Yesterday, I read a wonderful piece by Melissa Yancy on The Upside of Failure and was struck by these lines in the closing paragraph:
“If I hadn’t learned to love the act itself, I’d learned to love the lens—not the time spent writing, but the way that time at the page created meaning in all my other time. This is something poets know best and that the old poet in me had perhaps forgotten. It’s the sensibility the act of writing brings to that everyday snack of cold plums, those hours spent watching a skunk rooting in the backyard. I successfully failed long enough to find a kind of purity, in spite of myself.”
Yancy’s essay and those lines in particular gave me a sense of calm and comfort. You see, a couple of weeks ago – in a moment of exhausted frustration – I had scrawled a single line in my very neglected journal, “I’m tired of writing about things – I want to DO things.”
And, I’ve been carrying a small but weighty guilt in my pocket ever since.
… until something about Yancy’s words reminded me about this piece that I wrote rather a long time ago, originally as a column for my local paper. Reading back over it, I am reminded how often we miss the really good stories because we’re distracted by things we think we should be doing … how often we let other people’s opinions about what’s important color our own perspective … how often we overlook the modest but life-changing adventures right in our own backyards.
There are so many things I haven’t done.
When I was much younger, I knew I’d have to get out of my small, home town if I was ever going to experience “real” life. I couldn’t wait to stretch my wings and venture out into the big, wide world. In my mind, visions of New York City and San Francisco jostled for room next to slightly less tangible impressions of Paris, Rome, and some unidentified locale that left me with a smoky, windswept sense of Colorado, or maybe Montana.
I never made it past Boston.
Though I was accepted to several New York universities, it was the nearby Boston College campus that eventually bore witness to my first night away from home. I had traveled domestically with my family (thirty-two days driving around the country with my parents and sister … in a Volkswagen Rabbit) and my post-college life included a variety of big-city business trips, but I never did fly far from the nest. Other than brief stints in two neighboring towns, I have lived in my hometown for my whole life.
Sometimes, I wonder what adventures life might have brought me if I had slipped the noose of comfortable familiarity and escaped into the wild, blue yonder. What would I have done? Where would I have gone? What would I have seen? Whom would I have met?
Of course, now, I’ll never know.
Whatever opportunities I had for running away from home are far behind me now. I am grown up with a daughter of my own. I have roots and responsibilities and a routine. I have two cats for company and karate classes four times a week. My daughter has friends here. My beau and I have our favorite Friday night hang out. We all have family close by. This small town has become our world.
And, that’s okay.
I have friends who travel extensively and even live abroad. A writer friend of mine relocated her entire family to France for two years. Another couple I met through online channels are currently living in Spain, teaching English, taking pictures, and writing poetry and novels. Another writer friend is heading out to Saigon for a couple months.
I sometimes feel as if these people are much braver than I. But then I remember that it also takes courage to stay in one place, to open up by becoming part of a community.
I rarely regret anymore that I chose Boston over New York. I hardly give it a second thought that I’ve never lived in another country or experienced the excitement of visiting exotic destinations. Instead, I am grateful that I have found a place I’m happy to call home.
That isn’t to say I don’t have any regrets.
Someone died last week. It was unexpected. I didn’t know his name until I read his obituary, but I knew his face. I’d seen him around town many times, waved or nodded to him often, and once or twice shared a table at the local coffee house. He was part of the fabric of my town – a familiar figure, a ready smile, a nameless neighbor.
When I learned of his passing, I was struck with a sharp sense of loss. I did not know this man, but I could have. I could have, but I’d let the chance slip through my fingers because I was busy or didn’t know what to say or just didn’t think enough to make an effort.
And now I’m sorry.
There are so many things I haven’t done, but perhaps in a small town it’s more important to consider all the people you haven’t met. This small town where I live is my corner of the world, and the people in it are what make it the wonderful place it is. I still marvel at all the wonders of the world beyond our modest borders, but I also see that there is much exploring to do here right at home.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.