That’s the thought I woke up with Sunday morning. I’d slept in my bed — in my own home! — for the first time in a year and a half. The kids got going at 6:30 am, per usual. We bought bagels from that place we love down the street. We showered in our own shower, using soap we bought in 2020. It felt weirdly normal. But certainly not final.
Everything is just the next thing. I want to explain this idea more here. I think you’ll find it useful in your own moments of change.
First, a quick recap for those who missed my last newsletter. I live with my family in Brooklyn. But in March of 2020, on the day that schools closed in New York, we left to take shelter with my parents in Boulder, Colorado. We thought we’d be there briefly but ended up staying for 18 months, growing comfortable in a different setting, and wondering whether we could really readjust to the Brooklyn’s space-constrained, schlep-oriented lifestyle.
We knew we would return. We own our place, we have friends here, we’d made a happy life in Brooklyn — we needed to at least give all that a chance. But when the time came to leave, my wife thought it would be too abrupt to just fly back to New York — to depart one life, and simply arrive in another one. She instead came up with a three-week road trip, where we’d see friends and family along our way back east.
Side note: We also saw this window washer in Chicago. If you’d like to brighten your day, just watch my two-year-old’s reaction.
Anyway, this trip turned out to be a brilliant decision. Instead of one abrupt change, we experienced a buffet of lifestyles: We got to imagine living in different cities, saw old friends (and their new houses), and generally embraced our place-lessness.
This past Saturday, as we finally drove into Brooklyn, I turned to my wife and said, “I feel like New York is just another stop on the trip.”
Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. We don’t know. Arriving here feels like walking into an interactive memory — as if it’s a thing from my mind that other people also inhabit. I’m sure it will eventually feel more normal. It will become a place we live rather than a placed we lived.
Throughout our time in Boulder, I kept joking to my wife that one day, we’d get into bed in Brooklyn and I’d turn to her and say, “Well, that’s over.” As if we’d just gone out to dinner. As if we’d picked the kids up at school. We left and came back: Time collapses upon itself. So on Saturday night, as we actually got into bed in Brooklyn, I actually turned to her and said, “Well…”
She laughed, knowing what’s coming.“
That’s over!” I said.
“It’s so not over,” she said.
She’s right — and I don’t just mean about us and where we live and Covid’s continued wrath and blah blah blah. I mean, everything. Everything is just the next thing.
In the past, I would have liked a greater sense of permanence: I am here. I do this. I think we all probably want that; it’s more comfortable that way. But there’s something exciting and more truthful about seeing things as part of a continuum, which they are. We don’t get to hit pause — and we shouldn’t want to, anyway.
It’s an irony of life: We often define ourselves by the past, but we are nothing without the future. Why work for something greater, if we’ll only ever have whatever we currently have? We must build for tomorrow. It’s what propels us and gives us purpose.
And so it may benefit us all — as it has for me — to more intentionally see everything we do as simply the next thing, but never the permanent thing. It should liberate us from the fear that every decision defines us, or that every failure follows us. Everything is just the next thing, in a long line of next things, and our greatest fortune in life is having as many nexts as possible.
Because who wants permanence in a world of potential?
You might think you’re bad at talking with strangers. But in fact, you were built to talk to them — and you’re more natural at it than you know. On the new episode of my podcast, we go back millions of years to learn how our cultures and even our bodies were shaped by strangers, and what that can teach us about healing today’s great divides.
I would love to know what you think! Drop me a line anytime.