“Someday I’m finally gonna let go
‘Cause I know there’s a better way
I wanna know what’s over that rainbow
I’m gonna get out of here someday” – Steve Earle, “Someday”
Most of us think of “leaving home” as a rite of passage.
When we turn 18, we kick off the dust of our hometowns and go to the big cities, or other states. We might even pick up backpacks and go around the world.
But whatever we do, we typically are satisfied with one big break from the past. We come back, and we settle down, and all of those songs about leaving home become more about nostalgia than about longing.
Leaving home *is* a rite of passage. But leaving home doesn’t just happen once when you’re first called out to adventure. It doesn’t just happen when you’re young. And it isn’t something you get to do once and then look back on with fondness.
The purpose of leaving home is to get closer to where you want to go. And unless you pay attention (and keep your traveling boots on), you might not realize that where you’ve stopped isn’t the same as your destination.
In The Alchemist, the young shepherd Santiago first leaves home in search of his “Personal Legend,” following a dream of treasure at the Egyptian pyramids. He leaves his homeland of Spain for Morocco, where he stays for some time in a merchant’s crystal shop, gathering skills and wealth again.
This is where most of us would be satisfied for the story to end, if we were the protagonist. Santiago has a good job, a good position. What more could he ask for from his decision to leave home?
But fortunately, he remembers his treasure and travels on.
Again, after leaving his second home in Morocco, he finds meaning and position and even happiness as the seer for a Bedouin oasis village. But even here, Santiago soon realizes that – as good as his job and place might be – he has settled for something far less than his “Personal Legend.”
And so he leaves home – again.
Maybe you left your small farming town and moved to New York City, where you became a successful stockbroker. That’s amazing! But maybe you always meant to start your own restaurant.
You could continue in stockbrokerage work. You would be reasonably happy and well-off. And since you already had the courage to leave home, no one would question your passion or bravery. Anyone could look at your life from the outside in and say “This one must be living the life he wants. Look how far he went for it!”
But it wouldn’t be true for you. You’re going to have to leave home again – that is, if you want to be truly happy. But this time, when you reach your next destination, you’d be wise to not get too comfortable.
Intellectual Credit: The Art of Non-Conformity recently raised thoughts like these for me, in criticizing the passive nostalgia most people have for the “one time back then” when a new experience made them come alive.