Back in June of 2015, I thought that I was going to be in Los Angeles for the rest of my life. My goal was to be a TV writer. Where else would I go? Why would I leave?
Within a month, I had answered those questions. I would go to Wisconsin, and I would leave because my priorities changed. I was fully committed to living simply, tending my future homestead and eating delicious cheese. There, in the spacious, affordable Midwest, I would stake my claim.
Not quite. After 6 months in the Badger State, my bags were packed and I was off to NYC. By this point, I was no longer sure where I would spend the rest of my life, but I figured I’d be there for at least a year. Two months later, I was on a flight to San Francisco to make my new home in the Bay Area.
A week after that, I had left SF and was traveling the streets of Sri Lanka, determined to make it as an amateur snake charmer. That’s not true, but there are people in my life who wouldn’t have been surprised.
I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned amidst all this moving. I thought I would jot down some thoughts.
One result of all the change is that am no longer afraid of making a rash decision. For the longest time, I was pretty bad at making any decisions. Routine purchases, such as replacement ear buds when my headphones would break, often became grueling, day-long affairs. “Why do the $7 Sony’s get better Amazon reviews than the $9 Sony’s?” “Should I wait for a sale?” “These refurbished Apple headphones look pretty good, but EarBudStudForLife made a good point in that Yahoo answers thread from 2011 when he said that refurbished stuff is never as good as you think it’s going to be.” And on and on.
Now, I will buy the first thing that looks good and not think twice. I mean, I just changed jobs, moved across the country and back, broke up with and got back together with my girlfriend, and started eating gluten again. Things change, evolve, grow, gain and shrink in importance. If I can accept that with big things in life, I can surely accept that it doesn’t matter which brand of organic brown rice I purchase.
I think that the idea of rash decisions is a bit of a fallacy. Sure, you don’t want to blow all your money on the first shiny thing that catches your eye. It might not be a good idea to marry the first person you have a crush on. Don’t do heroin all day every day just because it feels good at first. Etc.
But what is really so awful about having a hunch or a feeling, and going boldly in that direction? No one can predict the future. If after a decision you are still alive, happy and healthy, can it be said a decision was bad or “rash”? It just is. You never know if choosing the alternative would have unlocked a series of events that seemed good at first but ultimately ended in you getting hit by a bus.
I’m trying to get better at trusting my intuition. It’s important to realize that most accusations that you are acting too quickly come from a place of fear. You are doing something that person wouldn’t do. The outcome is unknown. That’s scary to them.
But, there are good things that can come from taking bold action as well. Maybe I’m drinking too much of the Silicon Valley kool-aid, but I’ve been identifying with the “move fast and break things” ethos. The best way to learn is by doing. If I had never gone to the Midwest and fully committed, I wouldn’t have been ever to cross that off my list of ideas. I wouldn’t have been able to deepen my relationships with people who live there that I care about. And I definitely I wouldn’t have been able to provide Goodwill with enough winter clothes to outfit an Everest expedition.
That being said, I do wish I had been less adamant in thinking that all these changes were the best moves I could possibly be making and that anyone who couldn’t see that was crazy. I have a tendency to feel that every decision is binding and irrevocable. I think that I overcompensate for this fear by going over the top with my proselytizing.
I couldn’t just leave LA, I had to make myself think I disliked LA. Same with Madison, and same with NYC. I was vocal in criticizing all those places, partly as a way to convince myself that I was always making a perfect, logical choice. People who paid a premium to be near some sand were shortsighted. People who bravely weathered the elements and had dreams of living independently and off the land were heroic. I put myself in the latter camp, and I wasn’t shy about saying so.
I have no regrets about all my moving, I just hope that next time it happens I can be more thoughtful with how I present it to myself and to other people. Because things always change. At the quantum level*, the universe operates on probabilities, not certainties. All you can do is make an informed decision, be honest with yourself, and hope for the best.
Rash isn’t always bad, and bad isn’t even always bad. It’s all about perspective.**
* Reading one Stephen Hawking book pretty much makes me an expert on this.
** I’m sorry if my first attempt at being semi-serious makes me sound like the Dail Llama and Tony Robbins if they got drunk together and giving an overwrought TED talk.