There are times when meeting new people who are moving to my hometown, I cringe and wish they’d leave, or, at least, not get into a frenzy of wanting to “improve” us.
They come from New York, L.A., or some other place, though it doesn’t really matter where, and my first thought is, “Oh, please don’t come here to love us, then attempt to transform us into what you left behind.”
Now, I don’t know if they are here to change a thing or not.
What I do know comes from my own experience of moving to other cities and wanting to change them. My first thoughts usually are, “Why do they do it that way? A better way to do it would be . . .”
And, of course, I have a long list of improvements the new town I moved to needs to implement right away to accommodate me and my wants more effectively.
Geez. What arrogance.
Now, this morning, while I sit in a window seat at The Buttercup Market & Cafe, looking out at the white-capped mountains, I completely understand why so many visit and decide to stay.
Several years ago, I frequented a frat party, where I bumped into a newly arrived college student from New Jersey or some such place. He grabbed my shoulders and tried to impress upon me how amazingly breathtaking it was here and how I took it for granted.
I played down his assessment and said, “Of course, I know how beautiful it is here. I was born here, remember?” But really, he was right.
I grew accustomed to what I saw daily and eventually took it for granted, to the point of not seeing my surroundings at all, as I was consumed with my own life dilemmas. And maybe that’s the way of it.
We become immune to seeing what’s around us and lose the ability to pause long enough to see what is good. What we do “see” seems lacking and not good enough, or if not necessarily good enough, maybe just not “enough” to see in the first place.
Then we go somewhere new and everything is fresh and “unseen” to the point of offering us hope for a new life and new beginnings. As time has a way of replaying the past, we linger in our new surroundings and begin to miss what we took for granted from our previous home.
Maybe we miss that quaint and quirky coffee shop down the block. That nook-of-a-book store with the old men drinking double-espressos. The downtown stores that were closed on Sundays and Mondays. Or maybe we miss the cheap seats at the Fox.
Maybe those aches of what used to be create a compelling drive to manifest those same qualities in our new home. Or maybe we have reminiscent thoughts from living in the same place for decades because, as seems to be inevitable, things change even if we stay put. We miss what no longer is.
I’ve found replacing one city with another doesn’t work. Even attempting to replace a city’s new self with it’s former self doesn’t work either, at least for me.
There is something freeing about letting something be as it is, even if I desperately want to change it. Perspective is gained. Respect even, along with the history of why things are the way they are.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that things can’t change or shouldn’t, but sometimes there is such quick movement to change that we miss what doesn’t need to change and maybe shouldn’t.
I can miss out on the gifts of living elsewhere, doing different, and learning new cultural aspects that I may instinctually bump up against because it is different. I can miss out on the benefits of what was when I’m stuck in grass-is-greener-on-the-otherside thinking. Only in hindsight do I see my folly.
I’m naturally a fear-based person. I wish that I wasn’t. I wish that I could say that I rarely experience fear or am run by it, but that would be a lie.
I’ve made humongous strides in overcoming fear, which has freed me to be still and undisturbed more frequently, even in the middle of chaos and turbulence. But I have to constantly remind myself it’s okay for me to live in difference.
As my husband says, probably more for my benefit than his, “Difference generates great discussions” (I’m paraphrasing what he says, because I can’t remember it verbatim). What I’m left with is, difference and communication are essential.
If we all thought the same, we wouldn’t have much to talk about.
I find more joy, more contentedness when I am not trying to change everything to fit my ideas and thoughts when I’m able to allow things to be as they are. Doing this doesn’t mean giving up, giving in, or adhering to another’s belief or faith.
For me, it means that I give other ideas, beliefs, and thoughts a chance. I challenge myself to think outside of what I think I know.
As one old friend of mine says, “One of my greatest difficulties in life is assuming that everyone thinks and believes like I do, then I’m angry and baffled when I find out they don’t as if I’m surprised.”
I can relate and am reminded to set aside this assumption and to not fear what other people might say or believe, even if it turns out that we disagree.
This allows me to enter a new town with a child-like-awe of wanting to learn and see without judgment and condemnation, without numbering a long list of “needed” changes. My memories become rich and detailed, unique to where I am, not a mishmash of everywhere I’ve been or lived.
When I leave, I know the city as it was not as I wanted it to be. And, really, that’s not all bad, even if it didn’t give me everything I wanted.
Of course, time earns connection and perspective, and the longer people from other places live here, they offer beneficial experience, which needs to be weighed and considered. There’s no dismissing that.
The hope, or at least my hope, is that the experience offered nourishes and enlivens our spirit and is not bent on replacing it with another’s.
And the same goes for me, whether I stay in my hometown or choose to move elsewhere.
I don’t need to stay muddled in my hometown’s past, wishing the traffic was lighter and the air was quieter like it used to be. Or be bent on altering another city to fit my every need.
I can practice seeing each town as it is, in the here and now, and keep moving forward.