It is very easy to make yourself busy beyond recognition and then use that as an excuse to not do some of the most important things your heart requires of you. I know this pattern of behavior all too well. I've spent a lot of time over the years figuring out what it is I want out of this life, and then going after it full force; often times literally spending 100% of my time in pursuit of such things.
I was born and raised in Fresno, California. My grandmother, grandfather and a number of family members still live there, but until recently, I hadn't visited my birth city for 15 years. The excuse I made for not visiting was that I was "too busy!" I told myself that in order to be happy, I needed to pursue all of the things I wanted out of life and that this left me no time to do something like take a trip to Fresno. I went on like this for nearly a decade and a half, brushing off any requests from family to come visit.... well, until last month anyway.
When I realized that my grandmother was about to turn 80 years old and that I hadn't visited her in 15 years, I was forced to face my inner excuse-maker head on. Deep down I knew that not visiting my grandmother for her birthday was unacceptable, and no matter how hard I tried to talk myself out of it, I simply couldn't. I decided it was time to make a trip to Fresno. We purchased the plane tickets for all five Dollars and started planning out the details of our trip to my home city.
As the trip got closer, a whole host of fears and dark memories began to rise to the surface for me. The excuses I had always made about why I couldn't go back to Fresno faded away, and in their wake stood my true, dark fears and memories; the real causes of my refusal to visit Fresno all of those years. You see, Fresno housed many scars and negative memories for me. My real dad had been a drug addict who was in and out of jail. We grew up poor and entrenched in a dramatic home life full of anger, violence, and fear. As our departure to Fresno grew closer, the pain of these memories grew to deafening levels in my mind. I became quite anxious, but I knew that the anxiety I was experiencing meant that going to Fresno was not only a good move but also that it was absolutely crucial for my own personal growth and healing.
My recollection of Fresno had been a hideously ugly, flat, baron and gray city without merit or beauty. This is honestly how I had been describing Fresno to myself and others for 15 years now. As I exited Highway 99 onto Ashlan Avenue with my wife and three children, what I saw didn't compute. Fresno was not ugly at all. It was not flat. It was not barren. It was not gray. There were actually tons of trees and other vegetation and Fresno actually seemed.... well.... kind of pretty. My wife mentioned the same observation.
We surprised the heck out of my grandmother, and it was one of the most fulfilling trips I have ever taken. I visited the old houses where dark memories still lived only to realize that they were just houses. There was nothing scary or dark about the way they looked, and the people living in them now seemed perfectly happy to do so. I took my children to visit my elementary, middle and high schools and we had a blast doing so! I was able to make peace with all of my old fears and dark memories, and the joy I experienced watching my children interact with their great-grandparents was inexplicable. Although I came down with a cold on the trip, I felt fantastic. I was overflowing with joy and the resolution of pain I had unnecessarily carried with me for way too long.
I will never say negative things about Fresno again. I am proud to be from Fresno and it is deeply part of who I am. It is important to embrace where you are from, not run from it. For any of you reading this that have a similarly painful past that you are running from, stop! If you stop and face your fears head on, you will discover that they are puny in reality, and big only in your mind. If you want a bright, fulfilling and happy future, don't forget your roots!