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Advice From a Runaway

The past week has been reflectful for me.

Last Wednesday at my birthday party I put on a ring and disappeared into thin air. The days leading up to this disappearance were charged with emotion. Not the stress of planning; I do well with that stuff. But consider this:

If you had to leave your hometown tomorrow, what would do one last time today?

I made a short list of things to do in Minneapolis before I departed. One item was to play in the fountain with the colored lights in Downtown. It’s a nostalgic activity: years ago, when I first moved there, I did exactly that with a good friend. It was a delightful summer evening of laughter and splashing.

I’d always meant to go back and spend more evenings that way, but never got around to it.

Last week I inadvertently kept that tradition alive. Because of several last minute surprises, I had no time to play in the fountain before departing. My list remains unfinished, and probably always will.

And I’m okay with that.

Reruns and New Episodes

One of the most important things I learned about a life of adventure is that there are no guarantees on long-term plans. “Life of adventure” sounds extreme, but this applies equally to anyone who travels or moves, anyone with a career or love life, and anyone who might die tomorrow.

The fact is, the stuff you’re going to do next week or in three years? That stuff may not happen.

This isn’t just a “live life to the fullest” post though. No seize the day here. (I mean, do seize the day. But that’s 101. I’m talking advanced classes right now.)

Once you’re out there seizing the day, enjoy the day the first time you seize it.

If you’re a human being, when you find something fun you start planning repeat performances. I have to do this again! What if I brought so-and-so here? 

Following this pattern, most people collect a relatively small list of favorite places and activities, and confine all of their free time to that list. You have your favorite bar(s), favorite restaurant(s), and certain fun activities you do on certain days of the week or times of the year. And that’s it.

That hinges your happiness on the idea that things don’t change, which is false.

Instead, try treating each experience as a one-time deal. Get out of your head (where the planning is) and live in the actual world (where things happen). If something is beautiful, thrilling, sumptuous, or joyful – love it the first time.

This will make you a happier person.


22 thoughts on “Advice From a Runaway

  1. We’ve been fighting that urge over the last couple of years. We truly love Paris and have been many times individually and as a couple and family. But every time we go, we missed out on the experience of a new city or town. Every single time. No more. Next time we travel to Europe (looks like summer 2013) we will only be going to new cities. And once will be enough.

  2. monomythproject says:

    What would I do if this were the last day in my hometown?

    Hm. That is a hard one to answer. Well, not hard. Kind of simple. I am not sure I would do much of anything. I really like my city, but I guess I am not as attached to it as I thought.

  3. Too True, great advice Drew. Strangely this makes me think of how I go about eating at restaurants. Whenever I eat out at restaurants, even if it is a ‘regular place’ (I rarely eat out to begin with as once a month is considered frequent), I always try something different, my dish is never the same. Because of that personal rule, I’ve found that I enjoy certain foods that I didn’t think I’d like, and I mostly chose based on what sounds like an odd dish. Like a herbal concoction in the coating of breaded chicken topped in blueberry or papaya sauce. And oh my golly, I’ve never tasted anything that good before. Not only is it a very simple way to add some spice to your life (especially true if it is a spicy dish), it is fun and you learn more about what you really do like in life.

    • I like that system Rua. I often do the same thing, and it led me to build up my tolerance to very spicy foods way back when I was 18-19 or so. I never run out of gratitude for that decision, because it opened up a whole new world of flavor to me.

  4. everkath says:

    … perhaps it also hinges your happiness on the fact that YOU/WE dont change – which is equally false. An amazingly wise woman at the MIA said to me once “you know, the whole world changes when you change the way you feel about someone in it.” I felt this statement to be quite liberating and promising even at the same time as it could be bittersweet. Time is not a renewable resource – youre wise to embrace and celebrate the treasure of now.

  5. Kassy says:

    On my last day in my home town, I would rack my brain for a reason to stay. :-)
    For me, I am surrounded by family and friends. So long as one of them is still here, I want to be here with them. And that’s also kind of difficult because I have friends who are just about as close as family to me that live in other countries. Every day I struggle with a bit of separation anxiety. I love them so much, but until teleportation technology is developed I’ll just have to deal with it. If everyone I knew and loved died, then certainly all I would be surrounded with here are ghosts and I need to live where life is if I ever want to be happy. I will NEED new experiences. But right now, I have those people around me who change along with me and it’s wonderful to see where they go, what they do, and what shapes their lives and mine.
    But you are right, life does change. So do we. There’s no stopping that. You have no control over that, and you will at some point have to buck up and confront those changes and be mindful of how they effect you.
    You just have to make choices. They’re not always easy and many of them demand courage even when your heart is breaking.
    Life will undoubtedly provide me with more sadness and joys. I’m okay with taking it slow while I know I’ve got something really good. I’m savoring these moments. And when change comes… I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

    • Thanks for sharing that Kassy, that is truly beautiful. Savoring the moments – that is exactly what I meant by “love it the first time.”

      So here is a question for you (hypothetical perhaps). You are so happy with the friends that surround you – but what if you have moved somewhere else when you left home? Wouldn’t you have found friends there, too? And is it worth never meeting those people, to stay where you are with the ones you’ve got?

      This is an open question – I’m not sure what the answer is. But I’d love to hear what you think.

  6. You know, I do this in kind of a roundabout way by telling myself the exact opposite. “We can come back” is a mantra my husband and I use when we are all too aware of the limits of our time and energy in a special place. It lets us enjoy whatever we choose to do wholeheartedly, without fretting that there are other things we “should” be doing or that making a different choice that morning might have led to greater happiness. Saying that we may choose the other path sometime in the future frees us to say “This is our adventure today, and we will pursue it without regret” – even if we never do go back!

  7. Last day in somewhere I’ve lived for over 6 months: generally, finish packing while extremely hung over. Swear to never, ever, ever drink absinthe and vodka in the same evening, much less absinthe and anything else. Get one last coffee drink at my favorite local place and head for the airport.

    Last days are really too late to do anything.

    • So I learned! Though I kind of knew it would be that way. I had planned the preceding weekend to be my relaxation time before the storm hit, but it got taken up by lots of last-minute changes.

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  9. Pingback: The Tragic Joy of the Heroic Life « Rogue Priest

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