There is a saying about having the best-laid plans that pretty much concludes that you can’t plan for ridiculousness, which I am a huge advocate of. I’ve never been the kind of person who has been able to make strict life plans and keep them (get married by this age, have kids by that, et cetera). I think that the idea is at least having a plan B (or acknowledging that one exists, whether you want to use it or not). But sometimes, there simply is no plan.
I lived in NYC for close to six years, but I probably spent more than half of that time exploring outside of the city. Kurt and I were having dinner with Boulder friends, Katie Bono and Ben Chapman, this past spring when Katie asked me about New York. I said, “You couldn’t pay me to move back to NYC.” I loved my time there and I thought it was an important chapter in my life, but I said that I would never move back.
“Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft” – not Kurt Vonnegut
Well, Kurt was offered a really good job with PBS and we’d been doing long distance on and off for the better part of a year. It was enough to know that we could do it but didn’t necessarily want to anymore. Deep down, I knew that moving to NYC to be with Kurt was going to be another important chapter, for both of us, and I didn’t want to miss it. People asked me if it was a hard decision to move back to New York, and truthfully it was not. The city makes sense to me. When I walk outside, I look around the bustling streets filled with commuters, mothers pushing baby strollers, packs of dogs trotting en masse, cyclists whizzing by with sushi and flower deliveries, and suddenly it all makes sense to me. I think to myself, “Oh this is what the inside of my brain looks like.”
Coming back to the place where I started my journey has been a humbling experience. When I first left, I had a case of the “big fish in a small pond”. I had much to explore in the world out west, both in my climbing and within myself. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I was “ready” for a departure, but life (much like climbing) can be a constant lesson where you are in too far over your head and figure things out. I didn’t know it then, but that was the whole point.
John Long says of The Nose, you are never ready for The Big Stone. Nobody really can be until after it’s finished. But putting off changes and trying things to play it safe will never make you more secure; it will only make you less so. It’s a very human thing to feel uncomfortable with uncertainty–it’s the reason why people find themselves in marriages that leave them lonely, jobs that they dislike, and situations they feel “stuck” in.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” – Henry David Thoreau (also not Vonnegut)
But when you’re committed to making any kind of change, uncertainty is inevitable. There is less fear of it when you can embrace the unknown. I told Kurt, much like city living, when you can embrace the shittiness of it all, you can start to see some its beauty.
Life will always throw the unexpected your way–you can’t plan for anything but you can certainly plan on that. It’s what makes it heartbreaking and wonderful in the same breath. You are never really ready and generally speaking, now is as good a time as any. There is a difference between having a plan for everything and being prepared–prepare for the job interview of your dreams. Train for the alpine expedition of a lifetime. Whatever you do and whatever the outcome, what matters most is that the end of every adventure leaves you inspired.