You have my attention

The Cambridge dictionary has two separate definitions for attention. The first one is “the act of directing the mind to listen, see or understand.” The second one it is the “time or effort that you are willing to give to help someone or something because you care about that person or thing.” The first definition describes simply noticing things, or as we like to say, paying attention.

The second one, though, requires something more than just directing the mind; this definition almost makes attention seem as if it is more of a sacrifice than a random and uninspired action. In this sense, attention can only be given to something for which one is able to care about.

Attention, while always present, is precious and valuable. There seems to be a difference between using attention to notice and using attention to care. But for me and maybe you too, there isn’t that much of a difference at all.

No matter what you think of New Trier, you’d probably be lying if you said that you didn’t want to graduate already and leave, but that shouldn’t mean you hate it too. Where we live doesn’t actively do anything in order to grab our attention, it’s just there whether or not we wanted it to be—and that can be enough.
My first connection between care and attention came from the movie “Lady Bird.” The main character, who goes by the name Lady Bird, lives in Sacramento and can’t wait to graduate and go to college on the East Coast.

When Lady Bird’s teacher is reading one of her college essays, she asserts that Lady Bird loves where she lives, even though Lady Bird thinks differently.
Lady Bird questions her, and then after her teacher says that she writes about it with such care and affection, she responds by saying, “well, I guess I pay attention.”

And then this next line is what really got me. Her teacher says, “Don’t you think they are maybe the same thing? Love and attention?”

After Lady Bird leaves Sacramento for college, she realizes her “hatred” for her hometown was hiding as love in disguise, and she starts to miss her family and her past life due to the fact that she had paid so much attention to it while she was there.

For years she had been telling herself about how much she hated her house, her school, and her city, but she had also never known anything else.

My parents are moving to California after I graduate, and I’ve always kind of told myself that I didn’t care. I’ve told myself that I was indifferent about the North Shore, and by doing so I thought it would be easier to leave when it was finally time to—but this seems not to be the case.

Every day, I give my attention to everything that is here. I give my attention to the freezing temperatures, how much faster it takes to walk up the stairs if I go two at a time slow or one at a time really fast, deciding whether the pasta line or the burrito line seems shorter, and many other things.

I’m still trying to leave and go to college outside of the Midwest, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I hate it here—I’m just ready for something else. I hate certain aspects of where I grew up, but for now I think it’s impossible for me to hate somewhere that I’ve spent so much time giving my attention to.

In a few months when I leave, I hope it will be easy, but it probably won’t be. When I stand alone in an unfamiliar place, it will be different and probably a little bit scary. But that’s okay.

While we are still here, remember that this place, for many of us, is all we’ve ever known, and while we can expect other places to give us what we want, they can never replace our home town that watched us grow up and become adults through everything.

Whether we like it or not, we are all north shore kids, and the attention we pay to our hometown can really just be love. Try not to wait until you’re gone to figure that part out.