What if the rest of your life were like the past few weeks? Or, why I’m moving after six years….
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard
A question for you: if the rest of your life was like the past few weeks, would that be ok with you?The importance of this question is not immediately obvious, but think about it for a moment. For the vast majority of us, next week will be deceptively similar to this week, which again, was very similar to last week.
Sure, we wear different clothing as the seasons and styles change, periodically hop on a jet for a vacation, and our parties have different themes depending on the time of the year, but really, most weeks look deceptively similar to one another. You get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, rinse and repeat. If it’s the weekend you meet friends, watch TV, go on a hike, stay out late.
Solving problems requires action
Recently, I’ve realized that if the rest of my life were like the past few months, I wouldn’t be ok with that. When faced with a problem like this, I’m always tempted to try to think my way out of it, as though reading, reflecting, and careful analysis were the solution.
But really, 99% of the time, you can’t think yourself out of a problem. You have to act your way out of a problem. In other words, when you realize that something in your life isn’t working for you, you have to do something about it. In my case, I suspect that Washington, DC’s personality, is not a good fit for my personality.
Cities and towns, like people and families, have personalities. They have character traits and edges and preferences. The Washington, DC that I experienced over the past six years has:
- An obsession with government, networking, and politics (no surprise there)
- A transient population of well organized 20 and 30-somethings who have come here to change the world (I’ll miss that… well, not the transient part)
- A strong work ethic
- A refreshingly progressive approach to life at the community level
- A surprisingly conservative approach to life at the individual level (I’ve been at house parties where 20-somethings spent more time passing out business cards than trying to get laid)
All of that fit well with me when I moved here at 23 but things that made Washington, DC perfect for me at 23, are the exact things that make it difficult for me at 29.
At 23 I needed time for intense focus as I built my business from the ground up. Out of necessity, I traded large chunks of my free time to spend more time working, something that many people in DC do every single day.
But now, it’s different. I no long value work as much as I used to (in part because I don’t have to) and prefer to spend my free time drinking black coffee with friends, reading and writing, and trying to feel the magic in the mundane. When I look around, I notice that most of the people I’ve grown to love in DC have moved out of the city. Of those that remain, I often have to make plans with them several weeks ahead of time. And when I search the bars and clubs and galleries and stages for something truly jarring and new and life affirming, I struggle to find it. And I get it. DC is button down and tie. I’m v-neck and jeans.
I want a group of friends that I see often. We’ll have dinner parties and play board games. I want a community of rebels who measure their success not by their power and economic bottom line (which matters, but only to a point), but by their overall happiness, freedom, and impact. I want to be able to wander into a bar or cafe, and be swept away by the energy.
Over the past year, I’ve tried to create that life for myself in DC, and failed. Part of that failure is probably my fault. I spent a lot of time on tour in 2014, though much less so in 2015. Even when I was here, I was frustrated by the need to schedule my social life weeks in advance, something that is just a part of living in Washington, DC.
So instead of accepting a life where I am comfortable but not content, I’ll set out on a new adventure. I’m grateful for my time here. I met two amazing girlfriends, worked side by side with advisors to President Obama, got closer to a few old friends while making a few new ones, and grew Ignited Leadership beyond my expectations.
But it’s time to go. Sometimes when you fall in love, you fall in love for life. I have a friend who met his now wife on the first day of college. I have no doubt that they’ll be together forever.
Other times though, you fall in love only to later notice that the texture and tenor of your feelings have changed and faded. We tend to think of those experiences as failures and time wasters, but I think to do that is to miss the point. Sometimes we need to form a relationship with a lover, a city, a lifestyle, a job, a friend so that they can help shape us and make us better versions of ourselves before we go back out into the world on our own. And that’s what DC was for me. DC is a city that has forever molded me into a better man, but will stunt my growth and vivacity if I stay.
Because when you can honestly answer, “If the rest of my life were like the past few weeks, I wouldn’t be ok with that” it’s a clear, clear, clear signal that it’s time for you to change, and change requires action.
I’m going to intentionally unmoor for a while as I recalibrate. I’m spending most of July in Ireland, and when I return to the US, I’m getting a car and driving around North America visiting friends I haven’t seen for a while. Along the way I’ll audition new places to live, and get an apartment when I find a place that feels right.
My friends ask me how I feel about all this. The honest answers: excited and terrified. On one hand, I know I need to leave. On the other hand, I am trading a fully functioning life here in DC for an unknown future.
I think that cross hair where the excitement outweighs the fear and you’re in your stretch zone, that’s a nice place to be. I think it’s a mark that you’re truly living while your alive, and that’s exactly what I aspire to do. So Washington, DC – thank you. I love you, I’m grateful for the role you played in my life, and now, it’s time for us to part ways.