By Michael Fortomas
It was my first visit back home in over a year. Iï¿½d been in Minnesota
for college, and returned home just long enough to marry and move
to North Carolina.
I returned with a year old baby, the wife of a medical student,
struggling to put food on the table, though at that time in life
materials things donï¿½t matter much.
This town I returned to, I had hated. Why? Because we had moved
every 3 years, and it had been fine until this time, but it was
3 weeks before high school, and what kid would want to start a new
high school of 4,000 not knowing a soul? My Dad infuriated me by
acting like heï¿½d done me a favor, and I made it clear to him he
had ruined my life. We dug into our positions.
ï¿½Why did you do this to me?ï¿½ I bellowed.
ï¿½You ought to appreciate it,ï¿½ he said, and told me why, but I
didnï¿½t listen. ï¿½Youï¿½ll appreciate it some day,ï¿½ he said, finding
me beyond reason.
What did I hate? The size of the school, having to compete with
Ann-Margret (the movie star) if I wanted to sing in the musical,
their Chicago accents, and the crowning blow ï¿½ my advisor dubbed
me ï¿½Sueï¿½ the first day and I never got rid of it. In fact my favorite
thing about going off to college was being able to reclaim my name.
If I hadnï¿½t sunk into the victim position, I might have been able
to reclaim it sooner!
I hated the gray skies and the freezing winter wind, but I hated
spring worse. They released us at spring break to wander the streets
in wretched weather with dirty snow everywhere. My family never
got to go on a cruise like everyone elseï¿½s. But I hated the summers
worse because it was never hot enough to get a tan. Not a happy
camper, I gathered evidence to substantiate my feelings.
Fast forward to my return to this "horrible" place.
Winnetka is one of the affluent suburbs on the North Shore of Chicago.
A planned community nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, with
more Frank Lloyd Wright houses than anywhere else in the nation,
it is astoundingly beautiful, a place you dream of living.
With my blinders off and my attitude corrected, I saw it from
my Dadï¿½s point of view. He worked hard to give us the best he could,
and how proud he mustï¿½ve been to move us there. In fact I remember
the pride in his walk as he showed me around the first week there.
ï¿½Itï¿½s the best public high school in the nation,ï¿½ he told me,
and the education I received got me into one of the best liberal
arts colleges in the nation.
The crime rate was so low we never locked our doors. Everything
was a short drive away, and there was always parking. There was
everything Chicago has to offer ï¿½ the art museum where I spent many
a Saturday, recently voted best in the nation. Parks within walking
distance which they froze in the winter for skating.
As I drove through the village, the sun slanted through the trees
on either side of the wide road that arched overhead.
ï¿½You canï¿½t tell me people donï¿½t think about future generations,ï¿½
my Dad often said. ï¿½Someone planted all those trees who never lived
to see them.ï¿½
ï¿½This is the most beautiful place on earth,ï¿½ I mused to myself,
astounded at my earlier perceptions and attitude. Could this really
be that ï¿½horrible placeï¿½? As a parent, I could only dream of providing
such for my own child some day. Most of all I was stunned at what
I had missed, in my retelling of this terrible place. Once I had
closed my mind, I hadnï¿½t let any fact intrude. I had had plenty
of good times there ï¿½ how could you not ï¿½ but in the retelling,
you wouldnï¿½t have known it.
I went over in my mind what I had then that I had no more ï¿½ I
had taken for granted and devalued a lake in the back yard with
boating as well as beauty, nationally acclaimed museums and cultural
events, convenience, service people who knew you by name, the best
public education possible at the time, nice people, and safety.
I had the inklings of a lesson ï¿½ how your attitude effects your
perceptions and your thoughts affect your emotions. But it took
a few more rounds because moving is difficult. You wonder if there
will be friends, and worry about the unknowns.
My husband and I continued the family tradition of moving every
3 years. By the 2nd move it had finally sunk in that thereï¿½s beauty
everywhere, something to appreciate that youï¿½ll miss like hell when
you leave and may never see again in your life, and nice people
everywhere. If they call you something you donï¿½t like, you ï¿½just
say no,ï¿½ and you get used to the weird accents.
When we left Durham and moved to Cincinnati, I missed the cozy
town, the ocean, and the lovely parks, but I gained a cul-de-sac
that was like a kibbutz for my only child, great restaurants, and
the entertainment opportunities of a big city. It was the gloomy
snow belt again, but there wasnï¿½t mold in the back of the closets.
Itï¿½s always a tradeoff.
Back we went to Durham, then on to San Antonio, Texas. When we
got to San Antonio, I missed the colorful four seasons, and getting
anywhere in 5 minutes, but rejoiced in the sunshine, the plethora
of restaurants, and the multicultural influence. The first tornado
warning scared me, and the rattlesnakes, scorpions and tarantulas
were unnerving, but I remembered how Iï¿½d adjusted to the mold on
the back of closets in Durham and the slugs on the back porch, no
less unnerving. I was learning to cope with change, and handle transitions.
I realized the things Iï¿½d missed, and so learned to approach
the next move with optimism, to seek and find and appreciate the
good in it, and to enjoy it every day. In fact Iï¿½d immediately start
a mental list of ï¿½things Iï¿½m gonna miss a lot one dayï¿½ to stay focused
on the positive, enhance my enjoyment, and bloom where planted.
I should add that my mother complained the entire time she lived
in Winnetka, which is no doubt where I learned that attitude. I
was lucky to get the lesson in my face so young. Right now Iï¿½d love
to have had the life she had then, as far as the location was concerned,
but of course it wasnï¿½t the place that pained her, it was the pain
inside her that made the place unbearable. It was just easier to
blame it on the place than to do the work on the pain inside.
You see, moving doesnï¿½t really solve anything if youï¿½re miserable,
because you take you with you. Itï¿½s cleaning up the place inside
you that allows you to find the best wherever you are and find the
good wherever you are ï¿½ and that, of course, it figurative as well
P.S. I appreciate it, Dad.
Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, Coaching, Internet courses
and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and
professional success. Coach Certification Program - fast, affordable,
no-residency, training coaches worldwide. Susan may be contacted
OR by Email/a>.