The Making of Me – How I Came to Be

No, I am not going to talk about the details of my conception although the G rated portions of that story would make a good post someday. I was thinking about how in the world I managed to develop the ideas and foundation than I choose to live by considering how I was raised.

As many of you know, I loved my upbringing in my little mountain community. Those years formed a large percentage of the foundation I still live by today. But, often with small towns are some closed minds and narrow views on the world. I have been forever grateful for the wider exposure and experience I had once my family moved into more urbanized environments. My appreciation for these mountains has never changed and this is where I will always feel at home.

Our history, much like the history of the world has a timeline and on that timeline we mark the big events. Maybe those events are what alter our direction or our ideas about people. I have always believed that the one way people begin to understand other races, ethnicities, sexual identities, etc., is to have someone close to you, someone you love, fall into a different category than what we have always experienced. This is where we learn that we are much more the same than we are different.

When I was teaching art, I took a summer workshop at Duke University focused on using photography to document the lives of students. On the first day of class, we were asked to draw a rudimentary map of the place where we grew up. We were to first draw the dwelling, containing individual rooms, then expand on that to include the larger community. The third step was to write in special landmarks on our map that coincided with particular memories we had.

It was such a revealing exercise. I recalled things I had not thought of for a long time. Trees, and creeks, and grape vineyards. Cemeteries, swimming holes, and country stores. There were strong memories tied to this foundation. There seemed to be a particular room in the house where I felt safest and places that held little or no relevance to me. Enlightening.

Moving away was a culture shock. I was teased unmercifully for my southern accent. Our food was different as was our manner of dress. The most shocking was how diverse this new world was to me. Both in people as well as landscape. But even as I left home at 18 to join the Air Force, I realized I was still sheltered and although my scope was wider, it was not at all worldly. My first trip outside the U.S. was not until 1999 (not counting a short jaunt to Aruba).

As I sit and look back on my upbringing, I have grown so much. When I see people that never left the area I can understand why our ideals and outlook on the world are so different. As much as I loved where I grew up and as much as I loved the foundation I was given there, I realize how fortunate I was to have the opportunities of broader horizons.

That house in the photo above, will always be the place I identify as home although I have not lived there for 53 years. I have written about it before.

When you have some time on your hands, try the map exercise. It can be very revealing and an early indicator of the places, people, and ideas that shaped your early perspective on life. It is also interesting to see what events led you to the place where the roads may have diverged.