I am in San Francisco to give a talk on the RenGen and I’ve discovered something about myself. I have a love/hate relationship with travel. Mostly, I love it. The open road, the sense of adventure, regional trends and customs to observe-- love all of that. But lately, I’ve observed a kind of low-grade existentialism creeping in. Maybe it’s the sterile hotel rooms, indifferent cabbies, hostile luggage handlers or just the general lack of familiarity I get from being away from home. The upshot is that I have to consciously guard against feeling sorry for myself. Has this ever happened to you?
This trip, I’ve hatched a plan for staving off self-pity: I will master the art of consoling myself. First, I’ll seek comfort in small ways. Take long walks through galleries, museums, and public gardens. Hike the local terrain. Eat in authentic ethnic restaurants. Arrange to meet old friends and invite them to bring someone they think I’ll enjoy.
I also intend to remain true to my Midwestern roots and never, ever to go diva. In bad situations beyond my control, I prefer instead to trust that if I bring something to someone’s attention in the nicest way possible, they’ll rise to my assistance. When this doesn’t work, and so far it has, I am prepared to do what defies pop-psychology and internalize it. Yes, suck it up. But that only works if you are also able to console yourself
When I return home to Chicago, my family will ask me how my trip went. I think I’ll grade myself based less on what happened to me, and more on how I dealt with it. In doing this, I create a kind of vibe that everyone appreciates, including me.