Determination, Gratitude And Your Mental Health
Your Life Is Better When You Focus On The Little Things
Lessons From An Uber Driver In 24 Minutes
My husband and I are living in Coyoacán, an upscale neighborhood in Mexico City. The city has a high number of COVID infections, but the streets are busy. There are always a lot of working people waiting for the city buses. Others are standing in line to buy food from street vendors. You might think they’re not too worried about the virus, but really, they need to get on with their lives. They all wear face masks. They need to earn money.
We’re all living in stressful times. The virus. Loneliness. Politics. The economy.
None of us have ever faced so much at one time, and it’s easy to let life spin out of control.
Lesson 1: #STAYHOME Was Never Good Advice
My husband and I were never fans of #stayhome, even though we work remotely. #stayhome is destructive to our mental health. We are not meant to be isolated from others. We need human contact. Just seeing life happening on the streets can change your mood.
We were in New York City in March, visiting relatives. That was back when New York was the virus epicenter. Even then, we only lasted two days at home. Then we started going out to see what was happening in the city.
Of course, we didn’t want to get sick. We wore our face masks and carried hand sanitizer. We were careful not to touch our faces, and we kept conversations with others very short.
Some People Have Less Choice
We found that some neighborhoods were busier than others. But Washington Heights, a very infected Hispanic neighborhood in upper Manhattan, was bustling. Everyone was wearing a face mask.
Finding hand sanitizer in New York in March was difficult, but a local pharmacy bottled their own in pen-like spray tubes. I bought five and I’ve been refilling them ever since.
Our lesson from Washington Heights was the same: Some people have no choice. They need to earn money, and they’re willing to take on a certain level of risk.
Covid Economics 101: Working People Are Working More And Earning Less
Last week, we summoned an Uber from Mexico City’s Perisur Mall to go back home to Coyoacán. Our driver arrived, an attractive, young woman named Jessica.
I love to talk to the drivers because I learn so much about a new city that way.
I broke the ice by complaining about how these faces masks are going to kill us if the virus doesn’t. Jessica laughed. She said she brings three masks for her 12–hour shift. She changes her mask every three hours because it’s unhealthy to wear the same one for so long.
I was glad she wanted to talk. She was very pleasant, too.
I asked if she’s ever afraid of being assaulted, driving all day long. Jessica said that she used to turn down rides to questionable neighborhoods. Now, hunger has her accepting those rides. There are fewer rides right now. There may be much more activity on the streets, but not nearly enough to keep Uber drivers as busy as they used to be. Uber’s algorithm has lowered the rates. That means that Jessica is earning less per ride. She takes whatever ride comes up.
Our 24-minute ride cost us $73 pesos. Uber’s commission was $10 pesos and Jessica ended up with $63 pesos ($2.86 USD). If she was driving for someone else, she ended up with even less.
Jessica told us that her ex-husband doesn’t send child support, so she’s on her own. She can no longer afford swimming lessons for her two children and she hasn’t even paid her rent in months. Jessica said she was lucky because her landlord, also a single mother, has been letting her pay what she’s able to.
I asked her who looks after her children while she’s working. She said they’re 11 and 13 now, and can stay home by themselves.
And with all this, Jessica told me that she’s grateful for all that she has.
Lesson 2: Little Things Can Alleviate A Lot Of Stress
To maintain our mental health in times of Covid-19, the CDC tells us to connect with others and to avoid too much news. These things don’t pay the rent, but our mental health is crucial. Once that breaks down, we don’t function very well at our jobs, or at anything else. In an indirect way, our mental health does pay the rent. It keeps us motivated about life.
Jessica’s face mask covered her mouth and nose, but she had flirtatious eyes, with long, curled eyelash extensions. Life was a struggle, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t still be feminine. Here was a woman who knew how to maintain her spirit.
Jessica pulled up in front of our apartment building in the upscale Coyoacán, and I gave her a $100-peso tip. That was more than the cost of the ride. She gasped, and didn’t want to accept it. It was too much, she said, but I insisted.
Jessica, a hardworking single mother, is facing her struggles head on. If she can stay motivated and grateful, working so hard for so little, why can’t the rest of us? Hard times haven’t changed her attitude. They’ve made her stronger and prouder.
I was lucky to meet her. Jessica got a $100-peso tip, but I got a life lesson. I hope the Uber algorithm crosses our paths again. 🤞