April 2, 2009

The Wider World

Okay, so I can't really claim to have been everywhere and seen everything. I have a few friends that did that. But that is what this one is about I suppose, knowing that I haven't seen it all.

I live next to Disneyland. Not next door or anything. Close enough I hear the fireworks 2 or 3 times a week but far enough that I don't see them and don't have to deal with over street traffic from buses and taxis going all over the place. The thing is I have only been to Disneyland once in my life. I was 2 or 3 and I only have a vague recollection of what we did. Honestly I remember Sea World better than anything because it was the first time I got hit by a seagull turd. From that day on it didn't make a lot of sense that Utah reverenced this bird so much.

Now the point isn't that I don't remember it well. The point is that of the people who will possibly read this one day I know that most of them probably have really fond memories of Disneyland. Not me. I haven't collected that one yet.

I was born in Utah. For most people not from Utah it kind of raises a red flag of boredom. I can't recall the many times as a kid when I told people I was born in Utah and they would get a look on their face that seemed to want to apologize. I didn't get it then but I think I am starting to get it. Let me digress in an attempt to illustrate.

I had a friend in elementary school. I knew this girl from 4th grade on. She was not one of the popular kids so we got along great. For 2 years of school she was one of the people who thought it was sad I was from Utah. It wasn't until 6th grade that the conversation pointed in her direction and I discovered that she had never left the state of California by that point in her life.

The lesson I learned was that people can't imagine the world outside where they are. It is almost as if mankind was built to see the world in a microcosm.

As I think about this my mind is whisked back in time to an age when people lived and died withing a 20 mile radius of where they were born. I think that is why we are built to see the world this way. Generations of mankind has lived in only small areas of the world. The thing is that with all the ability we have to travel and see the world for what it is the microcosm still exists.

Shortly after I turned 16 my family moved from Vallejo, CA to Orem, UT. I expected the change to be fairly easy. I expected that I would meet new friends. I did, but not until after I was confronted by cruel reality.

Once I started to get to know people I realized that there was a huge prejudice in Orem against anyone who would dare say they were from California. I wasn't, as it turns out, the only person who went through that experience.

The mindset was all about being local. The funny thing is that even people who were not strictly locals learned to pretend they were in order to get along in that environment. Due to my sometimes uncompromising behavior I didn't get along very well. I'm sure that will come as no surprise to many. I wanted to remain who I was and be liked and accepted for it. Something I still believe is right.

Okay, so we left Orem. A year later we moved to a small town called Salem, UT. In that small town we lived in the small neighborhood by the cemetery. This neighborhood was different. This one was made up of a number of people who did not grow up nearby mixed with a few that had. It was sort of a bunch of city people hiding away in a small farm community because it was nicer that Provo and Orem.

Can you guess what happened next? I was accepted for who I was. The reason was simply that half of the people that lived there were locals and the other half were like me. I learned a great lesson living there. I learned that it is great to have moved so much in your life that you cannot really call a single place home. The perspective you gain from living in many places gives you great experiences. Those experiences then allow you to relate to many people who come from many circumstances.

Now, like I said earlier, I haven't been all over the world. There is another point I want to make about that.

I have also met many people over the years that have spent most of their life in one town or another. They almost all have been to Disneyland and/or Hawaii. They all have fond memories of those vacations. The thing I realized one day was that vacations don't do much but give you a little time away from your house.

On a vacation do you socially interact with people? Do you make lifelong friends? With a few exceptions the answer is probably no. Without living in those places you don't really get that experience. You may have a fleeting summer romance or meet someone who became your pen pal. Chances are you didn't spend a lot of time with them from that point on.

Maybe it's time for me to get to the point. This will probably seem pretentious and self-centered. I don't mean for it to be.

I realized one day that living in this world is more that the microcosm we tend to make of it. The world is bigger than Orem. The world is bigger than Vallejo. The world is bigger than Salem (everything is bigger than Salem, I've seen farms bigger than Salem). The world is bigger than me. The world is bigger than Los Angeles and New York City. The world is bigger than any one of us because it is exactly as big as all of us. I think for me to learn that it took a lifetime of never feeling like I was "from" anywhere, despite the fact that I have almost always claimed to be from Vallejo, when the truth is I never lived in one neighborhood there for more than 2 years.

I like having lived in a lot of places. It has expanded my view of the world. It has allowed me to meet many amazing people.