Love Where You Are
When I was young, my family lived in West Monroe, Louisiana. This is not a bad place, but we did not like it. In fact, we called it "Lousy-ana" when I was a kid. Please, save me the hate mail. I love going back to visit, and I see that part of the world with vastly different eyes now. I am merely telling you how it was.
I've since had the chance to live in a lot of other places. Southern California. East Texas. Columbia, Maryland. Atlanta, GA. My family moved to the Atlanta area from California when I was in high school. It was a rough transition for me, and I could not wait to get back to the west coast. I graduated from high school and packed up my Hyundai headed for Pepperdine University.
After school, I got married and moved back to Atlanta when she got a job here. We left, and then we came back. This became a pattern for me. I would leave Atlanta only to return a few years later. In 2012, I moved back, and I think I might be here to stay now. In fact, when I returned I went to see my friend and chiropractor Lee Strickland. When he saw me, he said, "Dude, you've been trying to leave Atlanta since I met you in 1986. When are you gonna get it through your head that this is where you're supposed to be?"
I feel like I spent a lot of my life running from where I was -- being discontent -- my eyes scanning the horizon for the next thing, the next person, the next job, the next opportunity. I never spent much time being where I was. I certainly didn't spend much time loving where I was. And that led to a feeling of rootlessness.
I get to travel a lot nowadays. Speaking engagements and consulting allow me to see the whole wide world, and I notice this same tendency in a lot of people. Some people truly hate where they are. I'll ask them, "So, what's there to do in this town? What makes this place special?" They'll look at me in response and say, "Nothing! No one ever comes here. No one even likes it here."
I can't help but wonder why these people stay. It's not like their wagon broke down here. People are mobile. You can move. But some people would rather stay somewhere they're miserable than take a risk and go somewhere better -- or at least better for them.
That's a big thing to remember: there's no better or worse really when it comes to where you are. There's better for you. There's worse for you. What's better for you might be worse for someone else -- and vice versa. Also, what's better for you now may be worse for you later. Things happen, people show up, you land in places for a reason and for a season. Sometimes that season is lifelong; oftentimes it is not.
But it is possible to love where you are. And there are three ways you can show love for where you are right now -- even if you think it is not ideal.
First, you can love where you are by owning it. Own where you are. You didn't land there by chance or by accident. You are where you are because of the choices you have made. You have allowed yourself to end up where you are right now. Own it. That house. That car. That couch. Those curtains. That spouse. Those children. This job. The food in your pantry. The money in your bank account. The debt. The clothes. Your current weight. Your hairstyle. The restaurants nearby. The museums or the wide open spaces or the 360-degree horizon or the skyscrapers -- all of that stuff that makes up "where you are" -- own it. That's the first step to loving where you are: Own it.
Second, you can love where you are by fixing it. If you don't like the stuff where you are, make something better. If there's no museum, build one. If there's no green space, make one. If you don't like your relationship, change it (and really I mean change your part of it -- you can't fix someone else, and if you try you'll just mess it up even worse). If you want a better job, create one for yourself. You have far more control over your life than you believe. You can decide today that your life is not going to continue the way it has. You can change. You don't have to be stuck. Go to the gym. Start saving money. Pay off your debt. Buy some fresh flowers. Paint the room. Stop blaming others for where you are, and start changing things for the better. That's the second step to loving where you are: Fix it.
Finally, you can love where you are by leaving it. I know that sounds odd, but sometimes the most loving thing you can do is leave. Sometimes people won't cooperate with change. Sometimes people don't want to get better. Sometimes your job or your location likes itself exactly the way it is, and if you try to evolve they'll kill you. Leave. Your wagon isn't broken down. You can go, but, if you do, make sure you're leaving because you love them and yourself too much to stay and complain and breed resentment and contempt. I know it's counter-intuitive. I know this runs contrary to conventional wisdom. I know it may be unpopular, but it's possible that one of the most authentic ways for you to love where you are is to leave it.
Whatever you do, don't stay where you are and blame others for your misery. You'll never blame your way into a better future. You must take action. That action begins when you own where you are. If you're going to stay there, determine that you're going to make where you are better. If you can't do that for some reason or another, leave.
Own it. Fix it. Leave it. That's how you love where you are -- and I'm not just talking about geography now....