Roots and Wings

Image by Hayley Lewis

Roots and wings. It’s a phrase we’ve heard in graduation speeches, teen films and parental heart-to-hearts, all stressing the importance of preserving your past while flying the coop and following your dreams. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s difficult, and sometimes – despite our best efforts – it’s not done at all. So what’s the big deal? Isn’t it easy to break with the past and throw caution to the wind? (Any traditional movie hero would have you think so). Or, are we all doomed to be tied to our histories and blame them at inopportune times? Where is this aforementioned balance of “roots and wings”, and how do we achieve it?

Clearly, we all have histories. And regardless of what we’d like to think, they’ve shaped us and made us who we are. (I know – I don’t like to recall my Northern Getaway-wearing past as much as the next person, but I guess I owe my affinity for old lady sweaters to the 1996 version of myself.) But one of the most difficult challenges is to attempt to grow up while being bogged down by old stories and memories of who you once were. Anybody fleeing a small town can relate to the cringe factor of running into old friends, foes or exes at the friendly neighbourhood gas station or the go-to greasy spoon. Anyone attempting to escape reputations or old ways of life can attest to the dread of taking a walk down memory lane at a pub-based high school reunion. So why would you want you to hold on to that? If you didn’t fit into the box previously, why would you want to be reminded of the fact that you never will? If golf courses, cookie cutter homes and stag and does aren’t your way of life, why return to the place – whether physically or mentally – that dictated that they should be?

Answer: because it’s important. Despite the fact that we’d like to shed aspects of our past (case in point: my Spice Girls two-member fan club and/or my Star Wars speech of grade six), they were the building blocks to our current existence, and without them – like a game of doomed Jenga – we’d all be reduced to a pile of pretentiousness and a false sense of cool. Without our roots, we wouldn’t have wings (just ask a baby bird), and without the experiences that have tainted us or bogged us down, we’d never learn how to overcome anything or pine for something more.

What artists/musicians/actors/free spirits/members of the general population haven’t attributed their current personas to high school events or childhood experiences? While it may be easy to write off those months of studded belts and DC shoes, without them, would you still boast that affinity for fashion? If not for being told to resign to a lifetime of cubicle work, would you still try to prove everyone otherwise? If not for the awkward run-ins at morning breakfast, would you have learned from that big mistake? Would anyone try to break free of the status quo and go on to do something great? Have we achieved the delicate balance of roots and wings without even knowing it?

I think we all know that the answer is “yes”. We are the sum of our parts, and by simply growing and continuing to evolve, we’ve successfully mastered the art of having a past and a present that promises a fulfilling future. While our histories dictated who we once were, we’re still in charge of who we are now, and who we’re going to be. Without our roots, we’d never have the drive to stretch our wings in the first place.