I’ve been doing a lot of country driving lately. The seasonal changes of the landscape can be breathtaking, and the time alone gives me space for reflection. A few weeks ago, I loaded a Dixie Chicks CD that I rarely play. With hours of bitumen ahead of me, I found myself listening to each simply-crafted word, and connecting with the lyrics of their hit anthem “Wide Open Spaces”.
It transported me back to early 1985, when I left Adelaide in my Monza Red Ford Laser, bound for a country town five hours away. I can still see my mother on that summer morning, waving me off at the gate with Twinkle the terrier in her arms. I was full of anticipation about my promotion to a newly created position, and the opportunity to experience country life. My destination was the home of the Blue Lake, Mount Gambier, in the South-East of South Australia.
As my friends started to settle down, I wanted to set off. I wasn’t ready for the bluestone house just yet. Restless to shake the creeping claustrophobia, I needed to breakout and find new places to discover, just like the song.
“Who’s never left home, who’s never struck out,
To find a dream and a life of their own,
A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone”
I recall the adrenalin rush of new beginnings, greener pastures, and moving closer to Melbourne, my career mecca. After the drive across the scorched mallee, the vegetation began to change. As if it was on cue, I came across an enormous field of sunflowers, closely followed by the glorious repetition of the Coonawarra’s lush and verdant vines.
“She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes”
While my relative anonymity and independence were liberating, there were plenty of tough lessons along the way. As I met new people and places, I felt free to be myself and shape my life. I was strong but naive, and made a litany of mistakes. This wasn’t the only rite of passage available, but it was perfect for me.
Although the Dixie Chicks sing about a young woman leaving home, the lyrics made me think that some of us need “wide open spaces”, at other stages of our life. At times we need to be bold, shift the paradigm and change the rules, to poke around and reveal our options, and make that career transition or change.
By the way, I’m ready to return to Adelaide….well almost.