It is good to be home

Home Sweet Home

So this is it. We’re back home. The summer slowly draws to an end and it’s been great. The holidays were a breath of fresh air. We all had a whole bunch of new experiences. My son ended up on the back of a horse. My wife petted an ostrich. I gave my first talk in a university, and my little daughter was able to swim alone, without help.

And now, it’s back to school for the kids, back to our ‘normal’ lives, filled with routine and everything we know. From the morning radio show, over the usual traffic jams, to the fake smile of the cashier at the local supermarket, and our mother calling to complain about how we don’t call enough. Business as usual.

So now what? Should we live a life of quiet desperation, punctuated only by the occasional holiday where we get to do some fun and exciting things? And between those linger between nostalgia and anticipation for our next escapade? Or on the contrary, should we glorify the silent heroism of every day life where we face reality with calm and steady determination?

Well, from a brain’s perspective, the answer is: neither. Or both. Depends on how you look at it.

Have you ever heard about the Attachment Theory? Actually, it’s not just a theory, but a whole body of studies and experiments which all point in the same direction. It comes down to this: in order for a child to become a healthy, balanced individual, it needs the safety of a caring and protective environment (read: parents) from which it can venture out and explore new things (have experiences and adventures), only to come back to its safe haven.

You see, it’s not one thing or the other. It is both, as they keep eachother in balance. Both the new and the old. The known and the unknown. The excitement and the tranquility.

Well, turns out, for adults, it’s just the same. We’re actually hard-wired for it. Our brain functions under the perpetual tension between the known and the unknown. Between what will keep us safe and the urge to try out new things. It’s the power of inertia against the call for adventure.

If we stay in what we know for too long, our brain will actually start to shrink. Physically shrink.

And if we constantly change and try out new things, our brain will never reach the proficiency it was designed to gain out of repeated actions.

In other words, both are needed for a healthy brain, for a healthy life. A safe haven from which we can venture out into the new, and to where we can go back for safety and comfort.

So I welcome this September as I would welcome an old friend who comes to visit me. He will remind me of old times. We will pick up our conversation where we last left it. We will talk. we will laugh. We will create new memories and cherish old ones.

It is good to be home.

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