National politics invades far too much of our lives. When all politics is local, I can’t help but wonder why we give what is happening in Washington, D.C. so much of our time and attention. We divide up along party lines like Yankees vs. Red Sox. We stash away stats, opinion pieces, and carefully selected jokes for the right moment. At times, it seems like we are less interested in making our country better and more interested in winning the debate. The division is deep and may cripple us far into the future. It also has real-world implications. Some of the choices I have made in my life are a product of needing to be around people who see the world as I do.
I am a native son of Oklahoma. Inside the border of the Sooner State, I learned to dream. I defended Oklahoma and was proud to call her home. As a young adult, I had the audacity to believe I could one day be the governor. I dreamed of serving my fellow citizens from the capitol building. Then, reality set in for me. The older I got the more conservative Oklahoma became. In 2008, I served as a volunteer for then-candidate Obama. During those 12 months, I encountered reasonable people with sound policy disagreements. Overall, I ran into people who spewed bigotry and ignorance. It was at this moment in time, I began to feel my dream slip away from me.
Still, I pushed forward. I thought I might be able to help candidate Jari Askins beat Mary Fallin for the governor’s seat. After a hard fight, I watched my fellow citizens elect Governor Fallin. It was then and there I decided a change would be necessary. I decided my state had moved too far to the right. Coupled with personal/professional failings, I packed up everything I owned, said goodbye to friends/family, and moved to Seattle, Washington. I decided to be done with political aspirations. My mind was made up. If I wanted to serve, I would have to do it within the nonprofit sector. Without a doubt, this is the best decision of my life.
That was seven years ago. Every time I return home, I am asked the same question. “When are you going to move back?” I always chuckle at the thought and give a laughable reason why I will never do such a thing. My family and friends accept my reason and move on with their lives. This was good enough for a while and then I began to explore my reasons. In the end, they boil down to three things:
· Leaving made it abundantly clear how much I didn’t know
· Now, I am unsure if I can ever go back
· I don’t know if it will ever change for someone like me
Leaving Oklahoma, made it abundantly clear how much I didn’t know about the outside world. By no means was I a sheltered child, my parents had moved and lived all over the western United States as kids and young adults. We often took family vacations beyond the borders of Oklahoma. We read, watched television, and were encouraged to feed our curiosity. Despite all of this, it wasn’t until I left Oklahoma that I fully understood where my love for Oklahoma originated. I was native. I lived, ate, and breathed Oklahoma. I lived there for 27 years. It was all I had ever known. It wasn’t until I lived somewhere else and called someplace else home, that I realized the power of choice. Immigrating across the United States by choice allowed me to surround myself with people who viewed the world as I do. No longer was I the odd man out. The activities, events, and culture that fed my soul were at my fingertips. Then and there I realized, a home could be anything I wanted it to be as long as it filled my soul. Seattle feeds my soul. Even now, as a resident of Los Angeles hoping to get back to Washington state, Seattle feeds my soul. That’s how I know it is home.
Knowing this, I am unsure if I can ever go back. Now, I am relegated to saying, I would move back to Oklahoma if I felt my family needed me home. The hardest part of being this far away has always been the birthdays, anniversaries, and celebrations missed. While a short three-hour plane flight separates us, it can, at times, feel like my family is a world away. They know I need to be here, though. I love them for that. They know I have tasted freedom and love. They should know I would give all that up if they needed me to do so.
I also know that changing Oklahoma for someone like me is nearly impossible. While progress is a nearly impossible rock to roll back uphill, I know I am more comfortable pushing the rock downhill in a state like California or Washington than Oklahoma. For the progressives who stayed behind and fought, I salute you. For those who choose to exercise power within the halls of government, I admire you. For those who see the world as I do and are standing their ground, I see you.
Still, with all this said, I think government invades too much of our personal lives. Trying to find the balance between an informed citizen and a person who doesn’t allow the outside world to impact his mood, is not a balance I have mastered yet. I’ll keep trying.
Be good to each other,
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