It’s eleven in the morning and I’m sitting in Seattle’s oldest espresso shop. The americano in front of me is passably rich, though my chocolate croissant is a squishy and typically american treatment of pastry. Dulling my perception of the energy spread out along University Avenue, the hangover I’ve earned by three days of recreating in Seattle’s night life is a softly pulsing reminder that change, especially personal change, is difficult.
When I closed the door behind me and climbed into my car three days ago, with all of my possessions crammed into boxes and duffels and fit by material tetris into my tailgate, the unreasonableness of my choices was thrilling. There was plenty for me in Portland, and probably a better chance of finding productive employment, but staying didn’t seem right. And moreover, it didn’t feel nearly as dangerous, as thrilling. That morning rewarded me with five thousand feet of skiing in fresh snow on Mount Hood. Flying through trees in deep snow, alone in the backcountry, the cold air tasted clean of the familiar flavors of Portland. Three hours and three coffees later, I was in Seattle.
Goethe was right when he wrote,
“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans.
“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Boldness has, genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
Fine, all of it, but Goethe forgot also to mention that the world, and self, are both things of great mass and momentum, and that to slow the direction of their current turning is the work of running constantly into the wind. Danger lies in mistaking superficial change for boldness, and extremes of behavior for commitment. e.g. If I feel bad about myself in Portland, and about the way that my life is going, then moving to Seattle (or Driggs, or Park City, or wherever) is likely just to transplant my dissatisfaction. On the other hand, what I’ve found since arriving here is that my moving made all too plain what is standing still: change can be a catalyst and a new lens, but habit and worldview are a stubborn substrate for transformation. I can keep running but the treadmill isn’t going to move until I step off of the belt.
The real illusion might be that greatness and achievement are easy, or at least that they come easily to some. The world is slowly revealing that changing myself isn’t going as easy as I expected it would be, but more importantly, that the change will come from unexpected directions. The world can’t help but be honest, and even as I do those things that I think will be most beneficial and transformative for me, the world repeatedly blindsides me with real lessons. Maybe it’s just that you can’t set out to find the real lessons– they find you.
…Onwards to Utah, onwards up the mountains, and into my mind. If the hills offer one thing, it’s fewer opportunities to fool myself.