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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

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Monday, July 24, 2000

LA Unconfidential #10

This was written some weeks ago. The day after I wrote it, before I sent it into the ether, my computer began to emit plastic-smelling smoke, then summarily vomited two gigs of data.

The following has been recovered, since. When I wrote it, a long time had already passed between Unconfidentials. So, I’ve got some catching up to do.

Just one addendum in advance, and a celebratory one: The last comment wishes my good friend Bill lots of luck. He sailed through the defense of his dissertation and is now, officially, what I’ve called him for a long time: Herr Professor Doctor Bill.

Cheers, all. --h

L.A. Unconfidential, #10
July 24, 2000

In advance, I apologize for whatever horrors I’m about to commit. Moreover, forgive me, brethren, for I have sinned. It’s been five weeks since my last Unconfidential, and if I don’t blast this sucker out tonight, flubs and all, I might lapse forever. This’ll be a one-draft wonder.

After a pretty good run of weeklies, the daunting task of this journal caught up with me. Perhaps it was the pressure of my first Unconfidential anniversary: number 10. Perhaps it was the irresistible and insecurely egotistical temptation to see if anyone would miss these damn things in their email boxes. (By and large, you didn’t. I was only a little dented. That said, there were a few screams after the third week of silence. But more along the lines of “Hey, you okay, man?” Not really throngs of dissatisfied customers clamoring “I want my Unconfidentials!”)

Frankly, I reckon I’ve done well. I’ve never kept a diary before. Laziness, ennui and a short attention span have all conspired against my becoming the next Anais Nin, no matter how much I’d like having a business card with the title “Erotic Diarist”.

The last time I wrote, I was completely bummed about work consuming my life. That note was a moody return to my earliest dispatches from L.A. that got folks so (kindly) concerned about my well-being. There’s certainly been no let up at work in the intervening weeks. The days pass with astounding brevity. Nothing seems to get in the path of the driver of time, her foot on the gas.

The other day, my friend Geri asked me if I’m happier now than I was six months ago. She was surprised at how quickly and firmly I said “no”. She began to roll out her condolences. I jumped in to explain that I wasn’t the least bit phased. Less happy, for now, is sorta part of the plan. Of course, happy is important, but immediately happy isn’t the big picture about why I’m here doing what I’m doing. It’s happiness about the way I live my life that I’m shooting for.

I don’t think this is a deep thought, by any means. It surprised me, though, when Geri reacted as I later realized many people would. If I was happier six months ago than I am now, that must mean I made a bad decision. Conclusion: Houston should have kept doing the things he was doing six months ago. If he had, he’d still be that happy.

This makes visceral sense, but isn’t compelling. Doing the same thing for a long time can make you happy, or it can be stultifying. Sometimes, you gotta shake things up just to grow. And shaking things up can get messy.

George Riedel is responsible for passing on to me the Robert Kennedy apothegm, “Everybody’s for progress. Progress means change. Not everybody’s for change.” Progress seems positive but change feels unsettling. I signed up for a boat-load of change. Ergo, I signed up for a boat-load of being unsettled.

It would have been far more surprising, I think, if I had landed here and found an immediate comfort zone. I left a prestigious job, working with amazing people, traveling the world, respected by a global (if small) community for being good at what I did. I lived with a woman who loved me, in a beautiful house in the most beautiful city of its size in the world. My friends knew me very well and still put up with—even embraced—me. My passionate avocation, photography, was just beginning to mature into a profoundly humbling source of fulfillment.

Let’s look at what I came to: a city I knew I didn’t particularly like, a job I had no clue how to do in an industry I knew nothing about with a company that (like all startups) had more problems than answers. No friends within cooee. Financial duress.

Of course my immediate happiness dipped. But that was always the plan. Shake things up. Do something dramatically un-safe while I’m still young and single enough to think I can get away with it. Stretch myself. Find out what I’m made of. Succeed at stuff I haven’t tried before. When feeling stagnant, you don’t stand still. Find a challenge that scares the pants of you, and start unzipping.

I could go into the reasons I was feeling stagnant, but they’re even more boring than the rest of this jeremiad. I just wanted to reassure those who keep saying I sound lonely and exhausted. I am.

But even in extremis, even when I’m wondering why the hell I did this, the adventure is teaching me things I never would have learned, and opening doors I’d otherwise never have known to knock on. And that makes me happy.

* * *

George Riedel and Alison Deans: Belated congratulations. Deeply deserved.

Billy-bill: I got every appendage crossed for you. Good luck. If I could send Wild Turkey through the mail, it’d already be on its way.

Cheers. --h