Regina Spektor said it best in her song “On the Radio.”
This is how it works
You’re young until you’re not
You love until you don’t
You try until you can’t
You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath
For most of my life, I believed there was an otherness responsible for change. Life’s great leaps were not the result of some mental or behavioral shift but a direct result of experiences the universe laid before me. These were the elements with the power to change my core; enabling me to be the person I always wanted to or prohibiting me from dwelling in circles I no longer desired.
And it’s preached to us, from an early age. In high school, we are told College will be the best years of your life. In college, we long for our own money to do spend as we wish. The horizon does not lack for promises. It is a purveyor of perpetual hope as well as a goal unattainable. As our physical bodies atrophy our wants exercise their daily metaphysical cardio.
We are bodies at rest with minds in motion seeking the life that wants to live in us.
I write often about change because I am always thinking about it and have since I was a kid. But every change I have ever undertaken was accompanied by some sense of structure whether tied to an organization or a defined timeline. And for the first time in my life, I chose to move forward without either.
My partner and I left our apartment in New York just after the New Year. After 30 nights in 10 different cities, we finally arrived in our new home on the other side of the country. Did those weeks make the transition any easier? Possibly. Did they fundamentally change who we are and how we see the world? Of course not. At best they cushioned the shock of emerging from New York City warp drive to whatever speed our lives will be here under the infinite sun.
I do not yet feel truly slowed down. While I struggle to imagine what that would feel like… I am trying. Not hauling ass over speed bumps or crossing the street in the middle of traffic. And doing my best to resuscitate my comatose patience when interacting with the service people I encounter who are lovely, but who operate at a fraction of the speed I am used to.
We came here partially for the change of pace but I can’t help but hear the words of the former governor of New York Thomas E Dewey; “If you’re not in New York, you’re camping out.”
It was a quote one of my favorite high school teachers said often. He was also fond of saying “I’m at 45 and you’re at 33 and a third.” Both were a commentary on the speed with which he was comfortable.
The pace being set for us now asks the question: What will our life be out here, and how will it be different?
People we meet in Phoenix keep asking us why we left New York, almost, incredulously. In their mind, we have been downgraded. They assume we moved for jobs. We didn’t. While we vary our response, it is almost always an iteration of two words: life and adventure.
When we talked about moving hiking, yoga, dinner parties, and road trips were featured in heavy rotation. But here is the thing. All of those activities require action, not just a change of location but a redirection of focus and energy.
Which brings me back to Regina Spektor.
The verse I started with talks about how things are the same until they are instantly different. A single blink separates one reality from another. Our lives are changed for us.
But Regina knows that is only half the story. She continues.
No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again
States of rest and states of change. Events that determine actions. Actions that prompt events. The record skips and repeats. The record is replaced. We act and hope. Choose and move forward. Our lives are momentarily and permanently temporary. There is only risk. There is only us.
This is how it works.
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