A disheveled, grey-haired old gentleman shuffled up to the front of a class of university students, of which I was one, and said, “How many of you are just here to get your degree?”
I looked around me, nonchalantly trying to notice whether anyone else was in the same boat as me.
“Be wary of this mindset,” he said, with a kind yet knowing smirk, as though he had seen dozens of students fall privy to the pitfalls of adopting this approach. “Here for a degree and that is all that you will get. Dig a little deeper, discover the community around you and you’ll get a whole lot more thrown in.”
The concept of “arrival” versus “waiting for life to happen,” or seeing certain places as “holding grounds” until the real thing happens, is a common attitude in today’s culture. We are often so fixated on the destination that we miss the potential in the small moments along the way. The “I’m just passing through” attitude strips us of spontaneity, adventure and free-fall. More often than not, it perpetuates a perennial longing to belong.
We are often so fixated on the destination that we miss the potential in the small moments along the way.
It can catch us off-guard, as we find ourselves longing for a better reality. Perhaps, we can heed the wise advice of my professor. Whether you’re looking for a job, waiting for a visa to be accepted, staying somewhere before your next great adventure, pursuing a degree or living somewhere out of necessity rather than desire, there are some effective ways to plant roots in the physical location where you are.
Spend time with the local community.
Nothing says “I’m just passing through” like a lack of investment in the local community. Find out the real heartbeat of where you are. Find the bustling places for social hangouts, and immerse yourself in the culture. Finding out the local community is easy via social media as most towns and cities have events, groups and initiatives that are well-advertised online.
Host people for dinner.
Statistically, people connect best over two things: physical activity and food. Hosting new or existing friends at your home communicates that you view your location not just as a holding ground before the main event, but as somewhere you intend to invest in. Moreover, this reinforces the valuable lesson to be present, practice thankfulness and make the best out of any situation.
Discover the history and culture of the place.
Research the history of the location you are in. It might be that the town or city was only developed in the last two centuries, or it may be that the city’s history is one of the earliest recorded in history. I have lived in both. Nonetheless, discovering and immersing myself in the history of the city means that I understand which cultural values have stayed intact and which has evolved.
Life rarely happens to the “nth degree” that we so desire. Growth is often right around the corner from releasing ourselves from needing to have a perfect outcome. Circumstances that are different to our expectations often turn out to be some of the finer moments in life where we learn resilience, patience and spontaneity.
“Growth is often right around the corner from releasing ourselves from needing to have a perfect outcome.”
Planting roots in a physical location, even if it isn’t somewhere you thought you’d be long-term, means that we can utilize the relational and practical skills inside of us to build a home where we are, instead of waiting for the next best thing.