A little over three years ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Product of my Environment.” In that blog post, I reflected on the idea that I had become a product of where I lived, which included my eating habits, leisure activities, and overall lifestyle. In those three years, I have completely overcome the boundaries of what I considered to be a lifestyle makeover. Here are my reflections of what it meant to completely change my environment and how it affected me.
A little over two years ago, I moved from my hometown in Kansas to live with my then girlfriend in Wisconsin. Both states are within the United States, but so many different aspects between the two exist.
The weather is completely different. Winter lasts much longer and is much colder than winter in Kansas, however, Kansas has much hotter and longer summers.
The food is different. Restaurants like McDonald’s and other fast food establishments are all here, but the local restaurants are vastly different. While Kansas City BBQ still holds a special place in my heart, it was fascinating to adapt to new styles of Friday Night Fish Fry’s, the consistent serving of cheese curds, and the amount of bratwursts consumed here in the state. I also understand that everybody has different drinks of choice, but the amount of milk consumed here as opposed to the amount of iced tea in Kansas was a staggering eye-opener.
During the summer months in Kansas, when we weren’t going to a barbecue or a Royals baseball game, people mostly stayed indoors. The humidity and heat are staggering, even for those that spent their entire life living there. However, in Wisconsin, winter is unbelievably long and the summers are pleasantly nice, so when the weather becomes warmer, people feel this inherent need to go out and do as many things outside as possible. This includes going out on a lake, fishing, hiking, biking, walking, exploring Milwaukee, going to farmer’s markets, or just sitting on the back patio and having a fire.
My original hometown of Lansing, Kansas is near enough to larger cities and surrounding activities that many options are available. From Lansing, you can travel to Kansas City, Kansas to go shopping or dining. You can visit Kansas City, Missouri and go to museums, fountain sightseeing, or a myriad of other things. A little over an hour will get you to Topeka for the capitol building. Forty minutes will have you arrive in Lawrence, home of the Kansas Jayhawks and a college town filled with restaurants and shopping.
Waukesha, Wisconsin is equally, if not more culturally relevant to a night out. Thirty minutes will find you in Milwaukee for a night of theater, shopping, dining, or a night of NBA with the Bucks. Twenty minutes allows for a night at Miller Park to watch the Brewers play. Drive an hour and you’re in Madison to see the capitol building and a large farmer’s market. Perhaps you want to go out on a lake. You’re in luck, as ten to sixty minutes in almost any direction will bring you to a large lake or state park for swimming, boating, hiking, or fishing. If you’re feeling really adventurous, drive for 90 minutes and go visit Chicago.
Those subtle shifts between the familiar and the unknown are the catalysts for undoing becoming a product of an environment. Even the smallest of shifts cause a different outlook on life and a need to adapt to new things. As the saying goes, adapt or die. I wanted the adaptation. I craved it.
Everything I am, was, will be, and have been is because of my environment. Growing up, I was influenced by my family in regards to my hobbies, my life choices, my religious beliefs, and even my love life. Somebody once told me that we seek love with the same familiarity of our current lifestyle. We stay in protective bubbles, seeking comfort in what we know, and not what could be.
When I wrote this, I was stuck in a constant circle of a day to day cycle of redundant tendencies. I recently wrote a blog post about that lifestyle. Every day consisted of homework, work, sleep, and sitting in my dad’s basement on consistent cycle of leisure activities. I sought romance in far too familiar places with the same neighborly people.
I sought a new environment in locale as well as personal. I wanted more than just the same small town every day. Not only did I want to change what it looked like when I drove to work, but I wanted a different culture. That difference wasn’t vast as I didn’t seek out life in an Asian country or completely different culture than the one in which I was already living. Change doesn’t come easy, and I didn’t want a change so large that it changed my outlook on life. Instead, I wanted a change that was familiar but still different from the status quo.
Personally, the ideas of change involve more than just the locale. As much as I loved playing video games every day, I wanted a change that enacted a sense of courage. That courage could take the form of trying new things, adapting to new locations, or becoming a new person that acts a different way. Courage has a general definition, but even trying a new restaurant from a new place could be considered courage when your lifestyle is so redundant that it has become dull and pedantic.
Even though I have branched out from the majority of my family in terms of my environment, I am still nothing more than a product of what’s around me. I have zero religious beliefs, but my family is filled with Christians. I have never been prejudiced towards homosexuality, yet a majority of my family disdains it. Family members throughout my current life, and those that have already passed, all sought careers in technical, business, and left-brained professions. However, I have always sought right-brained tasks in acting, writing, music, voice work, and journalism.
While I still hold zero religious beliefs, my eyes have been opened to a brand new kind of faith. When I was younger, I used to believe the same way my family does. As I grew older, I slowly learned about the different styles of belief and how every person believes differently. While it hasn’t changed my views on the overall idea, I have learned so much more than I ever did in my hometown.
My family still seeks out careers in left-brained professions, and I still seek out right-brained activities in an attempt to make a career and support my family. I actively support LGBTQ+ rights, and while my family doesn’t necessarily support it, they don’t attempt to quell or belittle them. None of that has changed. While those beliefs are still centered around my core ideals, a change in environment might help shape them, but it won’t change them.
But I want something new. I want something exciting or dull or reverent or nostalgic or familiar. I want everything that I’ve never had and everything I’ve always had. I need to feel like a different person. I am almost thirty years old, and I haven’t been on a date in over six years. I haven’t felt anything outside of the normal array of emotions in so very long. I have almost become apathetic and stoic because of my environment. I need inspiration. I need motivation. I need determination. But above all, I need to reshape who I am as a person.
I’m not quite sure where my head was during that bit of writing, but most of it still rings true. A change was inevitably needed, and now that I have enacted that change, it turns out I was wrong on different levels. Something new was needed, but upon enacting that sense of new, it was still familiar. While the restaurants changed, the sense of eating didn’t change. The weather was different, but Americans are so well adapted to atmospheric change that it doesn’t affect us unless it’s an extreme difference. A little colder for a little longer wasn’t exactly new. Instead, it was just different.
I suppose the real question comes down to whether I feel like a new person or just the same old writer that has aged a few years.
I changed location and jobs. I started dating and found the love of my life. I ate new food and spent more time outside. I visited new locations and partook in different activities. I finished school. I watched new movies and read new books. I became a parent. I had to adapt.
None of that is a product of a new environment. Instead, it’s a growth that developed a new sense of adulthood and living. Over time here in Wisconsin, I discovered things that were exciting and dull and reverent and nostalgic and familiar. I received many things I never had but also experienced what I always knew was there. My array of emotions developed in ways I didn’t know were available to me. My apathy remains but only centered around specific ideals and scenarios. Inspiration and motivation filled me, but I needed the trigger to fire off those qualities.
I didn’t need to reshape who I was as a person. I needed to grow. I needed to evolve.
My environment changed, yet I am still a product of my environment. My environment is what I make of it, not the other way around.
I’ve grown, evolved, changed, and adapted. Perhaps it was an inevitable quality that would have triggered regardless of where I lived. In the end, it doesn’t matter, because I did reshape who I was as a person. But it wasn’t the environment that did it.
It was living.
I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.Jack Nicholson in The Departed