“I’m moving to Portland, people are too full of drama here,” she explained to me when I asked why she was moving.
In my 20s, I lived in the Pioneer Valley, as the Massachusetts portion of the Connecticut River Valley is known. In our community of young millennials in their 20s, many people had a lot of challenges in their lives and there was a pervasive feeling that Portland, Oregon was some kind of promised land of opportunity and happiness.
This came from one or two stories of people who had moved there and had a good experience before moving back. Of course, they moved back because the experience had perhaps not been as good as they had reported, but the myth stuck.
This is common. In Connecticut, among an older crowd, where I live now, it’s Florida and North Carolina where the streets are paved in gold.
There are some problems you can successfully run away from and find a better life in a new place. People leaving California to avoid forest fires will find solutions in other places.
However, I have found that often times, people choose to move or make other dramatic changes in their life to escape problems which they carry the seed of within them.
I heard multiple stories of people who moved out of the Pioneer Valley to the promised land of Portland only to discover that there was just as much drama and hostility out there as there was here.
Such bad luck that they’d leave one hostile, judgemental community only to find another very much like it. Sometimes they’d even go to a third place and find the same thing. What are the chances of finding the same unpleasant communities in three different places.
Of course, we can see that the common factor was the person themselves. It wasn’t that their community was hostile and judgemental. It was that this person had behaviors and habits that led people to judge them and be hostile to them.
Wherever you go, there you are.
As long as they continued to carry their own hostility with them, they would find it reflected back everywhere they went.
The only journey which could take them away from the things they are trying to get distance from would be a journey within themselves. They would have to identify and change whatever it is which is causing the world to react in this way.
This is much harder than packing up and moving to Portland.
It is made even more difficult by a culture of self acceptance which, as a form of empowerment, tells people that they should not worry about what other people think.
“Ignore the haters!”
“If you can’t take me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best!”
You should be yourself. You should ignore the haters. People should accept you as a whole person. But you are not perfect, and if you choose to ignore all criticism, you will never get better.
You are the common factor in everything you do and encounter.
I used to find that people were judgemental towards me, treating me like some starry eyed dreamer who didn’t know where he was going. At first, I tried to avoid those people, but then I went to new places and found the same thing.
So, I stopped acting like a starry eyed dreamer who didn’t know where he was going. I stopped giving them reason to think this. The craziest thing is that, I later found out that many of these people weren’t judging me at all! I was imposing my own insecurity on their words and inventing their judgement entirely in my head.
Wherever I went, there I was, telling myself they were judging me.
If you carry the kernel of your own challenges within yourself, as most of us do, then no cross country move, no job change, no new hairstyle or new wardrobe, no new relationship will solve the challenges you face.
The only thing that will is the hard, difficult, and often unpleasant work of going into yourself ot make yourself better. It’s not easy, but it’s easier than living the same challenges for your entire life.
You can’t run away from your problems if you bring them with you. Wherever you go, there you are, even in Portland.
Michael Whitehouse is a personal business coach, helping people to clarify their values, identify their challenges and limiting beliefs, and chart their own course forward. If you are interested in learning more about yourself, you are encouraged to set up a complimentary coaching session with Michael