The Geographical Benefits of Family

When I was younger, around 15 or 16, I used to have the goal of moving far away from family. To go live in Seattle, Washington, or Bangor, Maine — those were usually my first two choices because Washington was far away, and because of the Stephen King romanticism of Maine (odd to say since his books are decidedly not romanticizing Maine) — and be as far from family as I could be, with the thinking that I needed to somehow fly under the weight of cliché, so as to, “spread my wings.”

The treadmill my brother gave me, which slotted in nicely next to my bike.

I believed that in order to become an independent, autonomous, and fully-formed adult, I needed to get out from under the auspices of my family. More specifically, I had a nagging sense of wanting to be tested. That is, could I make it on my own without them? By them, I mean my parents, siblings, and grandparents. Could I be enough on my own to myself? I wanted to prove that I could to all of them, and to myself.

And I also thought that flying away from the nest was a way to nurture my creativity — that by distancing myself from my family, I would finally have the mental space and capacity to creatively flourish. Why I associated family with the stifling of creativity, I do not quite know.

Part of what spurred this thinking on was seeing my other siblings, five others in total, still lingering within shouting distance of the nest, figuratively speaking. All of my siblings moved out (far earlier than I did!) and got homes within 15 or so minutes from my parent’s home. And — again, keep in mind I was an ignorant, but ideologically bombastic 15-year-old — they all seemed so … domesticated to me. At that point, domesticated was a dirty, derogatory word in my head. It had that connotation of being stifled, of settling, of being bereft of ambition and drive. That there was this whole word beckoning, and they had stopped at the “shores” of Ohio. Womp womp.

How wrong I was. Not only because, as fate would have it, I ended up living with my parents until the ripe age of 30-years-old due to a number of circumstances I’d like to elucidate in another blog post one day, but I was terribly wrong about my siblings, and about “flying” away from the nest.

I had occasion to think about this today because my brother gave me his old treadmill. They bought a new, fancy one with incline and better screen capabilities. The old treadmill still works fine, though, and I was happy to take it. They were giving it to me for free! And goodness knows, as I’ve detailed on the blog, I’m also always fighting the health battle to be in good shape.

What if I was in Seattle or Bangor, though, like my earlier fantastical brain envisioned? My brother surely wouldn’t be loading up his truck and transporting a treadmill all the way to Seattle or Bangor, as he did to my house today because I was within 15 minutes of him.

Being close to family means that you can lean on each other, and not just for cool things like a treadmill, or a couch, or whatever else — and to be sure, family was pivotal to my move to independence, and helping to furnish my first house — but also to the furnishing of the soul. I can’t claim to be some a lubby dubby type when it comes to family. That would be disingenuous. For whatever reason, I’ve just never quite been like that with my emotions and actions, but the time I do get with family, like today with my brother, or yesterday celebrating another brother’s birthday at my parent’s home? Those are good times for the soul, and necessary times. Yes, even for an introverted weirdo like myself.

I’m fortunate to have that safety net, if you will. That cadre of family members sprinkled within close geographical proximity. When you consider how many people grow up without that, or with loosening bonds as they get older, I never want to take that privilege for granted. Thus, my ode to it today, which isn’t to suggest that those who do fly away from the nest aren’t close to family, and can’t have success in the way my 15-year-old brain envisioned — and maybe I still would have flourished had my life trajectory taken me away — only that where my life did take me turned out to be pretty darn good.

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