After returning from my travels to the south I sat down in the quiet moments and reflected on what I’d heard. As a “northerner” anything further than the Mason-Dixon line is a bit odd. Life moves at a different pace. The people seem strange, as I am a stranger in their lands. It is America, but it takes more than half a click to remember it. Words are stretched out over the passing seconds, allowed to linger on the tongue and in the cheek. It’s charming – in a way. I remember seeing old movies or tv shows that portrayed southerners as dim-witted and lazy, almost simple. And perhaps they are the latter but surely not the former. Life in the north churns on at an endless pace. We are always busy doing something – or thinking of doing something – every day. The hands of time seem a bit arrested in the south, as if the second hand trudges through molasses to get to the next second. I don’t have much experience in the east, and only minor visits in the west to comment on them, but the south is a power all unto its own.

And it’s not for me.

I have many good friends and family who share its laidback mentality. They love the warmth of winter and the searing heat of summer. I cannot abide either. I need my winters cold. I need the ice and the death of all things. I need the fall to remind me that life and time is precious. I need the smell of a keen summer night in the midwest, the chirp of crickets, and the crackle of a fire when the temp dips just enough. There is an air to the midwest that I haven’t found anywhere. It has nothing to do with cows or cheese as those who don’t live here might suggest. It may have to do with corn though. The endless rows of green stalks which turn amber and sprout the feed for the rest of the farm. In the dark cold dirt, where the corn will soon rise, that is where the midwest gathers its power.

This got me thinking along another line. Where do we draw our power from? What makes us rise? Duty to jobs and the stack of endless bills? Is obligation the central focus for our lives? Should it be? I fully believe most people on Earth live two lives. One they hold in high regard for the mirror they must face each day. This is their battle standard. A well-worn image they’ve tried to convince others is the truth. But this is a lie, if not THE lie of their life. The other life they lead is the one inside the confines of their private corners. The one they rarely let others see, because its paradoxical nature to the first would shock others, possibly destroying the image they’ve spent so much time propping up. I’ve come to think that the second – the hidden life – is what gives us our power, but those who choose to hide it use all that energy on empowering the first. This example played out so many times in my high school I could have written an entire book on it. The mass of fake people overwhelmed those of us who chose to be who we believed we were. Castigated as outsiders, and mocked for any number of imaginary social offenses, some of us became pariahs.

Being true to that second life isn’t about being a jerk to everyone you come across, or saying whatever your brain comes up with, it’s about being a real person, something we desperately need more of. Wear who you are as a badge of honor, it is your power. Abdicating that will cost you everything you dream about.