Monday, September 6, 2010

Monday Musings - Are we still spunky?

1. Willing to take risks or to try out new methods, ideas, or experiences.
2. Involving new ideas or methods.

If you're American (naturalized or otherwise) and not of Native American descent, you come from immigrant stock.   That is a inarguable fact.   (No, this is not an immigration post, so just bear with me, please!)  We are a new country populated with people who came here from somewhere else; our people were adventurous.

Sometime, from somewhere, your people had the gumption to leave Ireland or England or Germany or Indonesia or Africa or Italy or Greece or some other country for the unknown (also known as America).  Some of them gave up everything to come here, right down to their family name.  Depending upon when in our history they embarked on their journey, they left family they knew they would never see or talk to again.  Letters would be few and far between.  They got on ships with faith, hope, and determination and no real idea of what they'd be facing at the other end.  They were willing to risk virtually everything with no real assurance that they'd succeed.  Can you even imagine? 

Even in recent times, immigration has been a constant in our nation--adventurers still exist.  Asian families coming from war-torn countries, struggling to find success in our country.  European families fleeing oppressive governments, following the promise of democracy.  Families from Latin and South America searching for economic stability.

Even my adorable sister-in-law left Indonesia more than ten years ago to live in the U.S.  She left her family and friends behind to start a new life in the US, one in which she ended up meeting and marrying my brother.  I wonder if her loved ones criticized her decision to move to the U.S.
I've been thinking a lot about such things over that past eight months.  Many people have criticized Superman and me for making the decision we did we let them know Superman would be living overseas.  We are deliberately separating our family as he pursues this opportunity to improve his professional credentials, making him more employable, and, therefore, improving our family's stability.  We understand this decision wouldn't be doable for many families (or many couples), but for us, for now, it works. 

But the criticism of our decision gave me pause.  What are we doing that is so terrible, so alien?   Obviously, we don't think we're doing anything bad.   In fact, I think what we're doing is in our DNA; we're doing what our ancestors did.  (Did you know that one of my direct ancestors is said to have been the first white man to see Yellowstone Falls?)  Our ancestors picked up and left their homes to create lives that were far from the familiar.   They stepped off the traditional path in pursuit of something different.  Sometimes, the men would go ahead and begin the makings of a rudimentary home before sending for their families.  Sometimes, the entire family would go at once.  It is what our people have always done.  Yet, we're perceived as doing something so unusual.

If you live anywhere in the western part of the U.S., someone in your family was an adventurer or you wouldn't be here.  This land was settled just a few generations ago:  First the Spaniards, the The Gold Rush brought men flocking to California and their women followed them.  The city I live in now was incorporated in 1881, years after being settled by Canadian trappers.  Only 130 years ago.  Think about that...we're talking about DNA from great-grandparents and grandparents.  These were very spunky people. Not very far back at all.

We don't talk about our ancestors as heroes or adventurers or consumed with wanderlust.  We've taken our spunky forebears for granted and forgotten that we all have a bit of the unusual running through our veins.  We strangle ourselves with conformity and escape with extreme sports, addictions, and consumption.

I guess Superman and I still think of ourselves as spunky and our raising our children to not be afraid to forge their own paths.  Yes, this separation has been challenging, but it just doesn't seem so horrible to our family.  Dare I say?  It feels like an adventure.

So, I'll put it to you.  Are we still a spunky people or is wanderlust now a recessive trait?  Maybe you have it, feel it, but have found more socially acceptable ways to express that wanderlust like, say, extreme sports?   I'd love to know what you're thoughts are.


loveaphid said...

Yep you caught me... I spelunking on a regular basis. No actually its parachuting off of skyscrapers... no wait roller derby! That's it, I joined a roller derby team. Just kidding... actually I have severe wanderlust and the only thing that keeps me in one place is my husband and lack of funds. I could easily see myself with different resources traveling EVERYWHERE! But of course we share half of the same relatives so I guess its not so surprising.

Alison said...

Well, I think people have a lot of gall to criticize you and your husband for trying to improve your lives and the lives of your children, by living with a situation that is a temporary change.

Most of my life I have been a real stay-at-home, stick-in-the-mud, unadventurous (maybe somewhat cowardly) kind of person. We lived for over 25 years in Massachusetts, complaining often about the cold, snowy winters and the hot, humid summers. Then, on a whim, I came to Washington to visit a friend, and fell in love with the area. Four years later, my husband received a job offer out here, and we pulled up very well-cemented stakes -- and moved! We took a chance on a new life out here, and love it. It was a scary adventure for us too!

So, I don't think that spunk is dead, or that wanderlust is a recessive trait. My Scottish grandfather came here as a cabin boy who jumped ship in Boston harbor, and that's just about all I know about him. But I guess I share something with him, I don't know if it was hereditary or not. We, like him, were leaving behind a worse state in favor of the promise of a better one, which I think was true of a lot of immigrants.

I commend your courage, because that is what it takes to do what you're doing. You don't really state the nature of the criticisms that people have made, but I have a feeling it has something to do with money. "How could you put your family through this just for the sake of money, or just so you can accumulate better stuff?" implying you and your husband have shallow values.

I suspect there's more to it than that. When we got the opportunity to move out here, one of the first things we both said was, "How can we pass this up, and never know what we missed out on?" We both came to the conclusion that we couldn't live with the regret of a missed opportunity. I bet you and your husband couldn't either.

(Sorry I wrote a book!)

loveaphid said...

I still love Massachusetts despite the snowy winters and the humid summers. I mean no place else does Autumn like New England!

Plus its home. :-)

Clark said...

Great post, as usual! As I reflect upon our journey over the last 5-10 years, it is has definitely been about not having any regrets over our decisions. If we did not take that leap to move to Washington State, we would have always wondered what if and where would we be now. We had a conversation a long time ago in which we discussed the fact that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I chewed on that quote for a very long time. I feel that this life of quiet desperation is the regret that people feel when they have bought in to what society calls success and they recognize that they have let all of their dreams slip away. I decided that I did not want to be a 60+ year old man looking back over a life of “what ifs”. I am fairly certain that everyone has these dreams of doing something wonderful or taking a risk in their life. I do not think that this trait is gone; I think that this trait has been replaced by cowardice. If you look around, you see it everywhere. People talk with a great deal of bravado behind closed doors or by sending an angry letter or e-mail, but they show a complete lack of courage when it is time to actually face someone. It is this lack of courage that keeps people where they are.

Anonymous said...

Well, my sweet friend, I guess I get to criticize. LOL (Erin knows I am joking, very much understood why they did what they did, and since I live in a part of the country where people do it all the time, don't see it as that odd.) But my ancestors did not have wanderlust. They were in the part of TN that was NC before TN became a state in 1796. Before that, one brief generation traveled to what is now the United States from their homelands mainly to keep from being shot. They met my other branch of the family here. They had apparently went out one day looking for fruit and walked across a place called the Bering Strait. The next day was unseasonably warm and they were stuck here for a few millennium waiting on the rest of you to decide to join them.

That or as my other story goes. Adam and Eve made God mad. He sent them from the garden of Eden to a place that would eventually be called Rutherford County, TN where my family waited another several thousand years for the rest of you to join us.
Take your pick. ;)

As the first branch of the family to leave TN, I don't think anyone gets to tell us how to lead our lives.