It is common for young adults to look for greener pastures. With the whole world open to them, they think that surely they can do better than their parents. I was no exception. After graduating from college, I gathered up the family and went west. Colorado seemed like a beautiful place to live. There were mountains, milder winters, wilderness and lots of perfect skiing. It would be perfect.
But it was not long after I arrived that the giddiness subsided as I became swallowed up in the day-to-day activities of work and life. There was not much room to enjoy the romantic reasons for the move. In three years in Colorado, I skied twice.
One weekend I decided to take a backpacking trip with the family up the mountains into the wilderness. After driving for four hours, we found ourselves on a two-lane highway of backpackers. I could have found more private natural areas ten minutes from my home back in Michigan.
The Rocky Mountains are an incredibly beautiful place and I am sure there are remote areas. I just didnt have the time to find them. Everyone, it seemed, was moving to Colorado for the same reasons I did and it was becoming more like a park than wilderness. This is not really to criticize Colorado, just to point out that problems like the big city population one I tired of in Michigan can follow you. To find a job in Colorado, I found myself in Denver, a city about fifty times bigger than my hometown.
Many people move because of social problems created by their own personality, or because of pickles they create by not thinking through life choices. Problems we create follow us. They dont shred and break off along the highway to a new destination.
Living away from where we have grown up is difficult for many people. It can be tough to develop a sense of belonging. The little things from home such as family, friends and familiar geography create a sense of security hard to duplicate elsewhere. Some scientists even argue that the unique magnetic, solar and lunar circumstances peculiar to the place of birth are implanted in us, creating a sense of uneasiness only resolved by migrating back home. These are the factors possibly underlying the homing mechanism in migrating animals.
When I moved back to Michigan, the sense of home was quite overwhelming. Other than in the mountains, there is not much color in the semi-arid desert on the eastern plains abutting the Rockies where all the big cities are. So as I drove into Michigan in the early summer, the green was overwhelming, like a verdant fluorescence bathing my eyes with soothing familiarity.
My new job was back in the college town from which I had fled. But that didnt last long either. It was but a few years before I moved back to the small city I was raised in. None of these moves were consciously to come home, but rather to follow career opportunities and to make visits to family easier. Nevertheless, it was a little humbling, even embarrassing, to find myself back at the starting line of the greener pasture quest I set out on several years earlier.
There was an unmistakable comfort in being back in the place of my childhood where all was familiar. By then I had also come to realize that happiness is something we make for ourselves within our little private sphere. Changing geography does not create it and may even stand in the way. An outsider in a new community is always at a disadvantage, to begin at least. I still fantasize that there must be, somewhere, that perfect place to live that Im missing out on. But I have come to respect the inherent draw of my place of birth and know that I cannot disengage from it with impunity.
On the other hand, we should not be afraid to explore and find circumstances more suited to our liking. For example, some people struggle with heat or cold and need to be where climate is more suited to them. For some, the only way to pursue a career they love is to move. So it is a matter of motive. If there are objective reasons that another place will help our happiness, that is one thing. If we believe location in and of itself creates success, makes decisions always correct, or solves personality problems, we will find ourselves as disappointed as standing in line trying to get tickets at a sold out Super Bowl game.
Life is something we create for ourselves and as such it has a way of following us around. The greenest grass is not likely in the distance. It is under our own feet if we nurture it properly.
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