“A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” – Mark 6:4
You want to grow, progress, live an interesting and meaningful life. You want to do and be something big, by your own definition. You want the freedom to explore and dive deep into what interests you and maybe even master a few things. You want to know yourself and most of all esteem yourself.
If that’s true – and I hope it is – you need to move away from your home town.
You can always go back later if you want, but if you never leave you’ll always be contained within strictures not of your own making. At home you’re always only an outgrowth of your perceived past.
In another place you’re that wild outsider with intriguing ideas and a fiery passion for life. In your home town you’re little Jimmy, Bev and Stan’s kid.
In a new town you’re the girl who’s full of promise. You can define yourself, write your story, let your first impression speak for itself. Anything you do is potentially interesting and you can potentially be successful in any endeavor. Back home you’re the kid who wanted to be a vet when she was twelve and to many people anything you do other than that will be seen as a compromise.
In a new city your value must come from what you can produce. You are judged on your merits, by your fruit. In your home town you’re loved and cute and special no matter what you do, but never fully respected as an independent being.
It’s hard to discover yourself when you’re defined so much by your heritage, perceptions others have formed about your family and their place, your past self, etc.
People from where I grew up still ask me if I’m going to be President some day. Nothing could be more repulsive to me than the idea of running for political office. I wouldn’t wish office on my worst enemy and I think politics is the most backward form of human activity and energy. But once upon a time I thought politics was a viable method for expanding human freedom. I told people around me about it. That’s the me they knew. To them, I will never be successful or interesting unless and until I achieve a goal that is totally meaningless to me now. (I wrote here about why I’m glad I failed in this regard.)
Even if you care about your home town and want to improve it the best way is to leave.
Outsiders are more likely to innovate. This is true in all fields. The most likely to have a breakthrough in one industry is not the industry expert or insider but the expert from a different sector who’s looking in with fresh eyes.
I once heard that the definition of an expert is someone who traveled more than 150 miles to deliver a message. Introduce a speaker from next door and no matter how much they know about the topic at hand few will be moved and impressed. Fly someone in from the next city and they’ll get attention no matter what they say.
Leave. Go out into the world and discover who you are. Not who you were when your imagination was limited. Not what you grew up thinking and wanting. Not what your family or friends thought about you. You needn’t reject or be angry with any of them. You simply need to do what they don’t know how to help you do; grow into something beyond the confines of your point of origin.
Go out and become what you want to be and you’ll discover something interesting if you go back home. You’ll have a level of respect and influence and freedom you could never have won had you stayed.
You’re not just somebody’s kid. You’re somebody.