Transformative Places

Wherever we go, when we settle in we take on attributes caused by the place. We change, at least a little, to reflect the way a place we live changes us. And often, maybe usually, we don’t recognize the change in us until later, perhaps years later.

As I reflect on the statements above, I wonder whether they are true. Do the places we live really change who we are? I think they do. Maybe we don’t change at our core, but we adapt to our new environment by changing enough to better fit in or to more clearly differentiate us from the people around us. It may be our vocabulary or the way we pronounce words. It might be the way we acknowledge people we encounter (or, conversely, stop those acknowledgements). But the changes may be more fundamental. We may become more conservative in our thinking; or more progressive.

Moving from the hustle-bustle of a high-energy city to a more relaxed rural environment can have the effect of smoothing our engagements with other people. We might become more accustomed to light traffic; return trips to freeway traffic might become more stressful to the changed person we have become.

At the same time these changes take place in us, similar changes take place in people we leave behind in other places that have changed us. And changes take place in people in our spheres, people who settle in other places. The places change them in big and little ways. Even modest changes in them and in us can create gulfs between us. We don’t grow apart; we morph apart. We become different people. Different from one another, yes, but different from our former selves, as well.

What about the ways in which places change those around us? We don’t all respond to new places in the same way, so I may change in ways very different from the ways the same place changes someone else in my life.

Graphs and charts and instructive images would be far better at articulating what I’ve been trying to say than what I’ve said. Unfortunately, I do not possess the wherewithal to express myself graphically; well, I do, but not in ways that would be informative in this discussion. When I get uncomfortable with where I am, physically or emotionally, I attempt to lighten the environment with humor; it rarely works.

Perhaps I would have been more successful at expressing my thoughts if I had stuck to specifics about me. Instead, I’ve attempted to describe in the abstract a set of concepts that I’m not quite sure I understand sufficiently to explain.

I should return to writing fiction. I know more about the world inside my head than I do about the physical world, the world in which I dabble in reality. Fiction is easier on the brain and the heart. It’s easier to control than reality; reality seems to have its own agenda, quite apart from anything over which I might have control.

I could live quite comfortably in an imaginary world, a place in which I can transform challenges into solutions. Problems into opportunities. Fear into anticipation.

The imaginary world is a place, too. It can have the same transformative effects that the real world can have; I suppose one simply has to believe.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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