I just completed my fourth move since graduating...two and a half years ago. With the theme of my 20's being: "experiment, break things, and keep running", there is little room left for stability, and with this instability comes rapid changes and a whole slew of deep and complicated emotions that I often don't do a great job of processing. Before this month, I didn't even realize a transition had three parts: the ending, the transition, and the beginning. Here is me trying to change my ways and be thoughtful about the person I am becoming.
Uprooting my life so many times over such short of a duration has taught me a lot about who I am and what I care about. In the absence of a physical place to call home, I turn to other forms of identity. I am not Columbus Brett, I am not Chicago Brett, and I am not Seattle Brett. Sure, each of these cities and communities has left an impact on my life, and I don't know if I will ever be able to shake the coffee addiction that Seattle gave me, but at the end of the day I am a holistic collection of my individual experiences across many dimensions, not just physical location.
In prepping for this last move, I read Transitions by William Bridges and Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. Most of the ideas in my head as I am writing this note are influenced by those two books.
Bridges pointed out that often we ask ourselves what we should take on, not what we should give up. Reflecting on my life, I take on a lot because I put a lot of pressure on myself: pressure to perform, pressure to make others like me, pressure to achieve.
This pressure creates a mentality of more: more work at my job, more social events, more side projects. I often catch myself playing tetris with my calendar so I can squeeze one more event into my day. Rarely do I ask what it is time to stop and what do I want to be giving up. And moments where I am not taking on more leave me with guilt: the infamous Netflix crash at the end of the day or the times when I skip my run in favor of a nap. We live in a culture of impressive young people. And I feel that every moment I am not achieving greatness, I am falling behind.
I've been trying to shift the above to a mentality of finding greatness in the every day: In the person I smiled at on the subway ride into work; in the Birthday rap I wrote for a friend; in the meal I cooked with a friend. It never leaves me with the same feelings of fulfillment as a big project launch or a new job change though. The need to be impressive by it's very nature begs me to seek more. It's going to take some more soul searching to come up with a definitive game plan. More to come on this over the next year or so. I am figuring it out.
In moving from Seattle to Brooklyn, I chose to give up comfortability. I chose to give up the startup lifestyle. I chose to give up caring what other people thought about me (I am a flight risk, I will never be satisfied at work, can he hold a job?).
And in all honesty, I just scratched the surface on that last one. I have a lot of ways left to grow in letting go what other people think about me. Just the other day, my friend Heidi Liou reminded me of the ever-fantastic childhood quote:
"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
I needed that reminder. I know who I am. I often say what I feel. I know why I matter. But around other people, I become a much more reserved person. This more reserved person is born out of a fear of rejection: a fear of someone turning a shoulder on the dance floor or a fear of the seat actually being taken at a table. Even after listening to The 100 Days of Rejection talk a MILLION times, I always freeze up at the last second in moments of courage. Rejection is a powerful beast and I am still learning to tame it. Again, along with the shift in finding greatness in the everyday, I will keep you updated with how it is going.
This transition has allowed me to embrace that fluid notion of figuring things out and not waiting until the perfect answer to pick up a pen and write about it. I used to think that one day I would have all of life figured out. I used to think that I would come across my calling like a quarter on the ground and I would pick it up and that would be it! Yay! Found it, now I can live a meaningful life.
A lot of this stemmed from my first take on Parker Palmer's definition of vocation: "the place where your deep gladness meets the world's great need." I now realize this is not a one-and-done deal. It changes. It might change every week or it might change when I turn 87. But the important part is that I am regularly making time to check in and understand the complex interactions of my life.
Transitions are hard. I'm not convinced they ever get easier. To summarize the above long-form text into succinct learnings, here's a list of my discoveries:
Transitions are made of an ending, a transition, and a beginning. Listen to each part. Leave yourself time to go through the process.
Ask yourself what it is time for you to give up.
Rejection has a lot of power in our lives. What role does it play in yours?
You will never have life figured out. That doesn't mean you shouldn't keep trying.
We are dynamic beings. The most we can do is create the space to listen to the people we are becoming and take it one day at a time.
Cheers to the unknown.