I have just returned home [June 2015], to the place where I grew up…
[Niagara County, New York; home to famous waterfalls, and early industrialization efforts, but of recent decades; it has been in terminal economic decline, with residuals of its past haunting us all along – Love Canal, Toxic Waste – Superfund Sites, Landfills as “Economic Growth”, declining Big Auto industry, “Baby Boomer Retirement Flight”, Exodus of our “Best & Brightest”, Declining educational attainment, etc.]
I have spent the past 20 plus years, neither wanting to come back, nor ever feeling homesick over it. I had raced away as fast as I could after high school to a distant university, 250 miles far better than none. Even the reality of whether I would return to finish my senior year of university was at question; so powerful was the draw of the American West to my budding traveler’s psyche at the time, life’s experiences trumped structured learning in every regard within my perspective.
I was not a writer back then, nor did I love writing as much as I do today. To the contrary, I hated writing… hated “drawing connections” across the great works of literature, so much so I almost did not graduate [high school] because I told my 12th Grade English teacher to “Fuck off” for the final written exam…
[Edit May 2019 – to draw a connection in no less than 5 pages, between The Door’s “LA Woman” and Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s “Under the Bridge” – if that isn’t ironic personally in itself 20 years later!]
Essays were optional on the only non-state university application I completed. And it felt as though I was being courted by all the prestigious engineering universities, given the track I was being channeled down with talents in math and sciences.
Maybe they wanted my money, more than they cared whether I could write or not. Who knows for certain, it was an engineering university after all, where mastery of the humanities was subservient to crunching numbers and conversions, oh the conversions between the metric and imperial systems was mind-numbingly redundant and seemingly 50% of one’s grade.
And upon acceptance, essays about “What higher education meant to me” or “The adversities I had overcome,” left blank; I knew without question, I was going there over the two local state universities which accepted me as well.
When it came to writing, those few papers we had to complete, so that their programs could be accredited, and “well rounded” graduates could be attested to, I dropped a letter grade in every course where papers were required. At least one in every five papers, I could not cross the threshold of discovering that connection, the commonality between different reference pieces, and I would agonize over busting through a two-page ceiling to achieve the mandatory five.
Irony to say the least, now I find it impossible to stop at ten!
[Edited May 7th 2019 – as this addition explains/describes my challenges, ambitions, efforts, struggles over the past 4 years!!! And how they have resulted in “failure” and complete nuking of my professional reputation as of late on Social Media, only viewed through a “Social Media Lens” that lacks Ideation or Context!!!]
Double Irony, I am afflicted by Ideation and Context… I simply can not help not digging through the “context” until I am able to validate my “ideation” of disparate connections, particularly within the human psychology and energy nexus.
Ideation – My #1 Clifton Strengths Finder “Strength” – [Albeit often it can debilitating too]
You are fascinated by ideas. What is an idea? An idea is a concept, the best explanation of the most events. You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are.
An idea is a connection. Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections, and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection. An idea is a new perspective on familiar challenges. You revel in taking the world we all know and turning it around so we can view it from a strange but strangely enlightening angle. You love all these ideas because they are profound, because they are novel, because they are clarifying, because they are contrary, because they are bizarre.
For all these reasons you derive a jolt of energy whenever a new idea occurs to you. Others may label you creative or original or conceptual or even smart. Perhaps you are all of these. Who can be sure? What you are sure of is that ideas are thrilling. And on most days this is enough.
Context – My #2 Clifton Strengths Finder “Strength” – Context in Energy is NOT “sexy” or “interesting”, albeit IMHO it is of utmost importance!
You look back. You look back because that is where the answers lie. You look back to understand the present.
From your vantage point the present is unstable, a confusing clamor of competing voices. It is only by casting your mind back to an earlier time, a time when the plans were being drawn up, that the present regains its stability.
The earlier time was a simpler time. It was a time of blueprints. As you look back, you begin to see these blueprints emerge. You realize what the initial intentions were. These blueprints or intentions have since become so embellished that they are almost unrecognizable, but now this Context theme reveals them again. This understanding brings you confidence. No longer disoriented, you make better decisions because you sense the underlying structure.
