Every day we make choices. Choices about, what we eat, wear, drive – who we associate with, where to work, or live. As we make these decisions, we create boxes for ourselves which may sometimes start to define who we are and where we ultimately land. We become the product of our own decisions.
Three years ago, we decided to move to South Florida. It was pre-dominated by my professional needs; my family packed, for the sixth time, and moved to a new city – new work – new schools – new friends.
Today, we have become Floridians; we love the three and hundred and fifty days of sunshine – love to go to formal restaurants in shorts, wear Tommy Bahama shirts, drive a convertible, enjoy outdoor living, cooking and swimming, when we can. The furniture, artwork and plants around our house have blended with this tropical environment. If I could, I would be out cruising the inter-coastal waterways, all day.
To compound it all, I have now started to drive like a South Floridian. My polite Denver driving etiquette on I-25 has given way to this sheer pleasure of weaving on I-95. Shania, our five-year old, who was born in Denver, is now a Florida child and would prefer to go to school in flip-flops, if she had a choice.
This is what our environment does to us. In New York, you look and behave like a New Yorker, in London you are a cool, reserved, Londoner, in Dhaka – a truly relaxed Dhakaiyah – and in South Florida – you take on that “do-not-care-yet-utterly-enjoying-life” person.
In life, many choices are originally ours. However, our environment also sways our choices.
One tries to make those “bigger” choices carefully (what we do, or where we live). But truly, if you don’t have a job and someone is offering you a stable-steady job in Columbus, Nebraska – it’s hardly a choice. Often, I notice, people choose to live close to their extended families. But, in fact, they don’t have that choice. Their families may have lived somewhere for years and the child/sibling makes a secondary decision to follow (vs. choose).
I have met a handful of people who purposefully choose to move to a specific town, e.g. a University town, or a mountain city, that they love or want to enjoy in their lifestyle. These, highly rational beings, are both fortunate (to afford to make the move independent of their financial conditions) and brave. Most people have difficulty making such a decision beyond emotional connections or financial need.
Ultimately, the outcome of these series of deliberate or accidental decisions, turns into “Life”.
Recently, I was trying to explain this to my fifteen year old teenager; where she is going to high-school, may not be her choice; however, who she befriends and how she does in school, will most likely pre-determine if she goes to college and where, what she chooses as a profession – maybe even whom she will choose as a partner in life. Messing up on a standardized test, at this juncture in her life, could really mess up her path in life. After this long monologue – she rolled her eyes and said, “I know, I know”.
I saw an art exhibit, where after putting together a whole bunch of boxes, the artist put himself in the exhibit. He would periodically move around the exhibit and change it. Symbolically, he lived in the exhibit he had created. In simple terms, our life is very much like that.
As I reach the proverbial midlife, I look around the box I have created for myself; there is so much to be thankful for. It may not be the “perfect” box – but I like what I have. My box now defines me more, than I define it. And that’s ok.
Once in a while, the indomitable spirit kicks in – I may feel like just picking up and going camping in the Amazon or trekking through a desert. Not sure how or what that adds or subtracts from the box.
At the end of the day, viewing the crimson sunset on water, on a warm September evening, surrounded by loved ones and friends, on this corner of Paradise, is where I want to come back to. Racquetball on Saturdays, playing Texas Hold’em with friends, a great new movie at the theatre, or a rib-eye on the grill, or the sheer pleasure of watching CNBC in the morning, now defines me.
It’s my box; I built it; I hope to have the courage, strength and perseverance to hold on to it.