I went to a big progressive city yesterday (Austin) and over new year’s (San Francisco).
Don't get me wrong I love a city's charms. Loads of food options, hustle and bustle, variety.
I spent most of my adulthood in big 'progressive' cities, yet I realized something driving out of downtown Austin yesterday back to my quiet island life:
American city life is lacquered. Every single little thing in my interaction with city life yesterday had a high gloss sheen.
From my six-dollar coffee, which came with the option of six different kinds of milk, to the signs telling me how to live my life (organic) and where to pick my politics (liberal), every single thing was telling me we need MORE.
More consumption – of the RIGHT things. More progress - which is PRESCRIBED. More and more and more choices, AND most of all, more SUCCESS to pay for it all.
So many choices, or the illusion of choices.
The menu may be fancy, but the concept that there is a choice is a facade.
As I drove out of Austin and back into the marshy flatlands of Texas, I watched the sea birds fly overhead. The deeper I drove into South Texas, the more the sheen wore off. It felt like I entered a tube on the highway that dropped me off into yet another reality or universe.
I stopped for my 89-cent coffee at a gas station in nowhere, Texas. A man held the door open for me. The cashier smiled big and welcomed me into the store. Their clothes were likely from a discount store. The options for food are pork or beef.
But something struck me. They were kind.
Not because I billboard (meme) told them to be or in any forced way or because it's the trendy or spiritual thing to do. Not because they made the right food options that day or because they meditated with an app that morning or because their latest entrepreneurial endeavor reached wild success level.
They were kind because they wanted to be. Because moving through the slow pace of life outside the city affords them the space to stop, open a door, talk deeply to customer or a passerby - even when it doesn't benefit them in status or financially.
Even for ten minutes. No hurry. Eye contact. Depth.
I realized the reality of those living in places like Austin is nothing at all like life on Mustang Island. No better or worse, it's just different.
Drive two hours outside the city you live in, engage with those around you, and you'll receive an education beyond any book or internet article. We all have something to learn from one another. It can't be found living in your bubble.
I'm really grateful for this amazing grace period in my life to slow down and observe how the rest of America outside the big progressive hubs live.
A lot of the political solutions touted today are made within the confines of what will work in a city where hustle is king. But what works for the rest of America, well, it's like trying to come up with a game in which the rules favor one type of player.
I don't have any grand sweeping conclusions or solutions or firm and fixed beliefs one way or another; I am simply awe-struck at the diversity of a beautiful nation.
My fluid perspective sitting on the ferry ride back home, chatting with the boat operators who light up when the see me and Ollie, my dog:
You can't homogenize a heterogeneous society. To do so would rob it of its beauty, the diverse tapestry that makes up the beauty of America.
It truly brings tears to my eyes on how grand the design of American life is. My jaw drops at the vastness of the landscapes open for exploration between the packed in cities that operate in an entirely different manner, an alternate universe or reality.
Beyond problems and politics, the nation is not only masterly diverse in nature, her people are as complex and varied as the landscapes they occupy.
For me, the grandness of American life is found in the open spaces, outside the confines of a city's bubble. I am glad I made the leap into something New.
Something real slow.
And most of all, something no less grand simply because it doesn't have a lacquered facade placed upon it.
The fabric of America does not need any more lacquer or a high gloss sheen; she's beautiful just the way she is.
All is well in all of Creation.
As a former newspaper reporter and book writer, I love to capture moments in word form. I love my home, America, yet I fell head over heels in love with Mexico, too.