Monday, September 9, 2013

Experiments

JACK: Here's what I'm thinking. We move up here, you and me, buy a vineyard. You design your own wine; I'll handle the business side. Then you get inspired and write a new novel, one the can sell. As for me, if an audition comes along, hell, LA's two hours away. Not even.

MILES: You're crazy. You've gone crazy.
10 years ago, the movie Sideways inspired a wild dream in me. What if I move to wine country? What if I settle into a small town life of writing and wine? I had lived in the suburbs of cities all my life - Seattle, Los Angeles, New York - but maybe, just maybe the quiet that I seek could be found in the bucolic confines of the Santa Ynez Valley, where horses roam and wine flows free. And hell, all my friends in LA would only be 2 hours away. Not even.

I went crazy.

6 months ago, I moved to Santa Ynez and took a job at a winery. I actually did it. I decided I wouldn't be one of those people who stored up dreams for another day. I would be a dreamer and a doer. I would experiment.

Last week, after accepting a new job as a tasting room manager at a well-respected winery, I had a sleepless night. I believe in paying attention to sleepless nights. It usually means that my mind is processing problems that were not solved during the day. More, it means that my heart is having big feelings. I believe in paying attention to big feelings. The feeling I was having was dread. I was in LA and I didn't want to go back. Sure, I knew I could suck it up and do it and probably feel a little differently in a few days, but right then in my tossing and turning I was dreading it.

Some people will tell you that maturity involves being able to push past your feelings and do what is required of you. It is true that sometimes duty will call us to do what we do not want for a greater good. But I believe that maturity is better expressed in being able to identify our feelings and to let them teach us what we want.

When the sun rose on the day, it was clear that it had set on that particular dream. My experiment was over. I took a wine job in LA, the one I had turned down 2 days earlier, and I told my boss in Santa Ynez that I wasn't coming back. And now I am imbibing a potent cocktail of relief and sadness, gratitude and disappointment, humility and humiliation.

The problem with blogging in this personal style is that you show people your decision-making and emotional process, and then you end up feeling embarrassed when the results don't follow. I inspired a few people back in April by taking that risk and now I feel embarrassed to tell you that the risk didn't pay off. Clearly, the lesson to be learned here is that of Matt Foley, motivational speaker:

"Young man, I think you're going to find, as you go out there, that you're not going to amount to JACK SQUAT!!!!"

But seriously. I am trying to convince myself that an experiment that doesn't give you the results you want is not a failure. As Thomas Edison once said, as he worked on creating the lightbulb, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." The experiment teaches you what is true and what isn't true, what works and what doesn't. I found something that didn't work for me, and now I know. 

We all want life to be stable, predictable, linear. We want to lay out the right ingredients, establish the perfect conditions, and get the exact results. We want a dream to lead to a decision to lead to joy and fulfillment. A to B to C. In science class, over a Bunsen burner or in a vacuum sealed container, a tried and true experiment will usually yield the results you expect. Life experiments do not happen in a vacuum. A feather and a rock do not fall at the same rate when dropped off a building. Life is experimental, and life experiments often do not yield what you expect. I think that's okay. Because they teach us about ourselves.

I think we need to give ourselves permission to experiment. Maybe it doesn't mean that you up and move to a new place and culture. Maybe it means a small risk, a small step, a new thing. The one guarantee in life experiments is that they change us.

Even though I have returned to the same place, I am not the same person. I am changed. I have not moved sideways.