Everything Has its Price

By Will Baker

"There’s a race of men that don’t fit in, a race that can’t sit still…so they break the hearts of kith and kin and roam the world at will." When I was a little boy I remember reading this some where, but for the life of me I can’t recall whom authored these words. But they have stuck with me. You see, I knew from a very early age that whatever was in store for me, my road would take me far from home. And for folks like me, those with a sense of wanderlust, there is a price to be paid in the realization of these yearnings.

Since leaving home at seventeen I have lived in many places. I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and have met many different people. You could say that I felt compelled to "hit the road." And in doing so, much was gained. I’d like to think that interacting with all of these different folks has given me a some what broader view than that which I might now possess had I remained closer to home. It has also afforded me with an opportunity to apply the knowledge acquired in various classrooms, to take these theories and ideas out for a stroll in the real world as it were.

People and relationships fascinate me. As does the fact that, although we are all so very different, we also have much in common. On the other hand, by exploring this fascination, it seems to me that I have paid a price. For example, I have had to content myself with watching my nieces and nephews grow up long-distance. Photographs, phone calls and now e-mail, and the occasional visit have had to replace the type of face to face interaction that many families enjoy. And I do not see my parents with near the regularity that I would like. Sheer distance makes this difficult.

I am certain that some of my friends and acquaintances admire me for the road that I have taken. Yet I admire some of the ones that stayed behind, those that made their place in the world close to home and drove their roots deep near the ones they love. But in our discussions on this subject we have reached the conclusion that we would have it no other way. For I had to wander, and they had to stay. And in doing so, we each paid our price. No, it seems to me that no decision is without a price. And life is all about choices, and we do define ourselves by the choices that we make. Hopefully, if circumstances will allow, we can anticipate the price that will have to be paid and incorporate it into the decision making process. Then we perform the mental cost/benefit analysis, and decide.

And boy do I want to wander now. It is autumn in Vermont. There is a chill in the air. The leaves are falling from the trees and landing in my dooryard. Fog gathers low in the mountain hollows each morning. And the leaves are changing color high on the mountaintops. At this time, every year I become restless. For I am a wanderer. In my life, people and places come and go. Sometimes I feel like a dusty clown in a travelling show, never quite certain where it is that I am, or where the next stop on this circuit will take me.

Yet, amazingly (at least to me), for eight years I have managed to remain in the tiny Vermont village where I now live. And compared to the life that I’ve led prior to making the decision to "settle down," this is a striking contrast. My wife and I are raising our daughter. And we chose to forgo the excitement of the road, in order to provide her with a sense of groundedness. We believe that this little village and the loving plainspoken folks that I am proud to call my neighbors provide an excellent opportunity for her to grow and develop, to be nurtured and to feel safe. In short, to experience a childhood that might not be possible in other places, and certainly wouldn’t be possible were we to cart her about, as we continued with our travels.

So we decided to leave the road for a bit. And in doing so we paid a price. Yet we believe that what we have gained, the sense of doing right by our daughter made this decision a no-brainer. And I am quite certain that at some point I shall take up the road again. My philosophical problem deals with obtaining answers relating to the meaning of life-yes, a very tall order. And for me, it seems, these answers simply cannot be found in one single place, with the possible exception of my heart.

So here’s to the decisions that we all must make. May we make them wisely, and apply them consistently. For the homebodies, you have my respect. And as for my fellow wanderers, perhaps we shall one day meet upon the road.

 

 (Essay Collection)