Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. – George Bernard Shaw
Where are you from? This is one of the first things people ask when they try to get to know one another. But this simple question can be one of the most difficult to answer. I read an interesting article the other day that made the distinction between people who view the world from anywhere and people who view the world from somewhere.
The values of some people are rooted to a certain location and time, such as their hometown. They are die hard fans of the things they grew up with, like local sports or cuisine, These folks self-identify with geographic-based definitions. Somewhere folks look back nostalgically on an imagined golden age where the light shined a little brighter. To them change is often seen as a deficit to their lives. And sadly somewhere people can hold on to prejudices and other negative ideas learned in childhood. They see the world at large through a narrower locally focused lens.
Anywhere people live in a more self-determined way. Change is not only accepted but sought after. These folks don’t identify as deeply with their place of birth and regional affiliations. Their identity is mobile as are they. People from anywhere are more individualistic and globally focused. Most have moved away from their hometowns. They struggle to purge their views of preconceptions of others which they may have inherited from their family and childhood friends. People from anywhere view the world through a wider universal lens.
Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. – Dr. Seuss
Just as Yin and Yang contain portions of their compliments, the views of somewhere people also contain elements of the anywhere perspective and vice versa. Being proud of your origins is not negative in anyway, just as having a more international viewpoint doesn’t make one nobler. There are often crucial economic aspects to remaining a somewhere or becoming an anywhere. People live where they can find a job. Finding a job and putting down roots are seen as a positive sign of maturity.
As a single father of three, contractual worker on a low rung of the economic ladder, my options for mobility were extremely limited. But I wanted my children to understand the wider world outside my hometown. And so we: watched international movies; enjoyed Japanese cartoons; shopped in various Asian supermarkets; learned to cook foreign dishes; read writers from other countries… In this way, today my kids see the world beyond the neighborhood where they grew up.
I was inspired by my Uncle Curt. My Dad’s older brother traveled the world for various jobs as a pilot/mechanic. He visited dozens of countries, spoke five languages had adventures from the tip of South America to the North Pole from the Sahara Desert to the Sumatran rain-forests. At his core, my uncle carried the universal truths of honesty and integrity. His mind was opened to the wider world when he was a boy growing up deep in the backwoods of Kentucky where my paternal ancestors were from. Uncle Curt, my Dad and his brothers would listen to broadcasts about the world on a crystal radio they built themselves. Those broadcasts filled him with wanderlust. He joined the Navy before WWII and afterwards he explored the world. Standing in my Dads garage, he once told me, “You’ll never see the world living on this corner.” At that moment I became an anywhere person.
I am proud to say I have had wonderful people from over seventy countries read my blogs since I began. Thank you. I cannot tell you how much you all mean to me. When I was a little boy, I would look through the Atlas and imagine what life must be like in various countries. My grandma bought us National Geographic magazines, and I could see more of the world. In museums I learned more about the incredibly varied cultures around the world. Living in China for a dozen years, I got to experience daily life in a very different society. But some things have remained a constant whether one is a somewhere person or an anywhere person, we all want to live a better life no matter where we are from. If you live your life sincerely and with integrity, you can create yourself anew. PEACE and LOVE.