I was chatting with my 18-year-old daughter (who lives in the US) about our school’s upcoming graduation and this article meant to leave students with a sense of what my experiences have been like, but more importantly how sharing those experiences might shed some light on what our new graduates might see and do in their future, and what our underclassmen might plan for accordingly.
What got me texting my daughter was a Twitter post of an island scene she tweeted (Greece maybe?) and a comment about living life to the fullest, or something like that (pretty typical). But it got me thinking about where she’d live in the future, and what she’d be doing. Her tweet said she’d like to live on a tropical island, just like so many other tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, or WeChat moments we’ve all seen. But most people don’t actually realize those dreams. Instead, they live vicariously through others’ posts hoping that one day they’ll find sand beneath their feet. Unfortunately, they probably won’t ever do anything to make it happen.
Is this insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Saying over and over, “One day . . .” And then never doing anything about it?
I think it’s more complex than that and much harder than folks think due to traditions that are so ingrained, that going against the grain ain’t easy. I had an epiphany long ago, as I struggled with the fact that I wanted my kids to be near their cousins, but I didn’t want to live in my Mississippi hometown. That’s what we do though; we return home to be with parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews and old friends. Those connections are important for everyone involved, and the help sure doesn’t hurt. It’s also what we know, which isn’t as scary as the alternative.
We’re pressured to keep that tradition alive. Not for the sake of any romantic ideals associated with tradition, but simply the pressure our families and friends (and society, for that matter) place on us with their expectations that we return home. And, in fact, most people do.
I love the mountains. I had that epiphany I mentioned above on top of a mountain above Missoula, Montana, as I looked out at the other peaks surrounding the town. That’s when it hit me. BAM!
Folks return home here. To Missoula! If I had been born in Montana, that vicious cycle of returning home to Mississippi wouldn’t be an issue. Anyone, for that matter, from a place they don’t particularly like, whether geographically, politically, socially, or otherwise could avoid the roundabout if they could just choose where they’re born. Simple, right? I wish.
So how do we break this cycle, this tradition that pulls us back in to a hometown that isn’t tweeted often? I came up with that answer, on top of that same mountain. But it’s not a really good answer. Or rather, the solution is simple, but the follow through not so much. You have to start the cycle where you want it to return. The catch is that if it isn’t near family and friends, you’ll be going it alone, or at least alone with your immediate family, setting sail on an adventure to set an example. Since kids return for the most part, I want to start a cycle where my kids’ homecoming will take part in a place that they like geographically, politically, and socially, where they can grow with an open mind that allows them to explore and impact a new world, one that we all hope to see one day.
I’m still looking for that place, as if I’m still on that mountain wondering what the different peaks in the distance hold, wondering where I’ll begin again. Europe might be the answer; I’m moving to Hungary in June. But so might Greece, or some other tropical island. Maybe Montana. The point is, I’m looking. For the sake of my immediate family, and perhaps others, if taken to heart new traditions might be discovered.