ruminations: on growing up and leaving home.

I think too much.

(Hence, nearly 4.5 years of blather which I am pleased to call Along the Milky Way.)

I’ve been thinking about three things: Sweden, the phrase “flyover country,” and the best graduation speech I ever heard. They do relate to each other, I promise.

Since coming to Sweden I’ve questioned, often, whether or not I am brave enough to live in a long string of crazy places (among my ambitions are Germany, Russia and Minneapolis) in which places I will have to figure stuff out. Figuring stuff out has been rather difficult here in Umeå. I have figured stuff out, but it has been frustrating, time consuming and awkward.

Do I have what it takes to get through this – and also do it again someday? Maybe more than once? I’m not sure.

I am arguably from flyover country. I mean, there are two major airports within driving distance of my hometown, but I am sort of from a town in the middle of nowhere. When I was younger, I used to be grumpy about how no one ever paid attention to Idaho (I remember specifically resenting Arizona and New York, for some reason). Anymore, I prefer the rest of the nation to leave Idaho alone because I’m a curmudgeon and don’t want anyone else to move here. But still. Flyover country.

The best graduation speech I have ever heard came from a man who was my cousin’s middle school social studies teacher in a very small town in Eastern Oregon.

To paraphrase, he said, “Appreciate your beginnings in this small town. Go, get out, see the world. And when you’ve done that, find a small town. This one or another one. Make a life there.”

I love that. Get out and see the world – and then come back. Settle down. Figure yourself out first; give yourself all the space you need (you’ve got a whole planet). And then zoom it back in and give somebody else that first home.

It puts this whole journey in perspective: this is the wacky scary seeing-the-world part. This is the chatting with a drunk Chinese guy in the intensest dance club I have ever been in, accidentally rejecting a German guy who wasn’t flirting with me, making pizzas with a big group of people and the Italians rolling their eyes at our choice of cheese, getting a bike stolen and finding another one, discovering all the best foreign candies (I stumbled across Marabou Drömkrisp today and OH MY GOSH), talking about Terry Pratchett with a guy from Slovenia, getting completely confused by Google Maps and also by the complicated system of how the bike/walking trails follow the associated streets, figuring out the putting of my hair in a bun, living without the best people in my life, finding new good people, learning to appreciate them without forgetting my love for the ones at home…

It’s wacky. That genuinely may be the most appropriate word for it.

I just have to remember that it’ll refine me into someone capable of creating the small-town home for someone else someday.

I’m not good at being patient. But I guess I’ll figure it out.


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