This month, many of the nation's best and brightest high school seniors will receive thick envelopes in the mail announcing their admission to the college of their dreams. According to a 2011 survey, about 60 percent of them will go to their first-choice schools. For many of them, going away to college will be like crossing the Rubicon. They will leave their families -- their homes -- and probably not return for many years, if at all.
That was journalist Rod Dreher's path. Dreher grew up in the small southern community of Starhill, Louisiana, 35 miles northwest of Baton Rouge. His family goes back five generations there. His father was a part-time farmer and sanitarian; his mother drove a school bus. His younger sister Ruthie loved hunting and fishing, even as a little girl.
But Dreher was different. As a bookish teenager, he was desperate to flee what he considered his intolerant and small-minded town, a place where he was bullied and misunderstood by his own father and sister. He felt more at home in the company of his two eccentric and worldly aunts -- great-great aunts, actually -- who lived nearby. One was a self-taught palm reader. She looked into his hand one day when he was a boy and told him, "See this line? You'll travel far in life." Dreher hoped she was right. When he was 16, he decided to leave home for a Louisiana boarding school with the intention of never looking back.
That decision created a divide between him and his sister Ruthie, who was firmly attached to Starhill. Leaving for boarding school was "the fork in the road for us, the moment in our lives in which we diverged," he writes in his new book,The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life.
In the book, he describes leaving his Starhill home to pursue a career in journalism -- a career that took him to cities like Baton Rouge, Washington DC, Fort Lauderdale, Dallas, New York, and Philadelphia. He was chasing after a bigger and better career with each move. "I was caught up in a culture of ambition," Dreher told me me in an interview....continue reading at The Atlantic.