When it comes to establishing a home base, there are twin demons inside me, tugging my preferences in opposite directions.
Down one path is the big city. A lifestyle I envied my entire childhood, having grown up in smallish-town Missouri, gazing outward at all the amazing things happening, but only able to see them for the shadows they cast across the ‘flyover states;’ their true meaning (and texture and density and taste and smell) unavailable to those outside commuting-range.
Down another path is the rural lifestyle. Centered around the concept of simplicity and focus, I find the first few days in such a space are torturous — what is there to do, way out here? — while the following months are glorious and productive.
The latter is an adventure in personal discovery, deep-diving inward to explore things like ‘self’ and ‘why’ and ‘what’s next,’ while the former is an exploration of space; that alley, this main street, the coffee shop I heard about from all the people milling about around me.
I’m often asked during interviews or book tour stops where, when I finally decide to settle down, I would prefer to find myself. The real question being: amongst all the places you’ve been, which is best? Which place resonated with you most deeply, to the point that you would give up all others for it?
I don’t think I could choose.
For one, I dismiss the idea of ‘settling’ as something inherently wrong. If you’ve settled, by definition you’ve stopped moving; growing. It’s possible to ‘settle down’ and continue to grow, but it’s far more difficult than if you keep momentum at your back, and air under your wings.
But I also think one direction would lack charm without the other. Without vast, urban centers, I would lack the external stimuli that so often catalyze big, bold, important thoughts and conclusions I come to internally. Without sequestered rural environments, I would lack the space and focus to consider those stimuli, and the quiet to calmly consider them without feeling like I’m missing out on something going on just outside my front door.
As a result, I mix and match homes, opting for rurality here, urbanity there, and in-between-place (large towns, small cities) when I don’t know what I need in the present moment. I opt for the same in food and work and relationships; seeking balance over extremism. An active, untethered middle-space, rather than the comfortable gravity of one side or the other.
It’s easy to hurl yourself to black or white, and incredibly difficult to work out a preferred shade of gray, adjusting your lifestyle as your preferred tint changes over time.
Different people will find greater and lesser value in different points along this spectrum, but I’d guess most of us require at least a little balance if we’re going to reach our full growth potential.