Life and Moving on.
This is a long prose on moving through life.
How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders. Feel ‘em? Now I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. You start with the little things. The things on shelves and in drawers, the knick-knacks, the collectibles. Feel the weight as that adds up. Then you start adding larger stuff, clothes, table-top appliances, lamps, linens, your TV. The backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. And you go bigger. Your couch, bed, your kitchen table. Stuff it all in there. Your car, get it in there. Your home, whether it’s a studio apartment or a two bedroom house. I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now try to walk. It’s kind of hard, isn’t it? This is what we do to ourselves on a daily basis. We weigh ourselves down until we can’t even move. And make no mistake, moving is living. (Up in the Air, 2009)
That quote from George Clooney’s character as Ryan Bingham struck me when I first saw the movie as an undergraduate at UC Davis. With maybe a closetful of items to my name and a handful of family trips under my belt I still felt that the picture painted of clutter was present in my life. Baggage comes in many different forms. In life it can be the emotional spite we get on a daily basis like when we stub our toe in the morning to carry that grudge throughout the day and snowballing that to our external interactions. Or it could be the relationships that we took the time to nurture, grow and cherish only to have it blow up in our face when that person turns around and stabs you in the back. There is more than one way to skin a cat so they say, but even more reasons to let that cat go.
I have had a tumultuous past few weeks to say the least. Uncertainty of where to live within the week to quitting a flourishing full-time job without another job lined up. Committing myself to over 3 and a half hours of commuting through San Francisco traffic one-way. I know it is all relative and these may present themselves in clean-cut first-world problems but I’m sure Donald Trump himself considers poorly flavored caviar on poached eggs for his breakfast as tumultouous. So in a way, my problems are real and authentic to me.
However, like the made-up condition (surely because only 0.001% of folks suffer from this) that Josh Hartnett stated in Lucky Number Slevin, I suffer from ataraxia. A condition free from worry or anxiety. Not fully, I won’t lie. But the past few weeks have taught me more and more to live within this condition. To embrace life and what it presents. People, not things, are our greatest assets and treasures.
If you ask anybody, especially my younger brother, they will tell you numerous stories of how introverted and afraid I was as a child. On stage while rehearsing with an orchestra, I remember I chose to pee myself rather than approach a stranger and ask for the restroom. I even lied to myself saying that the warmth was nice since it was at a cold outdoor stadium in Los Angeles. I never bought anything as a child, approaching the cash register and speaking to somebody I did not know was out of the question. Even good friends that came over were sent away when I felt that I did not want to socialize that day. I still fight with this sentiment at times though not as badly as when I was a child. I look back and wonder how I even had any friends… and I realize I did not have any. The single birthday I celebrated in elementary school was with a classmate lured in by the promise of Chuck-E-Cheese and sent away with Burger King much to my chagrin. Get off that ledge. Don’t jump off that bridge. Hopefully you didn’t empathize too strongly with my depressing childhood as there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s head towards that way.
Now, I’m gonna set that backpack on fire. What do you want to take out of it? What do you want to take out of it? Photos? Photos are for people who can’t remember. Drink some ginkgo and let the photos burn. In fact, let everything burn and imagine waking up tomorrow with nothing. It’s kind of exhilarating, isn’t it? Now, this is gonna be a little difficult, so stay with me. You have a new backpack. Only this time, I want you to fill it with people. Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office, and then you move into the people that you trust with your most intimate secrets. Your cousins, your aunts, your uncles, your brothers, your sisters, your parents and finally your husband, your wife, your boyfriend or your girlfriend. You get them into that backpack. And don’t worry. I’m not gonna ask you to light it on fire. Feel the weight of that bag. Make no mistake — your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. Do you feel the straps cutting into your shoulders?
It is refreshing. People instead of things. Experiences, not money. Adventures over toys. I sold everything I had in Sacramento in my move to the Bay Area. Figuratively burning my backpack. I gave a good chunk of things away too, not my trash but some prized possessions. To good people. The people in my life I care about. Like those travel channel shows where aboriginals hand over a tusk or a necklace of teeth to Anthony Bourdain and he makes some snide remark. But the gesture is a kind and heartfelt one. In this way I gave away items that made a statement- that they were there when I needed them most and I know they will be in the future.
Pay it forward. Why hoard everything for yourself? Your life is a temporal blip in the universe. Rather than stay dimly lit in your corner- ripple on the joy and happiness to others through your generosity. Only when you interact and trust in people, leaning on them when you have nobody else to depend on will you experience dumbfounding miracles. Don’t sit in a corner complaining the world is against you. Yet you haven’t spoken to any living soul much less ask anyone for help. Quietly wallowing in self pity so deep that it would put the Titanic’s depths to shame. Next time somebody asks you, “How’s it going?” and you respond with the generic, “Good, you?” please feel free to mentally slap yourself across the face. That standard generic greeting is death to your personality. Take the chance and give that person a taste of what is going on in your life. Your turmoil, your disgrace.
In my case, I brought up my living situation and not having a place to stay within the week and to my surprise, a friend came through. A place to live. A worry dissuaded. And a great situation made even better by the next time I responded to another friend. I likened my commute from Davis to the peninsula as hitting myself not so tenderly with a hammer in my groin. And the pain would at least not last longer than the commute time. And that friend opened their home for me to stay during the week. Authenticity opened up opportunities that would not have been presented had I flashed a fake smile and said everything was alright.
Of course I believe a higher power is always involved. My own abilities are tained by my flaws and believe me when I say there are many. Humility is the only prophylaxis to losing every single person you care and love. I need to realize I did not do any of this myself. Friends. Family. Strangers. Every person was placed in our lives for a reason and if we fail to grasp their importance then it is passing on buried treasure. Walking the beach and not realizing underneath the top layer of sand is a gold bar.
This is where I encourage you as an individual to take these chances. To be authentic and explore people as hidden treasure. Corny and cliche. Bumper sticker material, I know. But it is true. Not everyone knows how to deal properly or navigate a person but the more you practice will you be able to have a more fruitful life. I leverage myself on a daily basis to provide others what I know and give to them freely.
All those negotiations and arguments, and secrets and compromises. You don’t need to carry all that weight. Why don’t you set that bag down? Some animals were meant to carry each other, to live symbiotically for a lifetime — star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not those animals. The slower we move, the faster we die. We are not swans. We’re sharks. (Up in the Air, 2009)
The weight of withholding. I have a friend that acknowledged me as a compulsive liar. I did not deny it, how could I? I would be lying if I did. In that moment I chose to accept the fact that I was not truthful and it was a breath of fresh air. Now I present the truth in an altogether manner that I do not have to filter myself besides business situations or within the workplace. But anybody would be willing to let you know that I live my life painted by my dialogue. It is a lot less hassle to tell the truth and not have to consider whether you slipped up or not in your last statement.
I have a great community of people I call friends. It is every single person on this beautiful green planet we call Earth. There are quibbles here and there- that is necessary. This is not a utopia.
Learn to move. New people, new places engage your thoughts and open your network of people you can relationally depend upon. Seek old friends out and open new dialogues. Show them you are more than a superficial individual looking to gain and establish an empire.