Do You Need Variety Or Certainty?

“My job is so stressful, I developed an eye twitch,” said the woman next to me at the bar. She was dressed expensively- gold jewelry and high heels. She worked in the city of San Diego, commuted an hour, and now sat at the bar with a much needed glass of wine.

It was April 2017. Four months earlier, I had left San Francisco, and started traveling the United States. In April I found myself down in Southern California, where it was hot and beautiful. Exceptionally green from the torrential rains earlier in the year. San Diego was a paradise of perfect weather, blue skies and palm trees.

As I sat next to the woman at the bar, I was living briefly in small rural town 45 minutes inland from the city of San Diego. It was a farm and vineyard area. Lots of wineries. Very little town. Not a whole lot going on. But there was wine.

She talked to me about her stress. She told me she hated her job. I told her I had quit my job, and I was traveling the country and lived on the road. I said I was basically just passing through the area.

Oh, that was something she had always wanted to do – but, maybe later. Maybe one day that could happen. Maybe after she retired. You are smart, she said, for not waiting. For doing it now. You’re ahead of the game. She called down to the man at the end of the bar. Listen to what she is doing, she told him. He also said how that was something he had always wanted to do. But, later. Maybe after he retired.

There the three of us sat, one evening in a small town. Each having a glass of wine, talking about our lives. Oh my god, I wanted to tell them to go, live the life they wanted to live. Why wait? What is the point of putting off the life you want to live for a later time, so that you can be miserable in the present time? If what you are doing isn’t working for you, it is possible to do something different. It’s easier than you think.

But – there is also the balance. To live a full life, we humans have need for both stability and change. We have a need for both variety and certainty.

There is obviously a lot of stability and certainty in staying in a situation we know well, even if it is a miserable one. We know what to expect from our days, our routines, our feelings. There is something in our human nature that is drawn to that. Unless we actively try to do something different, we may even begin to travel a smaller and smaller space in our neighborhood. We will carve a routine, walk or drive the same routes, until we are just going through them mindlessly. We will even take solace and comfort in our miseries and depressions. Our unhappiness becomes familiar. We know our unhappiness well. In some way, our misery serve a purpose. Our miseries help us create an identity, and letting go of our misery means letting go of who we are. How scary.

Traveling long term provides me variety and change. But it provides almost nothing of my desires for stability and certainty. Some day I will want to figure out how to do both- how to stay and go at the same time. Balance.

If you give in only to your desires for certainty and stability, you may reach the point where you will even accept unhappiness and misery. If you are living only for the weekend, or for “later” and “maybe someday”, and your body is breaking down from stress at your job, is it worth it?

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