Never Forget Where You Come From

#Travel #Adventure #Choices #Friends #NeverForget

One night as I walked to one of Paris’ Metro stations, I had a conversation with a young woman who, like myself, is from a small town in her country. She was surprised that I understood her frustrations with sometimes being unable to reconcile her “Big City Life” and “World Views” with her “Small Town Upbringing.” She was surprised because I’d told her I was from Detroit. I do this quite often because I’ve found that no one knows where my town is and most people aren’t interested in hearing some long winded explanation of where I’m from in relation to a place they may recognize. If someone says they’re from Michigan, or familiar with the state, I freely volunteer the name of my town. It was then that I told her that I was actually from a small town outside of Detroit. The young woman told me how her friends from home thought it weird that she traveled the world freely, had moved to another country (more than once) and had friends from all over the world who had varying backgrounds and spoke different languages. She explained how they even thought some of her food choices were strange. However, in this young woman’s circle of friends, she didn’t consider any of this strange. She didn’t consider it strange mostly because she was happy with her life but also because she tended to attract people who lived similar lives.

I told the young woman about the first time I’d left home after college. I’d gone back to my hometown and was hanging out with old friends when one asked, “How do you just pick up and go to another city and you don’t know ANYBODY there?? Couldn’t be me!!” The others in the group nodded their agreement with the speaker. Just to give you a little perspective, I’d moved to . . . Cleveland — exactly 150 miles from my mother’s house! I responded that I’d moved for a job (I didn’t know back then that I’d make it a career), a job that wasn’t available to me in Detroit. It was a job that had enabled me to do a little bit of traveling. On my virtually non-existent, fresh out of college, budget it was travel that I couldn’t have afforded on my own. It was during that conversation that I realized that that friendship would have to be aggressively managed. As a 22 or 23 year old who was fresh out of college, living in a strange place with no friends or family nearby, I doubted myself and my decisions all the time. The last thing I could afford to have happen was to have someone else question my decisions while I was having my own moment of doubt.

Since that conversation all those years ago, I’ve been told constantly that I’m a bit strange and that my decisions and the path I’ve chosen for my life are more than a little unorthodox. That’s ok. What’s not ok is when people say to me “Never forget where you came from!” in that tone. You know the tone, that ‘Holier than thou’ tone that people use when they’re trying to pass their judgement off as advice.  What I usually want to say is: “That’s easy for you considering you were too chicken $#!+ to ever leave.” But what I say instead, “It’s because of where I’m from that I’ve chosen the life I have. It’s where I’m from that spurs my desire to see more, learn more and do more than I was ever supposed to, more than I was ever expected to. And because of that, I’m not able to forget where I came from.”