And Then I Fell Out the Window

Life, examined and punted around

Comfort Is Not An Advantage

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Let’s move to New York together.

Okay, I write back, and am serious.

My friend on Skype is mourning the loss of London, which she’s just left after finishing film school. And now it’s back to Iowa, which has few if any opportunities in the film industry, so her options are rather limited to LA or NYC. Ideally she would stay in London if she could, but work visas are more or less impossible for an American to obtain. 

As for me, I’ve been living here in Iowa City a little over a year, and already things are too familiar. I know people on sight down the street. There’s the tall Norwegian God of a man with his perfect blonde hair and square jaw who works in the library and is often at the Foxhead. There’s Santabeard. I think he’s homeless but maybe not, because his beard is a brilliant snow white and grazes the bottom of his shirt. There’s the barista who wears clever shirts and takes my order at High Ground, and there’s our mail woman, with her bundle of envelopes for the 20 people in our house. Note that I don’t know many names. I know these people by sight and those that I do know by name, I don’t associate with very much. I don’t get too close to people, and things are comfortable that way. There are friends that I hang out with, there are people that I allow to see me cry when I need to cry, but I don’t allow myself to grow close to them. 

I don’t have a high-paying job, but my room is low-rent and I’m not in school so I can study what I like, but without any outside forces pushing me I accomplish less than I think I can. I go to bed when I’m tired and wake up when I wake up for the most part, and it’s very comfortable. The comfort has turned me stagnant, allowed my creativity to slow and ease up and become easily distracted. I’m drifting more than living, a tourist instead of a resident, and I’ve overstayed my welcome.

So she and I are both a little desperate. 

Going to New York is absurd, of course. It’s ridiculously expensive, the people are mean, everyone is elbowing for a job or an apartment that doesn’t cost a bazillion dollars a month. The city would crush me. Plus, what kinds of skills could I possibly bring to a job market, or even to an internship? Zero. The mere thought of moving to New York City terrifies me to the point of wanting to throw up.

Then I think about the time I was the most joyful, the most blissful. Last summer I worked at a canoeing camp in northern Wisconsin. The first time we went to the Brule river to whitewater canoe down some heavy rapids and ledges, I was sure I couldn’t do it. I was pretty sure I would end up dead at the bottom of the river, canoe turned inside out, wrapped around a rock from where it broadsided. I didn’t die. I had an insane amount of fun. And for the rest of the summer I stooped over hot fires to cook, I hefted 50-lb packs and 80-lb canoes on my shoulders, I pitched tents and slept on the ground and got eaten by mosquitos. It was a three-month journey of discomfort, and I’d never been happier.

Sometimes (read: nearly always) what I want and what I need are completely different. I lean toward laziness and comfort, but I’m truly happy when I’m being pushed to do something truly great. So the fact that the mere thought of moving to New York City makes me a little nauseous is a sign that maybe I’m heading in the right direction.

Or, quite possibly, maybe it would be a huge mistake. 

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
 
-Neil Gaiman
 
Then again. Maybe mistakes aren’t always something to be afraid of.
 
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