Those who know me also know that I hate the cliché “It is what it is.” Maybe hate is a strong word; I never really understood it. What is it really saying? If I ask you what something is and you respond with, “It is what it is,” don’t expect gratitude for your over-simplified clarification. Very slowly read it aloud to yourself and contemplate its meaning: It. Is. What. It. Is.
Nope, don’t get it. But at this point in my life, I had undoubtedly reached a crossroads. All I could really do was throw my hands in the air and simply confess that it was what it was. I wasn’t moving to NYC. I wasn’t going to retain my job, which had provided some incredible benefits and opportunities but would prove to be just another brief stint on my cluttered résumé. What other choice did I have but to plow ahead and to embrace the challenges staring at me point-blank, as if to intimidate me into a merciless surrender.
My initial decision to move to NYC was complicated and not just for the obvious family reasons. I had been dating my girlfriend at the time for nearly four years. When most people are presented with an opportunity to move far away, at the cost of leaving a loved one behind, I’m going to assume that most shy away. I think it says something that I was willing to transfer from Wisconsin — not even a discussion about what it meant for “us.” In fact, the conversations she and I had centered on whether NYC was a good fit for me, if it was a smart choice. We identified the pros and cons. We made lists, all the while saying that if we were meant to work out, we’d work out. That’s another saying I never fully comprehended. As if relationships and life don’t require any effort. If it’s meant to be, voila! It’ll be.
Many lists later, her stance hadn’t changed. Her theory was that NYC and I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) get along. We were just too different. A country mouse and a city mouse. Ironically, she and I were destined for the same course.
Deep inside I think we both realized that our relationship was borderline destructive to our personalities and the independence we both needed to assert ourselves as the people we had become.
We were suffocating one another. We had robbed one another of life’s joy. We had become the epitome of a communication-less, intimacy-starved relationship. Love had been replaced by sarcasm. Hand-holding had been sacrificed for “you do your thing, I’ll do mine.” The comforting warmth of our bodies all but an annoyance, with two separate beds now in the equation.
Moving to NYC could be a solution to our little problem. I’d move out voluntarily (the house was hers), and she wouldn’t have to ask me to leave — something I later learned she had been wrestling with for some time. But when the original plan derailed, thanks to my boss’s indecision which led to her ultimate decision, the unspoken, yet mutual agreement backfired. We were back where we had started, and the elephant in the room was more prominent this time, as if he had taken up a bad smoking habit. The elephant also began wearing drag, stopped bathing, and began speaking to me in a condescending tone, “Dude, I’m not going anywhere. Maybe you should. It is what it is.”
Right about this time is when I started recalling a favorite self-help book that (ironically) this same girlfriend had given me years ago. In The Comfort Trap, or What If You’re Riding a Dead Horse, author Judith Sills’ basic premise is that we all come to moments in life when we know the grass is greener on the other side (I actually like that saying). An unfulfilling job. An unfaithful marriage. A betrayed friendship. All things that require change, shedding the past for an improved future. In those cases, we’re likely riding a dead horse, and we all know that gets us nowhere.
However, to get where you want to go requires effort. It means climbing a steep wall to get to the greener pastures of the better side. That’s more energy than most are willing to exert, despite knowing we could be much happier over there. That effort will ultimately be painstaking and uncomfortable, and that’s where most get caught in the comfort trap. We become complacent. We dream and nothing more, “Tomorrow is a new day.” But tomorrow is more of the same. Over time, we grow numb to reality, become OK with the status quo, accept mediocrity. We fly the white flag to admit defeat. And then we die.
I had reached one of those pivotal moments in my life. A personal watershed moment. It had appeared that my own comfort trap was being called into question by the universe. The stars were aligning perfectly, pointing to my inevitable decision to move out regardless of NYC. I couldn’t resist the summons to break free from my comfort trap. And so I told my girlfriend that I was going to start looking for my own place.
Finding new digs didn’t take too long either. Within weeks I had signed a one-year lease to rent a modest condominium from a kind-hearted Grecian named Pennie.