You become a better partner because you understand how your colleagues came to be who they are. And counterintuitively you become wiser about the future because you saw its seeds being sown in the past. Faced with new people and new situations, it will take you a little time to orient yourself, but you must give yourself this time.
You must discipline yourself to ask the questions and allow the blueprints to emerge because no matter what the situation, if you haven’t seen the blueprints, you will have less confidence in your decisions.
For all practical purposes, I have not been back… “home“, yet here I am now… and, it is, a bit comforting.
I do not plan to stay, but I will be here for a month or two, maybe three, before heading to Africa. And I am O.K. with this situation. That, is even with the reality that I left Colorado, a place where people from this area I am now, or places very similar to it scattered all across eastern America, dream about moving to. Only a few go… most never get past dreaming, life catches up to them first, the dreams fade into memory, or are replaced by both the good and the bad, of the life that they create or that, which just happens. Does it even matter which, active or passive?
Maybe it doesn’t, but I knew from early on when I left, that it did matter to me. There was probably nothing that mattered to me more at that time. And for many years, that was my primary concern… to never come back, because to come back would translate, in my thinking to “just letting life happen to me,” not “actively making life happen as I desired it.”
There is a difference between the two. It is a matter of perspective. The perspective of oneself in years past, still unsure and lacking confidence in one’s abilities, to that of a life full of experiences. Confidence gained through successes achieved over the years, and the wisdom through hindsight to compare the known past against the current present, which is not possible, comparing present to an unknown future.
Perspective is a strange thing.
In coming down here to think and to write, waiting for the inspiration to dictate the topic, I simply told my folks, “I’m just going for a drive. Don’t know where I am going, just that I need to take a drive.” Subconsciously, I may have known I was heading here, along the lake I feared as a kid, but grew up, and survived on, all the same.
It is not something I ever recognized as a thing of beauty, surely not of the caliber of any other place I have been. It is the place of my roots, the place I wanted to leave as soon as I could, and was thankful unknowingly at that time about all the places I did travel to with my family as a kid.
But when I arrived here, at the bluff in Olcott Beach overlooking Lake Ontario, the water was like glass, the sunset beautiful. Idyllic in many, maybe all regards… a scene that would inspire any writer, any photographer, anyone in general. I was even able to capture the essence of the beauty with my iPhone, my Canon DSLR back at home. As it turns out, it wasn’t needed, nor would there be need for any editing to enhance one color, to highlight the wisps of clouds, or the reflection off the water.
Perspective is what is at stake here. In particular, my perspective, and the only one that has ever mattered to me in regards to how I have perceived natural beauty. And, it is what was just put on the chopping block. That perspective has never allowed me to see beauty in this place I call “home“, through my always denying any connection to this place, and at this moment, it feels as though that essence of me has vanished. A wall of negativity I had build around this place, for whatever reasons, crumbled without me hitting it with a hammer or needing to set dynamite at its foundation. It eroded away, just like that, without intention, without reason…
Was the wall I had built around this place and within my thinking, more a safety net I installed so as to never accept defeat, had I been unable to make it in “the big unknown” that existed beyond the place of my birth? Or something else entirely?
I guess I won’t know for certain right now, but it is peaceful and comforting for me at this moment, writing in a place, that for years prior, I had zero interest in ever seeing again. A place, hardly any different than that of the Black Sea, where I took great effort to capture a photo of its salty waters, and the same slimy green seaweed covered rocks I hated as a kid here, as they washed over my flip flop wearing foot just last August in Turkiye.
Perspective, is what determines whether something truly beautiful is something that holds a sense of beauty to the one looking upon it. And maybe, that is the truth revealed to me this evening, in a place I have rarely acknowledged as what it really is to me, my home.
[Note May 7th, 2019 – on repeated occasions over the past 4 years, I have returned to the overlook at Olcott Beach… always, for the same “reasons” roughly described as frustration, anger, longing… to the point of tears, that this state, location, town & “Universe” – as it is, simply will not let me leave this place, no matter what I do, try or destroy in the process to JUST. GET. OUT!
This is exactly why “Texas or Bust” by any means is what I will do, even if it is stupid, crazy, rash or imprudent… as otherwise, this place will kill me.]