Words of Wisdom

Heath sent me this, and I think it articulates some things that might be helpful for others to read:

I thought I’d write to tell you that I’m glad[1] you’re moving to New York. I’ve thought for some time that you would come to regret it if you talked yourself out of moving. Measured against your obviously strong desire to go, the “practical” concerns you were allowing to keep you in Little Rock were paper tigers at best.

I was reluctant to state my position before you made up your mind[2]. I’m leery of giving advice unbidden, and I wouldn’t have desired to do so even if you’d asked me. The giving of advice is fraught with pitfalls, when you think about it. It seems to me that the only time we can take advice is when the decision isn’t self-interested, and then what does it matter? When decisions are ego-involved is when we need an outsider’s perspective, but it’s also the time when we’re least likely to view it with clear eyes. And so the asking of advice is reduced to fishing for encouragement, confirmation, or validation. You ignore advisers who dissent, or else you turn them into a “bad guy.” I mean, what’s the point?

Still, there’s one thing I would like to address, and that’s the question of what happens if things don’t work out in New York. I’ve had several conversations with you where you’ve expressed concern about failing; that is, you seem to think that if you move somewhere and it doesn’t work out, then you’ve failed somehow. I don’t really think this is true. I know that this is a fluffy position to take, but I think that you never really fail without thinking it so. Put differently, there’s no such thing as failure, though there is success. If you have a good time and learn some things, that’s success, no matter what others might think. If you have to move back to Little Rock (or just somewhere else; there’s no reason it has to be Little Rock), the only way that can be taken as slinking back in failure is if you act like you failed[3].

Then again, this last paragraph doesn’t really look like advice to me, which lets me off the hook, I guess.

The topic of a favorite rant (one I’m sure Mary Beth has grown very tired of) is the conservative assumption that change can only make things worse. “Sure, you’re not likely to lose by keeping things the same,” I argue, “but you’ll never *win* that way.” The fun thing about this rant is that fear of change is something I’m guilty of too, so I come off like a total hypocrite. So anyway, I’m happy[1] you’re making the leap.


1) This is a strange usage. I’m not really glad you’re moving per se; I’m vaguely intellectually satisfied. That’s not really the same as being glad. My feelings actually lie somewhere in between not caring at all and slightly annoyed that it will be inconvenient to visit you. But that’s language for you — when accuracy is needed, it inevitably lets you down.

2) I started thinking about writing you an encouraging email weeks ago. I was still gathering up the gumption to write it when I saw the blog entry announcing you had made up your mind.

3) Spiteful folks would say you were fooling yourself, but fuck ’em.

2 thoughts on “Words of Wisdom”

  1. Oh, I am glad (true meaning of word;) that you posted Heath’s perspective.
    I think lots of people, esp. those from poor, rural states who are taught/pick up “success means getting out” have the same concerns about “failing” in a big move away.

    I joke to friends that DC has expelled me from that part of the country Twice…once, my first semester of college, secondly, a move required as a relationship ended. The first was Awful. I was 18 and felt like I was coming back to AR with my tail between my legs. Turns out I was the hardest one on myself about it.. most people just chocked it up to “didnt like living so far” or “wasnt meant to be ” etc. The second expulsion, I had my master’s, had lived away from home for 2 years (Austin) and left DC 2 months after moving there. And I was Way less hard on myself the second time around.

    I dont regret trying. I’d almost Always rather try and “fail” than not try and always Wonder. We tend to learn more from “failure” than “success” anyways.

    So, novella over. Proud of ya 🙂

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