Friday, January 14, 2005

Hometown Paradox

I think everyone in their life has a desire to travel. We also have a desire to sit at home and relax. And by home, I don't just mean in the house. I am referring to your home area. Your home is defined by you and no one else. I've even heard one of my friends say "Home is where my computer is." Familiar restaurants, people, roads, and even the weather can provide a feeling of comfort. But we all have a force within us that speaks to our wanderer selves. We feel empowered by leaving our area and exploring. Even when we return from our adventures, we most likely cannot wait to sit down with our friends and retell our stories.

Everyone has experienced this side of things. If you haven't realized you are doing it, you've felt it sitting on your friends' couches looking at pictures from places you may have already visited. (but smiling and nodding nonetheless) You may have felt the sting of hearing about an exotic place you may never see, while eating at the dinner table. But lets look at it from the other side...

Have you ever noticed that when you go away, you often compare new things you are seeing and doing to home? You say, "Wow, you really have to travel far to the movies, it only takes me 5 minutes to get there where I live." In reality, it may take you 10, but you don't care, because you've just established that wherever you live is better than where you are. If visiting friends in another town, do you often talk about where you live and the things you do there? When away on a long trip, many people often begin to miss home, or feel like its "time to get back". This is an interesting point- because before we go, all we can think about it getting away. But once we're away, its only a matter of time before we want to go home again.

So why do we feel this way? I think its because everyone needs a center of activity in life. Wherever we set up "home" - thats where we belong, that is the center. Straying from this for too long will result in nervousness and uncomfortability.

People love their homes. They take pride in them. I do, and I'm sure you do too. Not only that, we want everyone else to love our home towns like we do. When friends visit, they get only the most fun activities on their agendas. (and if they don't, or something goes wrong, we are profusely apologetic) If a guest leaves after a visit and reports that your area is dull, boring, and lame - there is nothing save a mortal wound that hurts more. In reality, it is devastating to hear someone dislike your hometown. Thats because our hometowns are extensions of us. Our homes are a part of who we are. Thats why when we leave the area, we still desire to be there no matter how much we 'needed to get away'. It is a part of you, and that will not change.

My hometown is Tunkhannock, PA. Now, maybe some of you have never heard of this place, or maybe you can't picture it in your heads. Well, since I like my little Wyoming County, I'm gonna give that picture to you. If you are standing in the middle of town, you can clearly see 3 mountains. Miller, Osterhout, and Avery mountains. Miller is the largest and more "majestic" of the three. We've got old time buildings and just a few stop lights. Our town used to be where all the coal mine owners lived, so the houses are big and old. My old house was about 130 years old by the time we moved out. They're almost all that old. On the fourth of july, several hundred flags go up, and at Christmas time, every church has a manger scene. Nobody complains. This is small town America. If you live in the city, this is the kind of town they tell you about on the news but you never quite grasp. Its the kind with "archaic" values. But Tunkhannock is unfortunately changing with the times as well. It is becoming a little more commercialized with time. People want the conveniences, but they don't want to move to where they are.

Thats because everyone desires to get away and get back at the same time. Eventually, the big city will come to them with its many traffic lights, unecessary laws, and high taxes. For a time, everyone will say "Look, we finally made it! We're a big time city now!" Sure they'll wonder how it happened. The novelty will wear off. Something won't seem an effort to conform, they have lost their individuality.

They'll want to come home.

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"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton