Sunday, March 27, 2011

The East of my Past, the West of my Future

As a senior in high school I drove cross country with 12 students and 2 teachers in a barely functioning van to spend a time living in the Grand Canyon. It was the first time I had been West of the Mississippi, and with that glimmer at the enormity of the world I knew I wanted more.

When I was a junior in college I spent a semester in Zimbabwe. It is embarrassing to remember how little I knew about the country; I picked it because it sounded so, so far away. When I was a senior in college I decided to move to Kathmandu after graduation because i had nothing better to do and one day when I was in the bath listening to the radio the Cat Stevens which repeatedly mentions the capitol's name came on. These experiences led to a love of travel and adventure which led to my study of public health - a subject I find fascinating and inspiring but also a means to the end of seeing new places and meeting new people.
Me, at graduation from Public Health School, 2004
I have always followed my heart (except, funnily enough, in love - at least until met Jeremy).  It has never led me too far astray, if my unit of measurement is how happy I am now. I think I learned to follow it from watching how my parents made decisions. They are both classical musicians. They have both loved and played music from childhood. They are extraordinarily talented and made careers out of what they loved by playing music and letting it lead them.

As a child there was no grand master plan for me - no predetermined path to follow or hoops to jump through. There was me doing what I loved at the moment and my parents making room for it in our lives without ever becoming so invested that I felt like it was either no longer mine or that I couldn't stop for fear of disappointing them.

While I'm pretty sure they didn't do it on purpose, they also instilled in me an attitude of excitement, not fear, about the world. I lived in Durham, North Carolina until I went to college but we traveled a lot. Road trips bouncing around in the back of the station wagon for the 2 day drive from NC to Detroit, family "skiing" trips to West Virginia where the hand-me-down Oldsmobile from grandma with the red velvet interior almost slid off a cliff, summers at the North Carolina coast. We went to NYC regularly to see family and for my parents to play concerts and I learned how to hail a cab with confidence, navigate the subway system, part the tide of a busy street enough to make some forward progress and walk with confidence on dark quiet streets. We also flew to England to visit my grandparents. I can't remember a time when I didn't have a passport, when I didn't know how to get through customs, when I wasn't aware that there are ways of doing things that differ from what people do in the south.  

Not that things always went perfectly but when I was mugged in Boston my parents asked if I was OK and called to check in every day for a few weeks.  They never suggested I stop going places by myself at night.  When I called from a Michael Jackson concert in South Africa and the phone cut off because a riot broke out they didn't call INTERPOL, they didn't even yell at me when I finally called back a few weeks later, they just asked if I was ok and if I wanted a plane ticket home and when I said no they let it go.

I want to do the same for my kids. I don't want them to be afraid of the world, or of things they don't know. I want them to Embrace the unknown with the naive belief that everything will be ok in the end as long as they are kind and open. (I also want to somehow bequeath to them the dumb luck that got me out of many, many a self-made sticky situation). Above all, I want them to follow their hearts, to pursue their dreams, to be able to sit with themselves when those dreams wane or fail to come to fruition, or when they don't exist. I want them to be able to walk away, to come home, to never let too long pass between sobbing and shaking over a scary experience and laughing and getting ready for the next trip.


caroline flanders said...

Here here, Lisa. What very nice wishes for your kids. :)

Harvard to Homemaker said...

Thanks Caroline:), hope all's well out on the Cape!

anymommy said...

Absolutely, and may our kids explore together and may we get to do some of it with them.

MommyOver40 said...

You are already instilling in your children strength of character, appreciation and respect for differences, and kindness toward others. I hope my children and I know you and your family for a long, long, long time.

Island pepperpot said...

You know Kat, I just found your blog today and I must say as a mother of 5 kids I wish I did like you did and became a homemaker. i never did my career was always more important. However I am blessed since my kids turned out okay. But if I could change things I would be a homemaker first. So you settled for the best. Great post loved it

Jennifer said...

Oh I just LOVE this. I envy your childhood and your ability to experience the world with such confidence and excitement!

I also want to say Thank You! Your point of view is so needed in the world today and I hope as many people as possible get to read this and understand the subtleties of protecting and over-protecting our children.

Protect them from the danger of staying home out of fear. Protect them from strangers who might seek to keep them from exploring. Protect them from falling and not getting back up again to try.