When I was in high school I had the opportunity to travel with my school drama club to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska. The festival was a gathering of membership schools from around the world where we could all meet, partake in special workshops and, the best part of all, watch the top ten plays/musicals as selected by the Festival Judges that year.
For those of you who don’t know about the state of Nebraska it is known as the flat state and the crop of choice is Corn. Their NCAA football team is known as the Corn Huskers and I bought my sister a cool t-shirt that said, “Not Everything is Flat in Nebraska.”
I think this is what made Lincoln so popular. It was a place where around 2000 or so teenagers could get together and there wasn’t really anything we could do to get ourselves in trouble.
Each night, after the final show was over, we were all free to mix and mingle around the Campus until our curfew time of 11 p.m. We lived for the Dances at night. Canadian Boys were a hot commodity and, being a drama geek, it was big news to finally be talking with girls.
It was interesting to talk with American Girls. I remember my plan of action was to ask a lot of questions and just listen. What I slowly began to find out was that even though these ladies were all American they had spent a good portion of their childhood moving from one section of the country to the next. Lived in Missouri, moved to Colorado, spent time in Utah, a year in Alabama, surfing in California and so on.
These experiences were so much unlike my own. I was born and raised in my hometown of Brampton, Ontario. The more people I spoke with the more I noticed the same story and I began to think of America as a country of movers.
Fast-forward five years and I am driving home over the winter holidays with my roommate and good friend and we are talking about our futures. He explained it like this, “we spend four years of undergraduate education, some of us 5 or more with graduate programs, and while we are there they teach us to think outside the box and think beyond where we came from. We spend all this time learning all these new things and then many of us return home forgetting a lot of the good stuff we learned.”
Why do we take a step back after we have achieved so much? Financial reasons? Comfort? Fear? One of my favourite author’s Paulo Coelho in his book The Alchemist talks about 4 reasons why people prevent themselves from achieving their dreams – what he describes as a “personal legend”. He says that often times we are too afraid to leave behind the ones we love or we keep telling ourselves that if we wait a little bit longer and save up that little bit of money then we will go.
Maybe it’s the quest for the American Dream or maybe it's the deep roots of Expansionism that has created this "movement" of Americans that I learned about back in high school. I don’t know if I will ever know the answer and perhaps maybe it was just a fluke that I met all these “flighty” Americans. But, the words of my friend and Coelho still ring in my ear to this very day. Coelho explains when your on the path of your personal legend anything is possible. If you follow your heart it will never lead you astray.
You just need to be willing to take that first step.