Finding your place


Recently I read an article on finding your place, which got me to thinking about the various ways we talk about our place and how that changes during the travel of life.

Take the phrase “There’s no place like home.” Does that mean a real, physical place, or is it wherever the people you love are together? Is that place a feeling in your heart, or does that mean home is only one specific building in the same location?

Since I am in a different home since our children left for college, sometimes I wonder which is the right answer. I’m sure it must be a little unnerving for them when they come back for a visit, but so far they’re handling it just fine. Maybe it’s because their place isn’t really here any longer.

Where is your place?

Sometimes we have to be put in our place, or there might be someone we think we need to put in their place, whatever that is. It’s likely that’s not a physical place at all.

To “put yourself in her (or his) place” is to think of where the other person is. It can be commiserating or empathizing or identifying with. Maybe you pity that person or sympathize with him or her.

But where is your place?

Sometimes we have a place in our society or our profession, one that gives us a certain prestige or status. That’s our place for that area of our lives, and it may be one that doesn’t have any relation to anything else we do away from that setting. A toddler, for instance, doesn’t really care if his professor father is the head of his department.

So where is your place?

Some folks never really do find their place in life, where they fit, feel at home, make connections and contributions. Or they do find their place but don’t really like it, so they’re generally dissatisfied. Young adults getting established independently often cast about finding their place in life. That’s part of who they are and could be as simple as finding a place to settle or as complicated as deciding on which career path seems to fit.

Sometimes that searching process brings us back home to where we started when we didn’t even know that was really our place after all. It’s just that nowhere else felt right. I hear that from some folks who have moved away for careers or to chase a dream but then after awhile decide Iowa looks pretty dang good and move back to their home state.

But where is your place?

When I think of place, I can’t help remembering the places I’ve been that have a hold on me. Usually they are the beautiful places that I don’t really leave even when I’m not there, for a bit of them stays with me.

As the British writer Katherine Mansfield put it, “How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you–you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences–like rags and shreds of your very life.”