Adulthood is learning that normal everyday things you take for granted are very, very, expensive. And difficult to choose. I realized there are a million different kinds of mattresses – springs, hybrids, hot-or-cold-sleepers, memory foam, all other sorts of foam. As the anxious shopper I am, I laid down one night and watched hours of mattress review videos to find the perfect mattress. All of this research was pretty useless because by the time my new mattress unfurled and was fully laid out, I knew that I would love it purely because I had chosen it.
A realization hit me that first night I lay on it, with one amber lamp dimly lit, the cool breeze seeping through the blinds: This is the latest version of myself. This is the new baseline. This is how I approach the world now, on my little floating balcony over San Francisco. I can hear my neighbor's soft chatter rising like warmth in the air. Hayao Miyazaki: To exist here, now, means to lose the possibility of being countless other potential selves. I think about this all the time: how the self I am now is different from all my other potential selves just by virtue of being physically here and not anywhere else. There are consequences to that decision, but again, choosing is the hardest part. After that, you learn to love it. As they say: “wherever you go, there you are." That quote is meant to come from Confucius but the actual Mandarin translation ends up being “wherever you go, go with all your heart." Either way you read it is pretty beautiful.
The hopeful thing about new places is that there are no defaults set yet. No familiar spaces, no regular haunts. I love living in a state of no defaults. There's only the glimmering promise of making new memories, ones that are bright and tender and kind. We are cradled and distracted by the logistics surrounding new moves – spanking new appliances and long Amazon prime day receipts and an August that feels like it will live forever. A few of us helped my best friend from high school move into her new apartment in New York and we ordered Korean soups and stews and ate it all off of the box her mattress came in as if it were a communal family table. Everything is a makeshift piece of furniture in a new place, just like everything new is an immediate substitute for something familiar. Even upon meeting people for the first time, we slot them into archetypes of people we've known before. Oh, you remind me so much of X. But that type of comparison is never useful at all. You cannot live off of a makeshift understanding of new people, the same way that you cannot live off of a mattress-box-table forever. People aren't formulas or a bunch of character traits bundled together. They are variable, complex, and profoundly lovable because of it. I tell myself: you must open yourself up to understanding people from scratch once again.
I sit on the roof, curled up. I watch the sun dip and spill over the fog that descends over SF at night. The houses are shrouded in this glorious, sun-lit haze. We‘re entering a new era of life on this quiet night, where every year is still a decision to stay or leave, where the furniture is still affordable enough to be considered impermanent. Yet, earnestly, we hang up the paintings, organize the bookshelf, try to make the place feel like a home. You might stay in the place you're in for a brief few years, or you might blink and see it morph into a decade. It might be New York or San Francisco or London or Singapore or it could simply be wherever you currently exist in the world. This feeling of living within the unknown is specific, but not particular to anywhere at all. Someone somewhere remembers it, someone somewhere is living in it.
So I lie on my new mattress which is as structural as it is soft. If I close my eyes, I could be in any room that I've ever rested, worked, relaxed, argued, cleaned, laughed, slept, in. Every room is the same, every mattress is the same: a snapshot of a life, a messy echo of your body, a trace outline of everything you love at this very moment. You'll want to remember this room but even as you try to memorize it you understand that not much of this will last forever – most of what you know to be true and perfect now will yield to new discoveries, beliefs and growth.
Change always exists in paradoxes for me. This is the year of meeting new people. This is the year of being alone. I want everything to change and yet I want nothing to change at all. I feel so different, I feel exactly the same. Continuity and transformation always travel together.
Maybe more than anything, welcoming change is about letting go. Packing light. Squishing your little, leaky heart into the luggage in the overhead compartment until you finally have the space to set it gently down. The doors to the plane open, and without vertigo, you step into this feeling once again. Wherever you go, go with all your heart. Oh, I am trying to. I really am.