Setbacks as opportunities


Just when life is becoming stable, life shakes you up. This time, three people broke into my house and stole most of my gear. And by gear I mean my photography gear, our computers as well as some jewelry. We came back from a small trip to downtown and the door was busted open, things missing and a hell of a mess everywhere.

I can say it was 3 people (of a gang of 5) because I have them on video, but you know how justice works (or not) in Mexico. That’s another story. What I want to talk about is how I take this situation and what’s next.

An example of the mess we found at home after the break in
An example of the mess we found at home after the break-in.

First of all, security. Yes, we are in the process of tightening the physical security at home. From getting new locks with higher security features all the way to changing the door for a more resistant one.

Then the psychological part of the situation. Most people I’ve talked to have expressions like: “well…you’re lucky your dog wasn’t home, she could have gotten killed.” or “you’re lucky you were not at home so you were not hurt” and also “you’re lucky they only stole few things and not empty out your home”. I just nod in silence to those comments to be polite, but my real answer to those comments is: If I’m so lucky, I wouldn’t have been robbed in the first place! This is not luck, this is a bad situation and we all have to accept things for what they are. And don’t get me started with those comments that mention a God and a gratefulness to such bondage-like deity idea where you are loved but get punished.

Now that the steam is off, onward to the opportunity part. A friend of my mom told me: “when you experience a robbery, in a way, they reduce your clutter”. And that is the sanest comment I’ve heard so far. Yes, this situation sets me back on my budget, my plans, etc. But it is also an opportunity to renovate things and appreciate the ones you’re left with. Also they put me in an unexpected hard situation where I have the opportunity to be creative to solve it. Like in The Martian book (and movie), I’ll have to science the shit out of this situation to replace my stolen equipment with the budget I have.


Unlike the movie, help is not on the way. I’ll just have to work my ass off.

So for the moment, I have no photography gear to shoot new things and I don’t have a good reliable computer to do my job fast and easy. I’m back to my old Dell XPS computer that doesn’t hold a charge. And you know what? The situation is not that bad. I can still work and I can still… well, let’s not talk about photography for a while.

Lessons learned:

1. Burglars apparently don’t bother with kitchens, under sink cabinets or blanket storage spaces.
2. It doesn’t matter that you have a locked front door in the building, CCTV system and a doorman. You’ll still get robbed. Don’t depend on building security, make your own. Get a stronger door and security systems.
3. Constant backups ARE a life saver. My redundant weekly backup systems have everything, so I didn’t lost much data. These days, digital losses are more important than physical ones.
4. Disk encryption in your computer and other devices is important. They can’t turn on my computer (bios password) or steal away data from the hard disk because it is fully encrypted.
5. Mexico’s gun control laws need to be relaxed. We need protection and the government is not doing a great job at it. It never has.
6. Getting robbed forces you to get creative with what you have left and renovate.

So now, I’ll go to get creative on ways to recover and plan ahead.

p.s. You know what pissed me the most? They stole my whiteboard markers. Really?? And they were not expensive or fancy or anything, just plain cheap stupid markers! They were THAT desperate they took my markers??!! It’s the little things that really hurt…like paper cuts.

By Gabriel Saldaña

Gabriel Saldaña is a web developer, photographer and free software advocate. Connect with him on and Twitter