Have you ever been to a place that’s in your bones? A home, a childhood destination, a vacation locale? Something that has embedded itself into your very being so that there’s no separating you from it?
I spent last week on a cruise to Alaska. We got the chance to get off the boat a few times, going on tours and meeting local residents. There is no shortage of shows about the wilds and peculiarities of Alaska, so it’s only obvious that people who live there merge with the place itself.
Some of that place creeped into my bones a bit, surprising me some. I'm already planning a trip back next summer.
Those of us who are transient and move from here to there for work or who have moved several times throughout life may miss this chance, even if we do have a feeling that we’d like to be location dependent.
It’s unmistakable - when you meet someone who has a tale that is bone-deep, borne in them due to longevity and origin, or tumult and struggle. Stories like that can’t be bought at a gift shop or completed in a 36-hour turn. Those stories have to be lived. They have to be earned over time.
I don’t think I have place stories in my bones yet. Even growing up in Nashville and living the near entirety of my adult life here, it’s not in my bones. I like it here. My people are here. My companies are here. My community is here. But this place is not in my bones. (Yet.)
If anywhere could be, it’s a rundown farm in northeastern Mississippi. There is a picture on my wall of me and my grandfather, him holding my hand as two horses follow along. Us behind a barbed wire fence, out for an evening stroll, finishing chores before dinner. I spent so many childhood summers at that farm - Christmases, too. I remember the smell of the humid pecan house, the creak of those floors and the rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat of the shelling machine. Strangers would pull up and buy pecans by the pound from my grandfather.
When he wasn’t around, I explored. I found the junkyard on site, the place where old cars and tractors went to die. Weeds and roots grew through engine blocks and wound around rear view mirrors. Old leather cracked under years of heat and cold, rubber tires hard as stone now.
There was a garden, a wood pile, a creek, and patio. My great-grandmother’s house was about thirty paces away from my grandfather’s, and they both lived in those homes until each of them died.
I don’t go back much now. My youngest cousin occupies the house. The cows are all sold and the horses long gone. Some of the pasture has been parceled off and sold by my uncle and it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen next.
As I meet people, I’m starting to ask them what’s in their bones. It may be a place. Or a person. An idea. A dream, a job, an ethic, a hope, a cause. I believe we all need something to get into our bones and camp out there, changing our very DNA in order to shape a future that we are uniquely suited for. (Click to tweet.)
I think this is what it means to do the very thing we’re born for.
It's said that when you feel something "in your bones", you know it to be true, even if you can't explain why. The origins of the phrase are murky at best, but when I hear it, I think about bone marrow.
Your bone marrow is essential to your entire functioning, from a biological standpoint. Your bone marrow is what produces some of the most basic building blocks of your immune system. It's quite literally keeping you going.
What keeps you going?
What’s in my bones
I think effort is in my bones. I love my gym where I work out regularly because the tagline is “Easy is not an option.” And while I loathe certain exercises and my body screams for easy sometimes, I know that deep down, my bones won’t have it. Ten more sit-ups, six more minutes of cardio, 40 more burpees - I get off on putting forth effort. I keep going by keeping going.
I’ve never started a company that’s easy. I’ve been stressed more than I’ve ever wanted to be and I hope that any work I do in the future doesn’t reach the levels of agony and despair I reached last year. But I don’t mind hard work. It’s in my bones - putting forth the mental or physical energy to accomplish or establish something important.
Adventure is there, too. The chance to discover something new. Being outside and sweating, striving, going to where some people have never been. I like to find an uncharted course and blaze a trail. Maybe this is why Alaska spoke to my soul as it did last week.
If we get the chance to meet, I won’t ask you for your resume or for you to list a set of beliefs. Rather, I’ll ask what’s in your bones. Sure, you can certainly fake it, but gimme a while and I’ll see how you live. Your body can’t do anything without your bones so soon enough the truth will come out by the life you live.
Live deeply and boldly. Your bones don’t want anything else.