When I was 18 I went away to college. I never returned home to live even though I had many opportunities. I had to leave two colleges, one closing down unexpectedly, one because I ran out of money. When I finished college I had to choose where to live and the choices didn’t include moving to my parent’s town. When my first wife and I had to return to California from Graduate School, we had to choose between the town where my parent’s lived or hers. We chose hers.
Why didn’t I want to return? Because I didn’t want to be like my parents. When I returned to visit I always remembered why I didn’t want to be like them and moving close to them seemed in my mind to be a recipe for being influenced to be more like them. Be far away and that won’t happen was my thought. And to some degree it was true. I was influenced by other people, other families, by being far away. It really is an important element to many people growing up and into their own unique selves. However, no matter how far away I was, my family was still with me.
At that time, those family traits included alcoholism and a short temper, among other things. And those things stayed with me whether I was 3,000 miles away or right next door. I was still a product of my parents and my upbringing and no amount of distance was going to remove that. What did remove much of it (not all) was hard work. Was being deliberate about wanting to change and doing the work necessary to make that change permanent. That included stopping drinking in 1993 so I wouldn’t travel down the same road my mother did. It included working consciously to reduce my anger, frustration and annoyance with the small things in life that bedeviled my father for most of his life. That sort of change is always conditional. There are things that can make me crazy, but they are few and far between. I don’t think my reputation as an adult now would include having a short temper.
Keeping The Good
But there is another side to this and that is no matter how far you travel, you also won’t completely lose the wonderful parts of your family either. I stayed away but I still had my mother and father’s easy-going ability to befriend anyone and everyone. I still had her sense of humor. I still had my father’s intellectual curiosity about the world. I am glad I carry those things with me, no matter how far away I am.
How far have you traveled from your family, and have you been able to really get away?
Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
“They who fly from their own family have far to travel.” – African Proverb