29 November 2013


I think about leaving. Watch the verb modality--I'm not saying "I'm thinking of leaving". I think of leaving as I check listings house listings on Redfin. I think of leaving as I look for adoptable dogs. I think of leaving as I sign up for runs months in advance. The way I think about leaving is thoroughly half-assed.

But I do think about leaving Seattle, this city that I really like very much. This is, in all likelihood, the best place I've ever lived. When I think about leaving, I don't think of returning to a place I've lived before. I'd leave to live in some city I've never even been to before. And that factor is really important, because it gets me closer to living up to my potential.

Now "living up to one's potential" sounds like some bullshit, but I'm going to assert it's some real measurable thing in my mind. Fulfilling one's potential involves a strange sort of retroactive satisfaction with one's accomplishments--a sort of 'I really actually did that?". It's a departure from one's comfort zone. It's a way I feel about first moving to Seattle. I only knew one person, but I've since built up a reasonably sized network of friends that I genuinely care for. To do this involved a pretty radical change in character, a willingness to plan, a comfort with asking people who I'd talked to once to join us for beer, and accepting the possibility of spending a Friday in a bar with only a newspaper and a bartender for company.

But with a group of friends in place, I don't really feel I can do such things anymore. It's not just I wouldn't care for it, my mental approach has shifted and I when I meet new people I don't actively think about converting these chance meetings to friendships, as I used to do. Moving isn't the only way to reawaken this feeling, but I'm not sure there's anything like it.

So I've thought, if I really wanted to live up to this ideal of maximizing potential, I'd move around a lot. Aside from the finding relentless pursuit of personal best to be somewhat obnoxious, the problem with that is that it forces the deprivation of another important feeling: comfort. Being in a familiar place, a very nice familiar place at that, brings a very real satisfaction. Having to seek out new people, having to worry about the process of furthering acquaintances to friends, that's incredibly tiring for me. As much as I'd like to, I derive considerable comfort from not having to.

But the real point here is that neither making moves to live to one's potential nor the comfort of continuity are more important or better than the other. It's stupid and ultimately dissatisfying to optimize entirely for a single one. The dependent variable is happiness, and it depends on both (and to be fair, many more things). Happiness is what's important, and that comes from maintaining the correct balance of the underlying factors.

I'm just rethinking the ratio a bit and I don't think there's any harm in that. Maybe the balance has swung too heavily one way, and needs a push in the other direction.


  1. Anonymous5/1/14 17:48

    Traveling can also bring some of that feeling.

  2. Definitely agree to some extent, though when I travel I find the fact that there's an end date gives me less of an incentive to push myself out of my comfort zone.

    That being said, I probably should travel more, because it would at very least help a little!!