Sometimes you’ve just gotta say enough is enough, and make your move.
Thinking back on two and a half decades spent in the Pacific Northwest, it’s nearly impossible to discern one dreary winter from the next. When the transition from autumn to spring amounts to what is essentially one long wet season spanning nearly nine months, memories are best made tied to something other than the weather.
Though one February day in 2008 does stand out, like an umbrella-wielding tourist among a sea of Gore-Tex clad Portlanders. Sitting in my ground floor apartment gazing out the den window, I distinctly remember being unable to recall a single recent point in which it had not been raining. That is to say, measurable precipitation had fallen from the sky at such a rate and with such regularity that not one mental image of a clear sky was conjure-up-able. The thought made me shudder—that something so intrusive and arguably unpleasant had become so commonplace that it established itself as a constant rather than an anomaly. Such is the way in Oregon, and the region in general, I must have told myself. It’s time for a vacation, is what I should have told myself.
In NYC the scene is different, and with that comes a whole ‘nother set of seasonal issues. Having said that, nothing is as pervasive as the fact that this city is in fact inhabited by the busiest people on planet earth. I mean, you wouldn’t believe how busy I am—and that pales in comparison to how busy my colleagues are, or how busy their friends are, or how busy their bodega man is. It’s really a wonder anything gets done with so much talk of how much everyone has to do.
And this matters why? Well, because the key to surviving in a city like NYC—or really any place that inspires such devotion—is knowing when it’s time to hit pause. Now is the whole bit about the NW starting to makes sense? It’s these little lightning strikes that hit without warning and leave no explanation as to their occurrence that we must be tuned into. Like a message from Gmail that your inbox is approaching max capacity, these lucid realizations are your mind’s way of telling you to chill, man.
You may in fact enjoy working 12 hour days for weeks at a time—amazingly enough this is very much a thing, I myself am one of those sorry suckers—though such marathon thinking cannot go on forever, even if it feels like it can.
Being burned out is not exclusive to city dwellers, though it is easiest to associate it with us. When it hits you that you’ve stood in that exact corner of that exact train car each morning for as far as you can remember—or when the lady at your favorite juice spot knows that this much is the right amount of ginger, and that much is too much—it may be time to get the hell out of dodge. Even in the self imposed isolation of Walden Pond, Thoreau felt disenchanted when in time his own feet had tread distinct trails around the property, created by the very repetition he had hoped to escape.
Value comes from the act of deserting, regardless of duration or destination. Putting “life” on hold, if even for a single day, can be rejuvenating. It’s okay to be selfish. Hell, it’s important to be, on occasion. No one knows what’s going on inside your noodle but you. With this in mind, not only do I encourage leaving the city from time to time, I suggest we take every single open opportunity to do so. Preemptive care is the most effective form of treatment. Or so says my dentist. But then again, he also recommends flossing. And who has time for that?
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