note to self

ha long bay.jpg

Four years ago, after staying up all night wandering around Tokyo in a state of near constant euphoria, this occurred to me: when you’re curious about people and open to experiences, you bring the party with you. I used to think of it the other way around – that when I went out in search of good times, novelty, or adventure, I needed to find it rather than to create the optimal mental conditions to foster it. In Japan I realized that being in the right place at the right time is much less important than being in the right frame of mind to share the dormant party always living inside me with the people I meet, and to encourage them to share the party they bring along within them as well.

The most memorable example of this in Japan was when my colleague and I were having a pretty underwhelming time belting out pop songs at 2am in a karaoke room all by ourselves. As we were leaving, I ignored the voice in my head telling me that I might deeply embarrass myself, knocked on the door of a private room across the hall, and asked the handful of Japanese hipsters inside if we could join them for a song or two. They said yes and one of the most joyful ten minutes of my life followed.

It’s easy to believe in the theory of the internal party when traveling, because every situation is new and exciting. It becomes much harder when you’re following the same banal routine for months on end. Then, seeing life as one long potential party feels like a lot more of a stretch.

But returning to New York after my time abroad made me realize that the theory holds equally true for everyday life – it’s just tougher to apply. I’ve noticed that if I leave the house feeling that there’s energy everywhere just waiting to be changed from potential to kinetic, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. When I’m already enjoying a private party in my brain, I make the best connections with the most unexpectedly fascinating people at the most random moments, and they lead me to the most interesting experiences. The days when I instead dwell on the lack of a particular person in my life, or wake up feeling lonely and insecure, or wish I were in less boring surroundings, are not days that magically turn on their heads. I’m too closed off from the world on those days to allow anything transcendent in.

I recently turned 39, a scary number for me. In one year, I will officially enter middle age. Am I where I want to be? Am I on track to where I want to go? Do I feel content enough, healthy enough, connected enough? And as I live from one day to the next, am I just going through the motions or am I keeping in touch with the party in my head? More than anything else lately, that’s my hope for myself.

My birthday fell in the midst of the promise of fun new projects as well as the sadness of a loss. I felt pulled between the affirming conviction that I am a little tortoise who carries my home on my back, and the disheartening belief that when certain people are missing, nothing can replace them.

For the moment at least, the latter thoughts are fleeting. The more present sensation is of being happy to hang out with myself, and sure that there are countless exciting meetings and experiences ahead.

So happy birthday to me, and may I make the most of the next 300-something days until I’m clearly due for (another) mid-life crisis that will convince me I was full of shit when I wrote this.

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