I’ve never really been a carpe diem sort of guy. Big steps of my life are taken with great care and are inevitably traumatic. It’s just the way I’m built. While my tendency to take a step back before taking a step forward in any direction is that the step back affords me a view that many miss. A brief glimpse at where I was just standing and a slightly larger peripheral vision of the directions to which I can go. With that step back I can see where I’m standing, and with that I can see the sometimes unstable ground on which I have been standing and, unless I move again, I will stand again. In other words, more often than not I can see an untenable situation before the bottom rots out of it. So while quick change is traumatic for me, I am sometimes change’s biggest advocate.
I was discussing Mocum with a coworker the other day. Mocum is the relatively small, staunchly Mormon town that I work in, roughly 30 miles away from the town I live in, half the size, and with twice the religious fervor. Needless to say, I much prefer Fort Beck and Zarahemla, where I spend my non-working hours. Mocum is assuredly a pleasant enough place. Mocum was once used in a horror movie as the idyllic little town a mean old serial killer stalked (haven’t seen the movie, but plan to). The bathrooms in the rest stop are impeccably clean. I can think of nowhere better to raise children, so long as you’re Mormon.
For those that are not, though, it does not lead itself to a particularly happy existence. Most of my coworkers live in Mocum and more than a few are either lapsed Mormons or have never been religious. The non-Mormons tend to congregate together. Nowhere else on the planet do atheists and born-agains have so much in common. My partner Simon, his former roommate Melvin, Melvin’s current roommate Adam, are all in this predicament. All three come from Mormon families so they have to treat ever-more-lightly in order to avoid causing family strife.
We were talking the other day about the lack of job opportunities in Mocum for people with a Computer Science degree. I commented, “But isn’t the point of a computer science degree to get out of Mocum?”
They laughed, but I’m not sure they truly got the joke. Melvin plans to move to Acropolis, but we’re not sure how he’s going to do it since he’s not saving money. Adam, who was the one originally lamenting the lack of opportunity in Mocum, has decided that when he pays off his truck he’s going to get a better truck. Nevermind that the payments will keep him in Mocum for another five years. Simon is building a house in the area and plans to finish up college here someday. But all three absolutely swear they’re going to get out at the first opportunity. I guess their definition of “first opportunity” is a bit different than mine.
For all of my caution, the idea of fritting away my twenties in a town like Mocum would snap me right out of it. I spent most of my twenties in big city Colosse, so I can afford to fritter away some of it here. But the twenties are the time t0 be moving around, to land wherever it is where you want to be so that you can settle down (or not, if you prefer not). I want to smack them over the head and say “Get out while you still can!”
Once Simon gets his house built, I have difficulty imagining him leaving. Instead, I see Simon and Paige raising her children here indefinitely, complaining the whole time about the “oppressive culture” and conservative dominance. I see Melvin sticking around, too, once he gets an inevitable promotion at work to a job that can’t be matched elsewhere (or at least it will seem that way). Adam… I don’t know Adam enough to know for sure, but he seems to be missing the point between A (Mocum) and C (out of Mocum) that involves saving up and foregoing a better vehicle.
I guess when you’re born and raised in a particular area, the idea of leaving becomes that much more difficult. It was really tough for me to leave Colosse and had I never met Clancy it’s unlikely that I ever would have. It’s just tragic for me to see unhappy people make decisions that will guarantee future unhappiness. How do you convince these people that not only do things not have to be this way in the abstract, but they don’t have to be this way six months from now with the right planning?
It’s sort of a tragedy of my generation, I guess, and of those the decade under me age-wise. Particularly since the economy started cratering in the early decade, there is a sense of helplessness. Unhappiness has become something to be explained, rather than something to be corrected.