Word on the street is that Anthony Bourdain has been prowling around Philadelphia in search of good eats for his show The Layover--where he stops in various cities for 24-48 hours and eats and sees as much as he can. If you don't know who Anthony Bourdain is, stop everything and watch the Travel Channel On Demand and dig up old episodes of his other amazing show--No Reservations. In that one, he travels to far reaches of the globe--think Tanzania to Shanghai--and eats his way through cities with locals that share with him their homeland's culinary finest--from street vendors to 22 course chef's tastings.
What makes Bourdain different than other travel writers and television show hosts is his attitude. It stinks. He is surly, jittery from tons of coffee--or perhaps from a night of drinking moonshine made by a Thai man in a house on stilts. He hates everyone (especially Gwyneth Paltrow because she doesn't eat pork), and isn't afraid to say so. And while those qualities wouldn't typically recommend a person, they are what make Bourdain relatable and totally entertaining. It works because you know that despite his disdain for all things pop and bubblegum, he is probably a huge softy. How else can he break bread with so many different kinds of people the world over and make us all feel like we are sitting around the table with him?
So, you can imagine my sadness when recently the very last episode of No Reservations aired. No more watching him get his chest waxed in a Russian bath house while drinking vodka and crying into his caviar. No more of him getting really pissed at his producers for making him don roller skates for a Roller Derby match in L.A. when all he really wants to do is eat tacos. Wondering how exactly he would end the show, I watched with a mixture of anticipation and the blues. How would he leave things? What would be his parting words to us, his foodie audience that has come to revere him and envy his life?
In a word? Move.
He called us all to move. To get off the couch and to experience life. To travel. To meet people. To eat with them. To just..move.
After the uncertainty in my life these last months, I felt his advice to be profound. Because for me, I've been spending all this time trying to feel settled. Settled in my new home, in my new work--from home--and in my drastic change in lifestyle. I've been waiting for the moment where I wake up and say ah yes, I feel settled and comfortable in this situation forever. And while I've definitely acclimated, and am much more at ease than I was at the start, that moment hasn't come, and that's been worrisome. BUT when I really think about it, I didn't have that moment before in my old life either. I was always wondering what else? What next? Is this my life? Like, for always? Even in my happiest and most content moments.
For the longest time, this has bummed me out about myself. Why can't I be satisfied with the status quo? Why is it so hard to just be in the present moment without worrying about what it means for the future? I've just chalked it up to having a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out). Something from which I think many people in my generation suffer. We have so many options open to us that picking just one can feel like we might miss out on a whole slew of other life opportunities. (To be honest, I think the movie Sliding Doors really messed with my head. Damn you again, Gwyenth Paltrow!) Regardless, I think I've been using this elusive settled feeling as the yardstick by which I measure my life choices. That I'll know I've made the right ones when I finally feel it.
But Bourdain's advice to move made me wonder if I've been chasing the wrong feeling. That perhaps for me, being settled means always keeping it moving. That meeting new people and living in different places and following my gut when it comes to my career--that all of it is part of what settles me. That despite not planting roots to one spot just yet (I've moved 16 times in 14 years), moving has made it possible for me to relate to so many different kinds of people and to share in their experiences and add them to my own.
Granted, as with most things, it's about balance. Moving 16 times in 14 years is moving. Literally. But it's not exactly fun and certainly not what I think Bourdain was talking about. It's about getting outside of your comfort zone--be that your couch or your cubicle or the circle of friends you've had since you were 5 and making a move. Doing something you're not used to doing. Saying yes to life, as it were. And ultimately, I do feel like that's what I've been trying to do, and that feels...well...settling.
Ultimately, I have to accept that it's my nature to wonder what else is out there and what I could be missing, and that like the Brooklyn roller coaster Bourdain so symbolically rides in the last scene of his last show, it's about the ride. Up. Down. Settled. Unsettled. It's all life and it's happening.
See you in class!