Shifting Gears

Living in an RV was one of the best things I could have possibly done for the eight or so years I did it. It allowed me freedom, both physical and financial, made it easy for me to travel, forced me to become minimalist, and taught me a lot. If I were still living in an RV today, that would probably be a mistake.

When I moved to LA for a year to learn how to date, I was out in clubs nearly every night. I dressed crazy and had few obligations that weren’t social. I grew tremendously as a person during that time, but I couldn’t be more glad that I’m not doing it anymore.

In 2008 I had a backpack worth of stuff and I left the US for nine months on a backpacking trip around the world. I don’t know any other way I could have gained the perspective and learned as much as I did, but my possessions can’t fit in a bag anymore and I’m in the US almost every month.

Those are three examples, but I could go on for days about all of the things that I did, especially things that defined who I was, that I no longer do. I don’t regret any of them, but I am simultaneously glad that I am no longer doing them.

When you drive a manual car, you generally start in first gear. This is a perfect gear to start in, because it can get you going from a stop and you smoothly accelerate to a low speed. Then, all of a sudden, first gear is no longer a good gear to be in. It holds you back by limiting your speed and the high RPMs can make the ride jerky. You have to shift into second gear, and the process repeats itself.

This is also true in real life. Very often you can find the perfect habit or work or lifestyle or attitude that gets you from point A to point B, but as soon as you get to point B it is no longer correct for you.

Some people resist this. These are the forty year olds who are still talking about what great athletes they were in college. They were to afraid to let go of their old identities, so they never built new ones. It’s comfortable to keep doing what you’ve been doing, especially when it’s been working for you.

Your attitude should really be the opposite. You should aim to outgrow your identity that you have now. That doesn’t mean that what you’re doing right now isn’t amazing, it’s just recognizing that you will grow as a person and that the world will change, and that you have the capability to adjust to that.

Not every shift is drastic, by the way. I didn’t go from being totally minimalist to a packrat. I kept the parts of it that were working, like wearing the same clothes every day, but left behind the parts that weren’t serving me anymore. I don’t go to clubs or chat up girls anymore, but I am still much more social than I was before that phase.

Embrace who you are and give it all of your effort, but when you can see that it’s no longer the right gear for you, don’t be afraid to shift.

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Photo is The Vessel in New York, weird staircase that goes to nowhere but looks really cool.

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