Nearly 100 years ago, two brothers traveled from their hometown of Dayton, Ohio, to a small beach in North Carolina. To the average person, there was nothing notable about this shoreline. In fact, it was nearly deserted. But the brothers saw something else—potential. They knew Kitty Hawk had heavy winds and high air density, which made it the perfect location for their big experiment. They wanted to fly.
On December 17th of 1903, Orville Wright manned what is now known as the first flight. 12 seconds. 120 feet. And only five people saw it happen.
Orville and Wilbur Wright invented and built the world’s first successful airplane. It goes undisputed that the brothers revolutionized modern transportation, paving the way for our present-day world to discover and be discovered. Doesn’t it seem like their endeavor should have been a bit more glamorous?
I picture the Wright brothers living and working in New York City, spending most of their time hanging out in the tallest skyscraper around, casually drawing up blueprints for the first plane. They’d probably have a line of custom suits and aviator sunglasses named after them (doesn’t “Wright Bros” sound like a distinguished brand name?), and they would frequently lunch with the mayor, I’m sure.
But this wasn’t the case. The Wright brothers essentially lived and died in Dayton, Ohio. There was nothing big about their city other than the dreams they dreamed while spending their lives there. Once the trial run crashed near Kitty Hawk, they returned to their tiny hometown and resumed all flight-testing from Small-town, Ohio.
Grow up. Move out. Relocate to a “real” city. Is this not the 2014 millennial’s American Dream? Often, it seems to be. Yet I fear that on some level, the dream has been misplaced. If the Wright brothers’ biggest goal was “Let’s get the heck out of Dayton,” they might not have spent as much time changing the world. It’s easy to idolize the big-lights, big-dream, big-star city. And some dreams are most effectively sought after in a metropolis.
But don’t underestimate what can be done in your hometown.
As a twenty-something, you need to understand it is not as important that you move geographically as it is for you to push yourself to move developmentally. Don’t feel like you have to pick everything up and head over to the big city to lead a meaningful life. You can live, love, learn, create, play, and grow professionally in many environments. You can define your twenties while residing in a shack in the Middle-of-nowhere, Ohio. You have the capability because it lies within you.
Planes, trains, and automobiles—these vehicles are often valued as avenues for us to see and influence the world. And they are. We live in a global society, and mobilization is becoming increasingly important. Mobility, as defined by Merriam Webster, is “capable of moving or being moved.” But in the midst of our big-city dreamin’, let’s not forget the most important part: internal mobility. Moving toward goals. Being moved by others. Pushing your self to be better. To me, internal mobility is the necessary precursor for external mobility. Don’t think “I’m going to move to LA, and then I’ll do something with my life” when you could be doing something with your life now. It is possible to do something worthwhile in spite of limited resources or a less-than-glamorous location.
In the house that I grew up in, there was a huge elm tree in my backyard with deep, wide roots that spread all around the ground. When I was a sophomore in high school, my family built a house on the other side of town. We planted seedlings around the new property, and we all understood those baby trees would take time to bloom, but everybody missed the giant elm and oak trees in our old neighborhood. It just wasn’t the same. You see, the biggest trees have the deepest roots. In the same way, your hometown may have roots and resources to help you grow that you could miss out on if you are so focused on planting yourself elsewhere.
Your hometown is always going to be “somewhere else” to someone else. So value it for what it is, and learn to appreciate it. If leaving Small-town, USA will be best for your professional or emotional mobility, then leave. But don’t think that you have to leave your hometown to make something out of your life.
Please don’t misunderstand me, here. I have been dazzled by the big city life probably as much as (or more than) the next girl. But I have come to realize that the biggest dreams don’t necessarily require an airplane. Sometimes dreams are realized on a deserted beach with only five witnesses. Sometimes dreams are developed in a small town. And sometimes adventure begins in your backyard.