A little while ago I applied for what I thought would be the perfect job for me. It was a job in the game industry, and hence everything that I had always dreamed about. Plus, it was in Boston, where I lived, meaning that I could stop working from home in the remote position I’d been in for the past year and a half. I went through a fairly arduous interview process—all told probably something like 15 hours of projects and interviews—and was ultimately offered a job. In New York. Not Boston, as I’d expected. Apparently, during the last week of their decision-making, they’d also decided that they wanted to move the whole office to New York. “If you want to come to New York City, the job is yours.”
I was thrown into a turmoil. I tried to bargain with them, asking if I could work remotely, or come for a week each month and stay with my parents and commute the hour and a half from their house in Connecticut. Furthermore, I considered it: I talked with realtors, spoke with my friends that lived in the city, specced out costs for moving companies, even went so far as to have their pricing people come to our house and spit out the dollar signs for how much things like our bed, our books, our records would cost to transport. I say “our” because there’s a person that I haven’t mentioned yet, that plays a pretty large part in this: my husband.
When I first told my husband, he said “No, absolutely not, what about my job?” While one of my closest girlfriends, the only other person I had told thus far, said “Of course you have to go! It’s an adventure! Be brave! You’re too young to say no to something like this, plus you hate Boston.”
She was right. I did hate Boston. For the whole 5 years that I’d lived there, I’d struggled to make friends, struggled to be happy. It was a cold city with even colder people—the type of people that would look at you funny if you smiled at them on public transit, or would think you were crazy if you talked to them at a bar. For years I’d been begging my husband to move, to move anywhere but Boston—Ireland, Texas, California, Portland—I would take anything besides our dingy apartment with the temperamental lights and the heating that didn’t work.
The word “brave” resonated with me. Of course I wanted to be brave, I didn’t want to miss out on all those fun, exciting opportunities, did I? Did I want to be the person that looked back on my life when I was old and grey and questioned what could have been, and if I’d really lived up to my full potential?
When I got to thinking about it (and, of course, talking about it with my friends), was it really braver to go to a whole new city and live a whole new life, or try to stay in the same place and hold on to what I’d built and was still building? In this new world, with everyone giving up their “normal” jobs and becoming fine purveyors of homemade kombucha (or whatever other niche hobby they’ve decided to pursue as a career), couldn’t it be braver to say yes to the same bagel shop every Sunday? And yes to working through the job that might be tough now, but has been great before and will likely be great again?
In yoga, which I do almost religiously, we are taught that when we are in a really deep pose it may start to ache or hurt, and our mind may start to wander to dinner, to that argument we had earlier. In those moments, it’s important to stay put, to really recognize and understand why you are feeling what you are feeling and, rather than fidget to try to make it easier, ride it out and deal with the sensations. You will be stronger for staying than you would be for going.
I find this same mentality coming back to me in moments like this, where I consider moving to another city and the exciting things that it might bring in direct juxtaposition to the hotdogs my husband and I get every Friday, the yoga class I take with my friends Stella and Lauren on Mondays and Thursdays, the quiet traditions that have started to become foundational in my life.
When I was younger, I was a drug addict—amphetamines, specifically—which meant that every day was spent flitting from one place to the next, trying to find the next big exciting thing. I was always saying “yes” to anything that was offered: sex, a new drug, a trip to a new place, a new relationship. It kept my life very exciting and interesting; I was never bored or wanting for new experiences. Bravery, during my addiction, recovery, and the subsequent four clear years since, has been an important measuring stick to judge my successes and quality of life. The bravery to move to Boston for graduate school, the bravery to say yes to any opportunities that arose, the bravery to get my ass to the altar and marry my husband even though I could never promise to be stable enough for both of us to depend on. But these are all different kinds of bravery, and as I grow older I find myself leaning away from the kind that invigorates me like icy water, and more towards the kind that comforts me, like a warm hearth.
Why do we think that to be brave we have to entirely shift our world and flip its on its head? If we live our lives always trying to fly towards the next best thing, grabbing on to that shooting star of our ideal life, how are we meant to appreciate what we have right now? Couldn’t it be more brave to admit “Yep, this boring life with the dirty laundry on the floor that I will definitely be bringing to the laundry lady on the corner this Saturday (because I’ve done it every Saturday for the past two years), is what I want. This is where I’m supposed to be.” Doesn’t that shake the status quo of dreamers and doers and all the people I know that are working from Bermuda or the Bahamas or careening with frenetic energy towards the Should Be Doing? Why is that not brave? In the face of opportunity and bounty and Great Options, maybe staying with what you have, with the discomfort and broken lights and corner hotdog stands, really is what makes you brave.
I haven’t decided, yet, whether we will be moving to New York. I’m sitting in a discomfort that goes against everything in my being and trying to calculate all the options. I am looking first instead of just jumping into the unknown, which is half of the fear: when you know what you’re jumping into ahead of time, doesn’t that make it more scary? I’m considering all things, bravery being just one of them, and hoping, just as all of us do, that in the end I’ll be right.