I’ve been watching a lot of my older friends (and a few of my peers) on social media post about homeschooling and trying to figure out how to get their child to engage with at-home lessons during this pandemic. There are so many tools out there for them to use: websites to crowdsource lesson plans, video tools for teaching lessons to multiple people (crowdsourcing education or stuff schools have set up so teachers can have lessons with their students without anyone needing to leave home), websites with all kinds of neat learning tools, and so much more. Some people are even choosing to forego standard education and instead focus on life lessons like cooking, home maintenance, simple car repair, baking, and the sort of things that schools no longer teach children that are still essential life skills. It’s amazing watching the world shift before my eyes.
It took a while, but I think I finally figured out the complex feelings I had about where I grew up when I helped my parents out last month (mentioned in this post). Since I left after my first winter break during college, I haven’t gone back to visit for more than a week or so at a time. I stayed at my college for almost every break after that, working and living in the dorms aside from the few holidays I went back, like Christmas or Thanksgiving. I lived in the dorms and got used to staying quietly by myself when the campus was almost completely deserted aside from the foreign exchange students during the holidays. My little college town became my home, even though I moved at least once a year, from one dorm to another. The campus became the place I belonged and I stopped calling my parents’ house “home.”
I realized during one of my recent meditations that I no longer even think of their house as home. My old neighborhood is no longer my home. It’s the place I grew up and haven’t done more than visit in several years. I don’t really recognize it anymore. I know where it is and I’ll always know how to get there, but it’s just as foreign as the neighborhoods I used to park in when I drove myself to high school. I can navigate through it and I’ve got a basic idea of what it looks like, but I don’t really feel any connection to the place. I’ve still got that for the actual house I grew up in, but it fades a little bit as my parents make changes or slowly replace parts of the house. When I was spending time with my sister, I realized I didn’t know where anything was kept anymore and that I was essentially a stranger in the kitchen where I’d learned to cook.
I’m sure that’s a feeling many adults have to cope with from time to time, and I’m sure there are people who have similar (but different) feelings about visiting their parents because their parents no longer live in the home they grew up in. I even sort of expected it as I grew in college and started to see what it meant to me to have a place I’d chosen to belong. I wasn’t surprised when I finally felt it, just uncertain as to what it meant and why I felt it.
I’ve spent most of my adult life with a lot of difficult emotions tied to the place I grew up. I even spent a lot of time seeing it as the same place with the same people I’d left behind. It was static in my eyes, unchanging and always representing what I’d endured. Since my last non-holiday visit, I’ve been working on letting go of the emotions and memories connected to all those past painful moments, so I can finally start to see my family as they’ve become since then. I think finally seeing the places I grew up, the streets I had walked down and the yards I had cut through, as someplace foreign to me is a sign that I’ve finally started to achieve that. Those places are no longer static, no longer a time capsule to a past I want to leave behind. I feel like I’m seeing them for the first time since I essentially am, now that I’m not seeing them as they were a decade ago.
I still have a long way to go, though. I’ve gotten better about letting my family be whoever they are now, but it can be difficult to avoid the old habits and to not see them as the same people when some of the old problems still crop up. For instance, I didn’t find out my parents had gotten rid of their landline until I called it and was told the number was no longer in service. Panicking, I called every member of my immediate family with a cell phone and no one answered. Eventually, one of my sisters called back and explained what had happened. This was the summer I’d officially moved out for good, so it created feelings of disconnection from my family. It was startling to realize I hadn’t called the landline in months and that we hadn’t even talked in that time. The same sort of thing happened with the trip my parents went this summer, which was the whole reason I was in Chicago to spend time with my sister. I hadn’t gotten the group text or emails they’d sent out to the rest of my siblings about their trip and the need for us to lend a hand with our youngest sister, so I had made plans during most of the time they were gone. It was rather frustrating to learn about it only a couple of weeks before they needed help, and a bit late too since I’d fallen asleep that afternoon and missed the conference call they’d set up the week before.
That being said, I’m the only one who hasn’t lived near or with them for at least part of the year. Two of my siblings permanently live in the same general area and one of my siblings stays with them between employment engagements. The youngest is still in high school. I’ve lived in a different state for several years and only visit on the major holidays for the most part. I’m not much of a phone caller and I’ve always been pretty independent, so we don’t talk. It’s pretty easy for me to miss out on a lot of big news as a result. It can be frustrating at times, but I could also make a point to call my mom or dad once a week and I do not. I’m sure they’d love to hear from me, so it’s not like it’s all their fault or anything. It’s just difficult to remind myself to view my family as they are now rather than as I remember them when we’re having the same problems I remember us having.
What do you need to create a positive environment? I’m being specifically general here. Positive work environment at whatever job you hold, positive home environment, positive creative environment, etc. Seriously, Its super open-ended.
Mine tend to shift depending on which ones. For my creative environments, I like low light, no glare, some kind of music playing softly (though the music changes depending on what I’m doing), and something to drink. Usually water or tea are my beverages of choice, but I’ll drink anything but alcohol. Alcohol and I have some significant creative differences. I also need someplace away from movement and activity since I’m constantly distracted by anything moving. Like all the dogs from Up. Its horrible.
At work, my positive environment has a lot less to do with what’s around me and a lot more with what I’m doing. Sitting still too long bums me out, so I take walks around my building and drop by my coworkers’ offices to give them candy. I am known, and worshiped, as the Candy God by my peers. Mostly I like making people happy and you’d be surprised how much positive effect a bite-size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup can have on Twenty-Somethings. Other than that, I like to change my office around fairly often, do lots of different work tasks, and get heard when I’ve got something to say.
Positive environments are important to me because I have a tendency toward dour outlooks, depression, and jaded negativity as a result of, well, mostly student debt. That’s the biggest cause. For pretty much everything that isn’t just super awesome in my life. Honestly, aside from that and its side effects, my life is pretty awesome. This is a rare moment of real appreciate, brought to you by the power of a positive environment and two hours of ass-kicking exercise.
Literally ass-kicking. Someone snuck up behind me at my foam fighting practice and was going to nudge me in the butt except I started backpedaling right into their foot. It was a cat-ASS-trophe.
This sort of environment something I’ve spent a lot of time and effort into learning to create. And to do without. As a writer who has a full-time job to pay my bills, I can’t really afford to spend all my time in this perfect little world. I can’t create this kind of environment on business trips. Hotels generally frown on burning candles and I’d hate to have to buy matches at every destination. I also tend to work late so I can’t always get my writing time in at home, sometimes its done sitting on one of the couches in a lounge somewhere or on a bit of shady grass.
That being said, it’s always so much easier to work when I’m at home. I’m more relaxed, better able to focus, and a lot more creative. I do my best work at home.
I think a lot of people underestimate the value of a positive environment. A lot of introverts have it pretty well-figured out since we need this sort of thing to really relax at all, but every can benefit from knowing what you need in order to do you best. Maybe its collaboration with a group of peers or the quiet of an office by yourself with signs warning people away. Maybe you need complete silence or maybe something rhythmic to keep your mind focused and sharp.
There’s nothing wrong with needing a specific setup to work. Knowing how you work best and doing what you can to create that sort of environment can not only help you excel, but it can help those around you and your relationships with them. The more relaxed you are, the easier it’ll be to interact with them. A lot of workplaces do studies on exactly this sort of thing, which is how we’ve gone from cubicles to the “open office” concept that removes privacy and gives everyone access to you at all times (can you tell I’m not a fan? Thank god I’ve got an office…).
What do you need? I’d love to hear about it.