I am a fickle spitfire, and it’s one of my greatest qualities (that, and my ability to always seem to need the toilet right after we get in the car).
In fact, I wish the word “fickle” were more attractive—it sounds a little too much like “pickle,” and one time in college I read a book called “Tickle His Pickle,” so I think it’s clear that (a) I am a true academic, and (b) Using the word “fickle” makes my mind wander.
But if the word weren’t so ugly, I’d use it to describe myself all the time.
Fickle (adj): Changing frequently, especially as regards one’s loyalties, interests, or affection.”
That sounds like a bad thing, like one minute I’ll be helping you bathe your sick grandmother and the next I’ll be burning you at the stake (which I will only do if you beat me at Monopoly) but in reality, it’s not about loyalty to other people, but loyalty to yourself.
Fickle people prioritize contentment.
Recently, I did what some might consider rash: I put my Philadelphia property on the market—a space I had yearned for and loved and celebrated—and 48 hours later, signed it over to a designer at an architectural firm. I was delighted.
Meanwhile, The Los is looking at me going: “Oh my god, we’re homeless. HOMELESS. What are we doing???” (He loves this life.)
And I’m like, “What are you talking about? We have a house in Costa Rica.”
And he’s like, “But not in Philadelphia!”
And I’m all, “New adventures! Europe! France! We’ll live in a chateau!”
And he looks at me with this despondent look of doom. Even though he loves spending time Europe, and even though he’s studying the business of wine there, and even though he wants to keep going on adventures—and, yes, in a super fun world, he would also want to live in a chateau (if only to say the word “chateau” on the regular).
But, it’s easy to mistake comfort for contentment.
I remind him we have Nomadic backpacks and clearly need to live up to the name. I tell him our Away luggage is not called “Stay” for a reason. I throw in the bit about the generous return on the Philly investment and how lovely it is to have stewarded a property forward. And most of all, I remind him that nothing is being taken away from us; on the contrary, we are getting so much.
Eventually I manage to convince him that I am not burning him at the stake.
There is, however, something to be said about a prescribed burn. Farmers routinely light their entire field on fire to remove plants that are already growing in order to help the plants that are about to come up.
Turns out, disturbance is necessary for healthy development. Turns out? Certain seeds are only viable after the fire.
We are this type of seed.
Humans need fire to evolve.
But fire is scary.
So we bake a cake and shut our mouth.
Conventional wisdom tells us to play it safe. To hedge our bets. To bide our time. To not do anything rash.
But then what? You die on your sofa?
I have always been most afraid of that kind of death: the sofa death. Not literally on my sofa, as my sofa is pretty freaking great, but on my metaphorical sofa, while I watch Netflix show after Netflix show, eating a bland risotto that I didn’t cook right anyway, pissed off at too many little things because my life has lost perspective and I don’t have anything to care about anymore.
Do you know how painful that is, to die this way? It’s not just physical pain, but mental pain. And I suspect it’s far more painful than any of the “risky” things society tells us to be afraid of.
What’s risky is being empty.
What’s risky is being bitter.
What’s risky is living in servitude of someone else’s expectations; living a life you built a hundred years ago that now feels like an anchor on your chest; living a past version of yourself that you’re trying so hard to be loyal to—because that’s what’s supposed to make you “good.”
What’s risky is forgetting what it feels like to be free.
What’s risky is not being fickle when you should.
I’ll start packing soon. Deciding which items actually add to the quality of my life, and which ones don’t. This, alone, is a useful exercise: most of the time, there isn’t much I find worth keeping.
What I do collect, however, are memories. I gather as much of these as I can and keep them on my mental dresser as tiny keepsakes—a mental cache of wonder & amazement & everything I have felt in every new cycle of burning and growing and reaching, reaching, reaching for the sun.
Memories are fuel—and the only way to make new ones?
Is to do new things.
Even when you’re comfortable.
Even when you have it good.
Even when your home is beautiful and your UPS man is nice and the cafe across the street is amazing.
Burn it down.
Go find your damn self.
Then do it again, and again, and again, and again.
For living well is not a one-time event, but a daily devotion.
And the last thing that makes you is disloyal.