Guess What? It’s the Same.

All of that shit you’re waiting on. Dreaming about. Stressing over.  That list of obstacles or goals or specific life events you feel like if you could JUST get those done, you’d feel differently. Paying off your car, moving, getting through some specific project at work. Or maybe it’s the larger and more far reaching stuff. Divorce. Student loans.

You envision these milestones a bit like carrying around a stack of concrete blocks on your back. Only the truth is, even once you free yourself from those specific things you’re focused on, you will simply trade one block for another.

Life, if you chose to focus on it that way, is mostly the same. Atleast in the ways you’d imagine. The predictable routine of your ability to adapt to experiences, or changes, good or bad.

I sold my house. I got divorced. I moved. I paid off all of my debt (save for my car). My credit score is 825. I am Jack’s sense of pained irony.

And don’t get me wrong. It felt good to do all of those things. Necessary. Elemental even. To strip out the clutter in my life by moving, ending a relationship emotionally, legally and changing everything. To move towards something and feel like in the restructuring I was learning about what the things I’d already experienced meant.

Knowing that I can save money for the things I want. That I enjoy a level of freedom and flexibility that has in some capacity eluded me for the duration of my adult life in 40 years. It’s grand.  But it’s not such a sweeping mind-bending change that I don’t still wake up and throughout the course of a day, become preoccupied with the same petty trivialities that bothered me before.  Those larger successes that I waited so long for… they’re not a magical inoculation against manufactured anxieties. I still worry about dumb shit.  Different dumb shit, but by and large. I am not so dramatically changed that I have unshackled myself from the pitfalls of what it means to be a person. Forever struggling against your own patterns, habits, tendencies. Making hard won progress.  But only through dogged persistence, luck, and will.  None of those requirements change.

So now what’s the moral of this ramble. Hey look at that, I think it’s the same as the last post I wrote. Don’t do it. Don’t dig yourself into the promise of someday as a solution to your state of mind. Because all that matters is right now. You will arrive, perhaps – I won’t even add “if you’re lucky” because luck is irrelevant and it may not be lucky anyway – at your desired destination.  You will pay off that car. You will get rid of that student loan. You will move to that new city. And you will still be you. In a different place. And you will have done all that waiting. That anticipatory promise of changes, solutions, a blank(er) slate and you will still find yourself wanting. It’s a giant waste. A pile of misdirected energies. Speculating on how different you will feel with certain obstacles out of your way. The only actual obstacle is the barrier you created in your own head. Crush that shit and move on. You, are really the only thing in your own way.

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Notes from Trip 39 Around the Sun

It’s been an interesting year.

I ended a nearly 10 year relationship with my best friend & we’re now divorced. Amicably but necessarily distant. People change. To me the idea of doing nothing was ultimately more difficult to swallow than completely starting over. He’s a person I respect, admire, and love but it was no longer working for me. I feel immensely grateful that, with a few completely understandable bumps, we handled the entire thing like two people who respect and care for each other … and I learned that happens far less often than it should.

So if you’re reading this and don’t know what to say, don’t sweat it. I realize it’s an awkward thing for people to respond to. Now you know. No condolences required. It was a difficult thing and I am a much different person than I was 9 months ago.

I am more than ok. Things are great.

My family above everything else are happy, safe, and healthy. The rest of it, while trying at times, is just part of being alive. Through all of this they reminded me that I never have to doubt their love, support, and loyalty. We do insanity well, and no one goes it alone.

My friends are extraordinary. Patient, compassionate, brilliant, brave people. To anyone I doubted ever, even just to myself, I’m sorry… that was always about me, never about you.

My job. Has transformed into more of an actual career than I could have ever anticipated. Getting the hell out of the toxic environment I was in over a year ago was far and away was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. I work with some of the coolest, smartest people I’ve ever met. I feel stupid every day but never without resources. Humility means growth. I work in a culture that actually is …so much more about people’s intellect and ability than anywhere else I’ve ever worked. I have flexibility that I’ve never dreamed of and like every popular article about modern start-up culture, unlimited PTO, and flexible work environments preach, if you treat people right they will give you their best. Sometimes my best in the last year has been lacking a bit while I navigated a gigantic tidal wave of personal changes… but I truly feel like I work in an environment where my personal desire to perform well is something that my colleagues share, just for the sake of building something cool. After my first year and the departure of my boss/a company founder I inherited a lot more responsibility, and actually got a raise I feel like I deserved and didn’t have to fight with anyone for it. I try never to take it for granted. I’ve had a job since I was 15 and I’ve been through my share of shitty employment. I know how bad it can be.

I sold the first house (condo) I ever bought. I lived without a car for 7 months & bought a new one. I moved into a fabulous apartment with one of my oldest friends.

I PAID OFF ALL OF MY REMAINING STUDENT LOANS AND MY LAST CREDIT CARD. I have a car loan. That’s it. I have never been this kind of *debt-free* in my entire life. Finally. FINALLY. I will never get tired of reading that.

I’ve traveled. I went to L.A., twice. To Philly. To Florida to surprise my Grandma for her 80th birthday. To Portland for work and for fun, twice in less than 7 months. To Baltimore, Richmond, into the woods. I’ve gone to shows, baseball games, to museums, to restaurants, movies, happy hours, dinners, taken road trips. I started work to complete my large tattoo (all the road trips). I cut my hair (see the photo duh). I celebrated my Mom’s retirement (how is that even possible – neither of us is old enough for that). I’m going to spend TWO weeks at the beach (some of it working).

I started over.

I fell in love. Hard. That’s a long story for another day. Probably not here. 😛

I read a story somewhere, possibly fictitious… it doesn’t diminish the sentiment.

A little girl and her younger sister are at the pool. The older sibling is in the deep end trying to coax the younger sister to dive in. “But I’m scared” insists the little girl. They go back and forth, unaware they’re being observed. Finally an older woman, watching the exchange swims over to the younger girl at the edge of the pool. “It’s ok to be scared. Be scared and do it anyway.”

It’s a concept I try to embrace, daily… but also when faced with major decisions. I’ve said it a lot, to numerous people. I’ll say it again here. Fear is a terrible motivator. If you’re doing, or more likely NOT doing something, because you’re afraid – it’s a really good idea to divert all of your energy to figuring out why and most of the time, to do the thing anyway. In the last year I’ve done some of the hardest things I could of previously imagined and survived. Sometimes the real challenge is trusting yourself, you have to learn how to just get out of your own way.

When people talk about deathbed regrets they are never things you’ve done, they’re all of the things undone. The choices made by apathy. Surrender to attrition. The last year of my life was an utter refusal to give in to that. If I sound like I’m boasting, I no longer care. I make no apologies for being a driven, imperfect, fierce individual. I’m proud of the choices I made because a lot of them were incredibly difficult. They ran the gamut of pain from basic anxiety to near-paralyzing terror.

I was scared, I did it anyway and I am happier than I have ever been. So I’ll enjoy these last few days of my thirties, but by all means bring on 40… I can’t wait.