In 1966, distinguished poet Seamus Heaney published his contemplative poem “Digging” in his debut anthology. I shall spare you a lengthy analysis of it; I already wrote one for my class on Contemporary British Literature and feel no need to bore you here. Instead, I’ll let you read it for yourself and let it soak into your bones and leave you pondering.
This poem infiltrates my subconscious often. It comes to forefront of my mind when my grandmother calls, disapproving about my life because it is not what she chose for hers, when my husband breaks down because his mother diminishes his accomplishments, instead sending scathing letters over his decision to leave Mormonism. Family is something we crave, something we need, something our brains are programmed to rely on, to turn to for support and kindness. I don’t have that. Neither does he.
It goes against evolution to decide to walk away, to go solo when Homo sapiens have survived for millennia by grouping together. It’s the reason social rejection is processed as physical pain by the human brain. It’s the reason your chest will tighten and your breathing get shallow and your vision blur when you find that your friends have decided to exclude you, or when you learn that all your family has gone on vacation together without inviting you along.
Seamus Heaney differed from his family by leaving the rural life of his heritage to study English Language and Literature in Belfast. And I? I differ because I have walked away from the religion of my youth in favor of progress, science, and my own moral compass. When my grandmother calls and cries that it would break her heart for me not to follow the prophets, I am torn between feelings of loyalty to a woman I have loved and respected all my life and an unrelenting need to be true to my own feelings and beliefs. She has shaped her life around the Mormon church, but I will not. I have my own conscience that I must follow, and it is not the same as hers.
I am sitting at the window, writing. I am carving my own path with a keypad and with books. My path is legitimate and honest and true to myself, but it is not the same one that my family has followed.