Rutherford, New Jersey, USA
31.03.2006 - 31.03.2006
“Cathy I'm lost I said though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come to look for America”
America, Simon and Garfunkel
My sister recently said she thought I drank too much and that I was spending my time running away from something by all the travel I am doing.
So I took a shot of tequila and flew to New Jersey.
I do think she has a point on the drinking. There have been a few Sunday mornings when I have crawled out of bed and thought that my life would probably be better if I hadn’t had those last few drinks.
The running away comment, that’s more complex to address. I remember back in July of 2000 when I first got my job at BearingPoint (then known as KPMG Consulting). It had been a bad couple of years prior to getting the job at BearingPoint. I had just left a job that I didn’t like so much that I was pretty sure it was making my physically ill. My stress level certainly was quite high. I was still dealing with the death of my mother less than a year earlier, and my family was in transition as they learnt to interact in “the new normal.” I was out of shape. I was having trouble with relationships – both with women (which hasn’t changed) and also with my friends. I was angry a lot of the time.
All very different problems, but all connected in a very important way. They all took place in Toronto. The air was heavy with the ghosts of my recent past. I felt trapped in the city. I felt like I wanted to change, that I wanted to be a different person than I was, but it was too hard. It’s much easier to just fall into familiar roles when confronted with familiar people and places then it is to try and change. It’s too confusing for the people you deal with and it’s too confusing for you.
I was asked to get on a plane and fly to Denver for a short project. I stepped off that plane and felt like a heavy weight was lifted off my shoulders. Denver was geographically and architectural different than Toronto, with it’s mountain backdrop, lack of significant bodies of water, wide streets and shining sunshine. Nothing looked the same, and I didn’t know a soul. I was free to act however I wanted to, not to just fall into the familiar roles of the past. It allowed me to re-invent myself completely.
So I cultivated being away from Toronto, finding opportunities to extend my 8 week initial project into 8 months of living as a new person in a new city.
Of course, change isn’t easy. And the person I became in Denver, while suiting me for a time, ended up being a self-destructive, self-loathing nitwit. So, I jetted off to a new city (this time San Antonio) and a new persona. And then I went to Montreal, and St. Louis, and San Francisco, and South America, and Atlanta, and Africa, and Paris, each time tweaking the person I wanted to be a little more. Each time trying new things, and each time learning a little bit more about the person I want to be.
Returning to Toronto for periods after each trip, I would find the ghosts filling the city less and less. Changing the way I related with my friends and family was easier as the distance of space and time had lessened the pressure to fall into familiar roles. And the places and spaces of the city didn’t hold the emotional resonance that they had in the past.
Perhaps now I have become too comfortable running. Perhaps it’s too easy now to jump on a plane and head off to some exotic locale or some less than exotic work location than it is to try and build a life in Toronto. But then again, perhaps this travel allows me to grow more quickly as a person than I would dealing with a daily routine in Toronto. Maybe, when the situation you are in is getting you down, it’s not such a failure to pick up and run. Maybe that’s the best way to win.
Now, if I can just say no to that last beer next Friday night.