I’m never sure what to say when someone asks the very simple question, “Where are you from?” My life has been quite mobile, so sometimes I will randomly choose a place I have lived. Sometimes I will change the subject. Most often I say, “oh, all over.” Usually the response to that is, “military kid?” Nope. Just happens that life tosses me around a bit. This isn’t so unusual. There are plenty of people who have lived in numerous zip codes. The other side is much more rare. How often have you run into someone who hasn’t moved?
On the surface our culture embraces this ideal. We carry phones so that no matter where we are, we are not lost. We switch jobs, often laterally, simply for the sake of a change. Nowhere has this seemed more present than in my time in Los Angeles. Always movement, always change, as quick as can be found and applied. Those who cannot keep up are hopeless. Whether in the home, the career, or in the mind, we must be moving.
If it sounds like I long for a slow-down, the truth is, I do. There is a beauty that is lost when one cannot stand still, physically or mentally. We find it unnatural. It’s a twinge of panic–What do I do NOW?–for even in sleep, the brain is active. But as much as we may seem to embrace this ideal, there is a prejudice against it.
Consider: “Where are you from?”
The very question assumes you must have a stationary point. You must have a reference for who you are. Is it where you were born? Where you currently live? The longest place you’ve lived? Or where you’ve experienced the most change? It must be stationary, so that others can create a story of you.
For all that it is not, the past must be solid.
My job can be performed anywhere that I can access a wireless signal. Most jobs at this point can claim the same. There is no need for me to wake up and physically go to a site to perform my duties.
My home could be made anywhere. Technology allows for humanity to live in the coldest climates, the most inhospitable places. Deserts are irrigated and rivers diverted to magically transform it into habitable land.
My finances, social life and entertainment do not require a physical place for me to reach.
It does not truly matter in my life WHERE my body physically resides. And yet, almost everything I do to function in society requires an address. A current physical place that I return to nightly. Why? So I can receive credit card offers and coupons? Everyone else reaches me through my online interactions, so why are all the entities that control my identification required to have a physical address? Most especially since this is clearly the least likely way to reach me in the future. Still, it is required.
For all that it is not, the present must be solid.
Do Not Be Stationary
It seems that this means that the larger systems set up are woefully behind the technology that makes us ever more mobile. But in deeper reflection, I see that even before airplanes and cars opened the reach of where we could travel, there has always been a place for nimble personalities.
A personality that can adjust and adapt will be more creative, more productive, and more accepting. A mind that cannot will only breed prejudice and fear. We cause damage in ourselves and to others when we cannot change, or even worse, when we expect nothing around us to change.
Why would we assume to live in the house we where we currently reside in the future? Will our families not grow or shrink? Why would we assume our spouse will always be with us? They have changed, we have changed. Why would we assume our jobs will stay the same? Technology has changed, the market has changed.
It may seem frantic, like we are always in a panic playing catch-up. This is true for some, but it is less about reality than it is our expectations. Ironically, if we slowed down, I think we would find that contemplation allows us to develop that very adaptability that releases that frenetic spirit.
The future is not solid, and successful people do not expect it to be.