An Essay on Adaptability

Embracing Change: My Experience Moving Across Country

When I was 19, I was studying at the University of Texas at San Antonio, with a major in Psychology; I was working at Borders Books, Music, and Café, and as a Barista at a Starbucks on I-10, and I was starting to get nervous about where my life was headed. I didn’t grow up in a household that inspired me to live or to pursue my passion, my formidable years were very much about being “practical,” we were encouraged by our hobbies, sure, but to devout enough time to them to develop them, we were led to believe, would be a waste. And so, I sought to find interests elsewhere. Regardless of how much effort I put into those interests, I always struggled to play that game, and in so many different ways:  … My greatest struggle is that no one else seemed to understand, my family, most of my friends, girlfriends, an ex-wife, and I didn’t know how to explain it. I spent most of my childhood pushing those thoughts and ideas, feelings and perspectives, away, and then keeping them away. I wasn’t able to access them when I needed to, when I needed them to help make people understand. Because not only had I not developed the means, I actively ignored that artistic side of me; it’s like when you know a thing, but when you try to explain it, as the words are coming out, in that moment, you realize that there’s something missing, as if a feeling was a bridge, or an ingredient that couldn’t be expressed verbally.  

          I dropped out of school during my third year, I quit my jobs, and I packed my ‘99 Honda Civic, and I started driving west down I-10. In New Mexico I started north, either by accident or intuition, I couldn’t say now. I explored Las Cruces, Truth or Consequences, Albuquerque, and Gallup, and continued on through southwest Colorado; Durango, Cortez, and then on into southern Utah; heading north exploring Moab, and Salt Lake City. I was driving on I-15, north, into Idaho, and in Pocatello I stopped. I stayed in the motel a second night, and then a third, and after a week I started looking for an apartment. I found a room in an old 1900’s historic apartment building, along the southern Idaho train route, and then I took a job maintaining a packaging machine for a potato processing plant's graveyard shift.

One weekend a few months later, I was sitting in a coffeehouse in downtown Idaho Falls, and on a napkin, I started writing about walking around the downtown area, about the Blood & Ink exhibit at the Museum of Idaho, and about the coffeehouse, and I left it under my mug on the counter where I was sitting. The next time that I was in the Villa the owners recognized me, they shared that they had found and read what I had written, and suggested I publish it in the Idaho Falls Magazine. I reached out to the magazine’s publisher, and my travelogue was printed in the following issue of Idaho Falls Magazine. That was the beginning of an on again, off again relationship with a writing career.

          My passion, the one that hid way down deep inside as a child, was for writing; I often wrote little stories and poetry when I was younger, but I never developed it. When I was old enough to explore my passion, I didn’t know how to go about it, and I believed that by developing my writing I would be doing something wrong.

          I continued to dabble with writing over the next several years, even writing some for magazines, newspapers, and literary journals, but I never seriously pursued it. Over the next several years, I made a “career” working in a half dozen different bookstores, I even had my own bookstore for a time; I oversaw the marketing for an art gallery, served as a tour guide and host on an excursion train, managed a health food store, input date for a publishing company, and worked as a night attendant at one of Anthony Bourdain’s top ten favorite hotels worldwide. I have lived in California, Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas, Idaho, Utah, New York [City], New Mexico, and Montana; I lived on the streets of New York City for a few months.

          One of many things that I learned, and one of the great lessons of life, is to adapt. It’s not easy for us to surrender to an unknown, and to do something uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Our brains prefer familiarity to change. And that’s why anything new, especially if it’s exceedingly so, is so uncomfortable, and nearly impossible to even imagine. The best things that happen in life happen when we open ourselves up to chance, and I know how impassible and uncertain that feels. When we are vulnerable, we’re allowing ourselves to explore our strengths in ways that open up opportunities that might otherwise only seem like fantasy. This is a major theme in Paulo Coelho’s novel, The Alchemist. A novel about change and growth in search of our “personal legend,” or, as Joseph Campbell puts it, “following your bliss.”

          Knowing a thing as opposed to believing a thing, especially if what that means is to learn to believe in yourself, and to learn what you’re capable of, allows, truly, for unparalleled opportunity. It’s difficult—extremely difficult, though not impossible—to know a thing without first experiencing it. Many people go through two, maybe three life-changing events in their lives, and far fewer people are actually aware of both the effects, and the personal benefit that these events have on our lives, and whatever possible growth might very well be wasted. We also learn, through the experience of learning to become adaptable, the differences in the way people think, and behave, and act, and react, and live, even if only in subtle ways, and ways that open up our minds and our hearts to empathy and compassion that can only be learned through experience. I know now that I can do anything, because when I’m confronted with those choices I need only to surrender myself to whatever option might be the most difficult, because it usually is also the option that feels the most right.

          So, you know, “sell your flock”—everything that you have ever known—buy a ticket to the unknown, immerse yourself in it entirely; especially when you find yourself standing in the market alone, and with no money, nowhere to go, and no concept of the language or the culture. That’s the time to keep walking, and be open to what, and where, your higher self might be guiding you, that’s not the time to give up, because, at the very least, that’s when you are the most likely to develop new skills, learn new languages, and to explore new ideas. And, on a side note, don’t give up on your passion, because your passion is never impractical, you just might have to adapt your passion to fit the game; play the game, don’t let the game play you. 

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