We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
~ T.S. Eliot
I’ve recently been visiting family in my hometown.
Let’s just say that the place where I grew up doesn’t reflect my values. Actually, let’s say more about it: Southern Alberta is a politically conservative area. I don’t really feel as though I fit in here. Since I was young I’ve always known I would leave. And leave I did—though I come back and visit.
Growing up I had notions of a quaint and frivolous European lifestyle. Stopping by the bakery, meandering through narrow, cobblestone streets. I wanted it. I wanted something different than vast tracts of brand new subdivisions; residential areas specifically planned to be far away from commercial stores to keep traffic down. Something different than wide streets full of large, gas-guzzling vehicles. I wanted to be able to buy what I made for dinner that night on my walk home, not circuitously drive, dodging cul-de-sacs to get to my house.
Since then I’ve lived far away, across mountain valleys, continents and oceans. I’m back for a visit now. And for supper we didn’t have enough of something.
As I was walking the block and a half or so to the grocery store, I realized that I was getting my wish—I was able to walk a short distance for the needed ingredients for supper that night.
It was one of those “ah-ha” moments. I realized (again and again…and again) that life is what I make it and will change depending on my attitude. I can take whatever it is I am given, and consciously choose to let it fit into the life that I want to create for myself.
With this attitude, I could live anywhere. Sure, I would make particular decisions—such as living close enough to a grocery store that I would be comfortable walking to it—but I know that I can take responsibility for my life and not shift it off to the rest of society around me. If I don’t like something, change it. If I know I want something in my life, create it.
I walked along my old streets with a smile on my face, feeling content. The only disturbance was the usual one. The years-old grocery store renovation that’s exchanged the spots of the “in” and “out” doors. It’s something I’ve never seemed to let soak into my memory, and usually have a split second where I stand in anticipation, wondering why the automatic door isn’t swinging open for me.
Seems like the perfect time to update my understanding of my hometown.
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: elephant archives