in Mexico. Their achievements became my benchmark for success.

For over a decade, I toiled incessantly. I worked at prestigious magazines, got an Ivy League degree, ran literal marathons, and pursued extra certificates to validate my worth. The pressure to not just be successful, but phenomenal, haunted me. If I wasn’t 10 steps ahead, I felt like I was falling behind.

. . . and then I burned out.

A decade in corporate media left me deflated on multiple fronts. The frustrations of feeling stagnant in my role, a disparity between workload and pay, and a shift in my job description replaced the creativity and storytelling aspect I loved for an SEO-first role. Despite long hours, pleas for support due to being understaffed (a common hurdle in media nowadays), and a series of HR complaints in response to discrimination and unfair treatment, nothing changed. The feeling of being stuck and unappreciated eventually reached its peak. Simultaneously, a one-sided and emotionally draining relationship added to my turmoil. Despite relentless efforts to sustain both aspects of my life — which I once loved so much — I reached a breaking point. To have a shot at happiness, everything needed to change.

I required a 180 reset.

I found the strength to end my relationship and quickly decided to leave both my job and New York. I knew I was eligible for Spanish citizenship through the Democratic Memory Law — a naturalization law that gives citizenship to the children and grandchildren of Spanish citizens (I’m getting it via my grandparents) — and figured the best way to recover from years of living in the city that never sleeps was to move to a country that honors siesta. I needed a few months to get my finances and personal affairs together before leaving, but I had to tell my parents first.

I approached my mother first, knowing she’d understand the emotional underpinnings of my decision. Despite her career-driven nature, she empathized with my exhaustion and desire to distance myself from New York. The more daunting task was telling my father, a perpetual overachiever who had always pushed me to surpass his own accomplishments. To tell him I wanted to throw away everything I’d worked for was nerve-racking, yet surprisingly, he too expressed his support. I walked him through my thought process and laid out a road map for my reset. Acknowledging my burnout and heartbreak, I emphasized the need to unlearn societal and cultural notions of success to discover what I wanted and my definition of success.

I jokingly referred to my approach as “no logic, just vibes,” signifying a departure from the overthinking I’d perfected in the past decade toward a more instinctive path at discovering what felt right instead. I assured him this phase wouldn’t be indefinite, estimating a year of soul-searching and recovery, and emphasized my financial preparation, as I had a few months of savings and guidance from my financial advisor.

Despite not knowing what the future looked like, I felt confident enough to pull the trigger.

I left the apartment I shared with my ex, put most of my belongings in a storage unit, and left for Madrid. I spent a month alone in a spacious studio. This was something I hadn’t realized I desperately needed after a decade in a noisy city working a job that constantly had me surrounded by people. Returning to Manhattan, I formally resigned from my job and hopped on a plane to London.

I hadn’t secured a job or project, but I held onto my belief that hard work, kindness, and authenticity attract the right opportunities. This conviction proved true, as I attended the Sephora UK opening to congratulate a beauty founder I had previously profiled. A few days later, she offered me a contract role. Little by little, opportunities unfolded. Slowly, my professional confidence grew, and, in parallel, I began to recover from burnout and rediscovered excitement for life.

I reconnected with hobbies I’d dropped over the years, such as reading fiction books and running. Traveling within Europe is easy, so I’ve been able to do things like walking aimlessly in Paris, learning about longevity treatments in Ibiza, and eating cardamom buns in Stockholm. In Barcelona, I spent endless days at the beach and did several sunrise paddleboard sessions. There, I’d lie down on the board as the waves rocked me gently, assuring me the peace I felt was well deserved.

I ended up hiring immigration lawyers to help me navigate the complexities of Spanish citizenship. I hopped between countries on a tourist visa. The Schengen Agreement states that American citizens can stay in Schengen countries for up to 90 days every 180 days, and frequent trips to the UK broke up my stay. Additionally, trips to the US became necessary due to work opportunities, but I also flew back often after meeting someone incredible.

I preface the subject of my current partner by emphasizing that I don’t believe a romantic relationship is necessary to feel complete — one should be entirely comfortable and confident on their own. However, I recognize that my boyfriend played a substantial role in rebuilding my confidence and strength. We met shortly after my breakup in New York, and despite my initial reluctance toward a new relationship, his unwavering support became a constant source of strength, while his positivity, consistency, and silly sense of humor steadily led me to feel safe in falling in love again. While I have no doubt I would’ve regained confidence and happiness independently, he’s a huge reason I got back on my feet so quickly.

It’s been nearly a year since I quit my job and left Manhattan, and I’m so glad I took a chance on myself. It’s the best decision I could’ve made. Barcelona, where I spent most of the summer, won over my heart with its slow yet cosmopolitan atmosphere. I found a work rhythm that suits my natural productivity peaks, enhancing both my efficiency and quality of life. My New Year’s resolution was to learn how to nap, and I’ve finally cracked the code. My Spanish citizenship is officially being processed, so I feel even more confident about my future.

While my exact life trajectory remains uncertain, I have a much clearer idea of what I want to do and finally have the energy and motivation to pursue it. There’s a big chance I’ll move permanently to Barcelona with my partner in the first quarter of the year, but I may instead move back to the US to pursue a business idea. Either way, I feel surrounded by unwavering support from those around me, including my parents.

My family doesn’t follow the typical immigrant story often portrayed in the media. They were well-off and gave my sisters and me privileges I recognize are exceptionally lucky. I’m so grateful for the education and work ethic they instilled in us. Their hustle mentality has taken me far in my career, and I see those same values in my sisters — one has gone on to launch a promising startup (and just presented at COP28), and the other has taken on international projects that have taken her to Denmark and then back home to Mexico. Setting the bar so high has inspired us to shoot for the stars, and I know that’s a common thread with other immigrant children. Seeing our parents work so hard fuels us with a desire to make them proud.

Nowadays, I’m seeing a shift in mentality. Children of immigrants still have the work ethic of their parents, but as topics surrounding therapy and mental health become less taboo within our communities, we’re becoming more inclined to take care of ourselves and prioritize rest when it’s needed. It can sometimes seem as though hustling isn’t a choice — especially when your parents have sacrificed so much and are so vocal about their expectations — but anybody who has experienced burnout can recognize that productivity levels actually go down. Rest, as counterintuitive as it may sound, may be the key to productivity. And life is so much richer when you make time for your friends, family, hobbies, and sleep.

I never thought that my parents would be as supportive of my choice to step back from the hustle and lean into a slower lifestyle, but it makes sense to me now. Mexican culture revolves around family and is centered around love. So while my path to success, and my definition of it, differs from theirs, I know they’ll always be here for me.

And to anybody reading this who may be craving a slower, more peaceful life, I say go for it. I was scared my family wouldn’t understand my decision, but through thoughtfully worded conversations and vulnerable interactions, they understood that this wasn’t just what I wanted but what I needed. At the end of the day, your family and community love you, and while they may not initially understand your need for rest, they’ll likely come around once they see how much better you’re doing once you slow down. And if you’re worried about the cost of leaning out, consider the price of staying exactly where you are. Listen to your gut, close your eyes, and repeat after me: I deserve peace.

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