The Hard Thing

Is it ok if I get a bit melodramatic for a minute?

It’s exactly a year since I left New Zealand. I just put on the playlist that I made on that day and it’s giving me all the feels.

Just four songs, all with the words “home” or “goodbye” in the title, that I looped pretty much nonstop for weeks. Like I said; melodramatic.

Instantly I recall exactly what it felt like the last time I hugged my nieces. What it felt like to smile through tears (a foreign feeling for the guy who never cries).

To feel those wheels leave the ground; this enormous metal object improbably airborne, all while I felt heavier and heavier under the intense pressure of succeeding at the biggest risk I’ll ever take.

I had given up my entire (comfortable) life to chase an unknown pipe dream, and it was only on that day that I really faced how many ways I could fail.

I wrote a letter on that plane, which said “Only 11 hours and 10,195km to go. And that’s just the flight. Then I have to figure out what life looks like.”

I arrived in America with two suitcases, one of them drenched in kiwifruit vodka thanks to overzealous airport staff.

That night, I slept in the crappiest motel in LA. The walls were brown. The shower was a pipe coming out of the wall. I googled to find out whether you can get an STD from sleeping in a dirty bed.

Over the next 8 weeks, I had some wonderful highs and some very exotic failures in South America.

And then I arrived in New York City as naive and ambitious as every other wide-eyed protagonist.

Since then, I’ve had some of my proudest moments and some of my lowest.

I’ve lost friends. I’ve missed one family wedding – soon to be two. I haven’t missed any births yet, but I will by July. I haven’t missed any deaths and every day I pray that won’t change. That’d be the only flight harder than the one I did a year ago.

But I’ve eaten blue tacos and donut burgers. I wear a scarf I bought in Bolivia. I got a tattoo. I’ve gone up towers and seen fireworks and two wonders of the world. Three if you count Meryl Streep.

Five years ago today, when I moved to London (there’s something about this date), I set a goal to visit 40 countries before I turned 30. I’ve always believed in writing goals down. I do it every year.

I turn 30 this year, and I’m terrified. But I’ve been to 52 countries. I’m still not quite sure how.

I live in the greatest city in the world, but only because I did the hard thing.

My motto is “life is for living”. I say it all the time. It’s not really my saying; people have been making the same point in different ways for years, really. Carpé Diem. Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. No day but today. YOLO.

Each generation seems to think they invented that concept of facing the fear and doing it anyway. That’s interesting, right? It means that each generation looks at the one that came before them and sees themselves as more fearless.

I don’t think each generation really is more fearless. I think that people become less willing to take risks as they get older. When they get comfortable, they stop putting themselves in situations where they could fail.

Well, lots of people write letters to their past selves, telling them things like “it gets better”. I’m writing this to my future self:

Always fight complacency. Do the hard thing.

You don’t have to move to the other side of the world, but keep doing things that scare you, and see what happens.

Sometimes, you’ll lose. But sometimes, you’ll look back a year later and ask yourself “how the hell did I get here?”