When a person does it twice, however, he has the chance to gain insight and clarity.
That's the basis of Sharon Hatch French's play, "Joseph of the Village," which shows this week at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center.
The play follows the playwright's grandfather, Joseph, in what French calls a historically accurate portrayal of American Indians' experiences in boarding schools.
"It's about the tragedy of the first boarding schools," she said. "The schools' theme was to kill the Indian, but save the man. It caused some really deep wounds. The schools took everything away from the young Indian children and tried to make them white."
Joseph left his village in 1878 to attend boarding school. The school was only a couple of miles from the village, French said, but runaway students sometimes died when they tried to find their way back home.
"After being educated, Joseph didn't fit in with the others," French said. "He wanted to leave the reservation, but the white men didn't want half-breeds."
Fast forward several decades, and Joseph still is searching for his identity. Inspiration comes in the form of a little girl who leads him through his painful past. The girl, called Sapling, helps Joseph face the past, including confronting himself as a child.
Did he run away from his home hundreds of miles away to hide in Old Oraibi? Did he steal food from the Hopis in nearby New Oraibi? Did he live ferally in the ruins like an animal?
On the surface, this doesn't make much sense. Traditionally the Hopis haven't gotten along with the Navajos. Could it have something to do with the picturesque stage scenery, which looks "Indian" even though it has nothing to do with Navajos?
For more on the subject, see Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.