“The root of suffering is attachment.” The Buddha
When my wife and I were in the process of moving to Alaska, it was no wonder that moving was on my mind and I should recall other moves in my life. In truth I’d moved very little. Geographically I’d always lived in the Midwest. From Waterloo to Cedar Falls, from Cedar Falls to Iowa City, from Iowa City to Cedar Rapids, from Cedar Rapids to Marion. The total distance involved in those moves is less than one hundred miles. There were a few small moves from apartments to houses within those city moves, but for the most part, I’ve really been a stationary being.
Being in one spot is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be limiting. It can also allow one to build walls that eventually become a box that eventually can be stifling, dropped in a six foot hole and buried with earth. I do remember one particular move I was supposed to make, but didn’t. I refused to make it, and sometimes on rare occasions I wonder how the path of my life would have been different had I acquiesced.
It was the summer between ninth and tenth grades. This was a pivotal year for me between junior high school and senior high school. My friends and I were busy making big plans to meet the challenges that going to the big high school presented.
It was also the summer of the Boy Scout Jamboree in Colorado Springs, and probably the last chance for me to attend a Jamboree. That was a big event in scouting, and my father was a scout leader and wanted me to attend. I was very excited to go away with age mates for a two week vacation west. Little did I know what excitement awaited my return.
I remember the bus dropping me off at my house. For some reason, I was unmet by my parents. I went into the house busting with tales of my journey and I was greeted by an empty house. There were no people and no furniture to be seen. Empty. And that was exactly how I felt at that moment. Empty. The wind was taken out of my sails in an instant and I was at a loss to know what to do.
It turned out that the phone was still connected and I called one of my sisters who lived in town to find out what was going on. Fortunately she was home and filled me in. Supposedly I was told what was happening before I went to the Jamboree. I can only guess that if I had been told, I was so filled with the excitement of my own trip that I hadn’t heard the plans my parents shared.
In any case, we were moving to a very small town about an hour away from the only home I had known. We were moving to my grandmother’s house that my father had inherited when grandma died. My parents would continue to make the commute to the city until they retired. I would be stuck in that dinky town. At least that was how I saw it.
I made a few friends that summer while I spent every day mostly by myself. I had a cousin who lived there and there were maybe a half dozen other kids my age. However, on most days they didn’t seem free to just hang out or goof off like I was used to doing. So I was by myself. I did sign up for detassling corn that summer, so I spent a couple of weeks earning spending money and “working” with a crew of farm kids from that area.
However, as the summer moved on and school loomed closer and closer, I started getting more and more frightened of attending a very small high school in a neighboring town. Based on the few friends I had made during the summer weeks, I was not looking forward to high school life in a small rural community. I could intellectually understand the potential advantage of being a big fish in a little pond as opposed to a little fish in a big pond. But I just couldn’t emotionally wrap myself around that idea. I got more and more depressed during my long days and finally I expressed my reservations about living there and going to school there and leaving behind all the friends I had made all my life.
I don’t remember the exact response of my parents. I may have blocked the details from my memory. What I think I remember is that they listened to my concerns, agreed with me and began working out a solution. I’m sure it probably wasn’t all that smooth, but that’s how I want to remember it.
In the end, I went back to the city and moved in with my sister’s family for the three years of high school. In the winter time, when commuting became difficult, my parents rented apartments and I moved in with them until spring time when I would return to my sister’s house. When I look back at those days, it seems very strange, but I did get my way and remained with friends through high school.
I can’t say that it turned out to be the best option for me. At the time, it definitely seemed to be. However, who knows what path I might have taken had I made that move so many years ago. The walls I would have built in a small town would have been different walls, but they may have been just as limiting. Or perhaps I would have learned to be more open to change and would have torn down walls instead of building them. Perhaps I would have broadened my perspective and become a bigger fish more quickly in that small pond.
I do know that at this point in my life, moving is no big deal, especially with my wife as my partner. That’s not to say that I like all the stuff of moving, the sorting, packing, disposing. But moving itself is an adventure, an opportunity to explore, to become something more than I was before. There is an excitement about new encounters and new moments to enjoy. I truly looked forward to Alaska and the unknown world it represents. I am very glad that I am a different person than the boy who refused to move.