Growing up in a suburb of Harvard University, I imagined that life was some kind of an escalator, and once you stepped aboard, maybe after college, or even before, you just kept going up and up and up, a nonstop ascent to the top. The top of what, I didn’t really ask myself. I also didn’t ask myself if the escalator I was riding was traveling at the right pace for me (have you ever experienced the sheer terror of the steep, speedy escalators in the Budapest metro?), or if I was on the correct escalator, or if I even wanted to be on an escalator at all.
While it’s exciting to ascend quickly, and I certainly appreciate these conveyances at airports and train stations, sometimes there is more to see and learn on a slower journey, either on a flat or inclined surface, or through one’s own internal experience. In a culture that celebrates speed and continuous progress, or at least the appearance thereof, people who prefer the stairs might be viewed as wasting time. And then there are the people who leave the building altogether, leaving the escalator riders scratching their heads.
Through multiple career changes and geographic relocation, I’ve often found myself at the bottom of different staircases, looking up at the people closer to the top, convincing myself I wanted to be like them, or to have what I imagined they had. And often, after ascending part of the way and peeking at what lay in store, I’ve turned around, in search of something else, while the voice in my head berated me for once again picking the “wrong” staircase. On other occasions, I’ve achieved something that I truly believed would catapult me to greater satisfaction but, after the initial euphoria wore off, nothing had fundamentally changed. Sometimes, I even felt worse. Over time, I’ve come to understand that, in life, there are no escalators or stairs, or elevators for that matter (although teleportation might be possible…). Unlike the well worn trails on the mountains I now regularly climb, there is no obvious path. There is simply beginning again, and again, in each moment. It’s up to me whether to perceive this as terrifying or exciting, frustrating or reassuring, a burden or an opportunity.
As I begin blogging, again, after a long hiatus, the voice is telling me — yes, right now! — that I’ve chosen the “wrong” blog name, the “wrong” concept, the “wrong” topic to write about, etc. It’s telling me I need to focus, have a singular message, tweet like mad if I want to get on the “right” blogging escalator, the one that will whisk me to the “right” readers on the mezzanine level, the advertisers on the second floor and the publishers in the penthouse. It’s subtle, seductive and believable, because it seems to have my best interest at heart, protecting me from potential “mistakes”, failure and ridicule. It’s the disasterizing chorus of resistance and of perfectionism and, having recognized these rascals, I think I will escort the duo to a muzak-filled elevator, close the doors and cut the cable.
Aah! Much better.
Welcome to à la carte spirit, where who (the bleep) knows what will next appear on the menu.