Leaving home …for good.
November 28, 2012*
Marching, walking, dancing to different drummer(s)
Home is as much a state of mind as a place. I never felt at home in my home town Lunenburg, Mass., though I was hardly atypical for the area. I played baseball with a definite style (pitching in Little League for the Fire Department Red Sox in 1951-55, while holding down third base when not firing from the mound). My unpadded tackle football was competitive, and skating and skiing more than passable. I had a paper route (winter deliveries on Sunday morns a specialty – not much competition for that job) and cut acres of grass each summer til age 14.
Then I went to boarding school. That pretty much confirmed what I didn't know – that I didn't fit in back home. It was a matter of class. One of my primary school classmates had said as much towards the end of that era, so I should have known, but… Subsequently I didn't fit into my boarding school class either.
It's by reason of not fitting in that I could leave home in numerous ways for the rest of my life, while being constrained in my moves by fear of not fitting in elsewhere either. It took a while to realise that I would never fit in because I didn't really want to. I have never liked people en masse of any ethnicity, though foreign ones are somewhat more bearable than my own because their shared traits (which make them not me) are not required of me. So, some cultural traits became objects of acquisition for personal diversity's sake and an eventual basis of professional flexibility.
I manage a one minute Chinese handshake easily when asked by the other's grip to do so. I've eaten some Nonstandard Issue meals, offered a refill of anything drinkable at least three times to everyone at the table and equably resisted such offers from others…Actually the acquisitions came quite naturally, so I guess my flexibility in this respect was real.
None of this not fitting ever pinched my toes as an undersized pair of shoes do. It all still is natural to me. Occasionally someone would nominate my standing back from the mass as arrogance or unreachability or likely to be last married, as my boarding school yearbook proposed. The last was almost true but it wasn't a race that I was in, at least in my view. The second is probably true and the first is a danger I actively patrol – in other words, my guarded potential for arrogance is a pathway to qualified reachability. Another of my classmates won the latest title by about 15 years over me. He's one of us, too.
One side-effect, sometimes central, of this attribute is loneliness accompanied by success self-reproach. I never got anywhere conventionally, yet (as one of my LinkedIn colleagues just reminded me). I never really wanted to, though the environing social noise recommended that I should have. An early therapist summarised his impression of me as "homeless", which clanged like the bell of an Alpine cow herd's queen…audible over great distances as a slow paced clunking in the empty spaces of my brain.
The more I mature (which is what I say my ageing is doing to me) the better my natural distance fits me and the easier it is to bring together the somewhat meandering pathway my life is into something which feels whole and, more importantly, can be deployed in toto in the works I now do. This is what the therapist me purveys, both to myself and others.
I know there are others like me. They are my best friends throughout my life span. Some are more rigorously devoted to our self-regarding integrity, others less but still recognisably so. We are members of a scattered band recognised by others as such for our difference, for our marching (walking, running, dancing) to the different drummers who we also are. None of us would accept all, or perhaps much of this description. How could we and remain members of this avowedly lightly attached family? But in a Wittgensteinian family way we recognise the shared themes, traits and tendencies among us.
Groucho's memorable explanation for his curmudgeonly prickliness is our motto – never join a club that would have us as a member. It's counter-typal to say so, but we are model individuals. Rather do what we want than play along with anyone. Not really what the individualists who march to political /ideological drums mean are we? And being at home with myself is not as comfortable as the trip might suggest, accompanied or not.
* This post was started two years ago as a title which drifted into the lower reaches of my development archive. It resurfaced a week or so ago as I was looking for something else, now still hidden though much more recent. So sink weak initiatives. Yet that one had $350 as an outcome attached to it. So fail incentives.