2017: How Will It Be A Better Year?

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions.

I’m a big believer in personal change, I just don’t put any stock in arbitrary time markers. The division of years, while useful for a myriad of practical and societal reasons, is given too much prominence in our personal lives. You’re going to be the same person at 2016-12-31 23:59:59 as you will be at 2017-01-01 00:00:01. We don’t change because the calendar turns; we change because we make a choice to do so.

It’s already a cliché that 2016 was a shitty year, but you know what they say: They’re clichés for a reason.

It’s quite possible your favorite artist died (with David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Gene Wilder, and Harper Lee topping the list of the deceased, odds are good at least one creator you enjoyed or even adored passed); or maybe the man who was elected President of the United States deeply concerns (terrifies, sickens, etc.) you; or perhaps your personal life has fallen apart all around you. All reasons to hate the year that was.

Also, let us never forget, millions of people around the world were displaced from their homes and are still facing uncertain futures and unrelenting terror. It’s hard to look back on the headlines of this past year and not feel despondent. This Saturday, people across the world will gather to enthusiastically celebrate 2016’s end, myself included.

But then what?

It’s time to ask yourself the question, how are the next twelve months going to be better than the last twelve months?

I’m not talking about weight loss plans, or resolving to read a book a week. Those are all fine goals to set for yourself, but they’re skin deep endeavors. Even if you accomplish your goal, you will exit 2017 essentially the same as you entered it.

Look, if you’re content with yourself and your place in the world, I’ve got no advice for you. Just keep on keepin’ on, stay golden, Ponyboy, and so on.

For the rest of us, though, it’s time to think about how we’re going to make actual change in our lives and our world.


Firstly, if you’re depressed because a bunch of celebrities died this year, I don’t know what to tell you, other than, buckle up, it’s only going to keep getting worse. If, however, you’re saddened by the loss of artistry as represented by those who departed in 2016, maybe it’s time to do your part to make sure new art keeps being produced in the world. Lord knows we need it.

That could mean finishing your album or novel. Maybe you take a big risk – quitting your job, performing live – and actually put faith in your art. It might not even be about your own art: You could start a company or group to support other artists. Or maybe you’re a parent and you encourage your child to pursue music, or theater, or dance, or any form of expression. The David Bowie’s of this world all started somewhere.


If you’re looking around the planet and don’t like what you see, you are not alone. The global political landscape is looking pretty grim right now, and there’s no one singular cause. There’s also no one solution.

If you’re politically inclined, now is as good a time as any the absolute best time to get involved. I can’t speak for politics in other countries, but in the United States there is a dearth of thoughtful, engaged people throwing their hat in the ring. It’s not enough to go to protests or to sign petitions (and it’s certainly not enough to share articles on social media). There are open positions in your local government that aren’t glamorous or sexy, but still matter. Stop bemoaning the lack of viable candidates, and become one.

You can blame a rigged system for why Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or some other (better) candidate didn’t get their shot at the presidency, but politics is a game of chess, and there are more pieces on the board than just the King and Queen. The great thing about a pawn is, if it makes enough moves, it can eventually become a knight, rook, bishop, or, yes, queen.


Politics matters, but there are some causes that will never be fixed by laws or deal making. There are many lives that cannot hold on long enough for a treaty to be signed. Donating to good causes is a straightforward and admirable way to help out others, especially when there’s no clear answer for a problem, but that money doesn’t just go to a magical cloud to rain down on those in need. Wherever there is a need to be met, someone has to physically step up to do the work. Could that be you?

Doctors Without Borders, the Peace Corps, and countless other disaster relief organizations all do great work around the world. If you have a medical background, especially, your services could be put to great use. There is likely even vital work to be done in your own neck of the woods. Volunteering somewhere, anywhere, whatever your skill sets, is massively important. Obviously, not everyone can do it, and that’s why donations are still so important, but for those who can, there is a world of need.


This isn’t meant to be a guilt trip. It’s easy to read these kinds of posts and think, “That sounds great, but I know myself and I won’t/can’t do any of it.” Believe me, I get it. All of those suggestions I made, I don’t intend to do them.

As readers know, I’m moving to Spain next year. In my next post, I will write about my plans and purpose in making that move. It’s true that I’m doing it because I love to travel, but I’m also moving to hopefully have a positive impact. Like I said, I’ll get into the details next week, but for now I just want to say I spent much of this year frustrated and determining how to improve my world and my place in it. 

There’s no wrong way to make a change, but there’s a surefire way to make sure nothing changes, and that’s doing nothing.

I started out this post by saying that I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I never have, I never will. But that doesn’t mean I don’t make resolutions. I’m resolved to be in a new place – geographically, psychically, intellectually – than I am right now. If, for you, tying a resolution to the New Year gives it more weight, then do what you need to do. Just make it a resolution that matters.

With this year coming to a close, those of us who are dissatisfied with the state of our world need to decide what we’re going to do about it, and as individuals, we need to resolve to take action. 2017 will only be better than 2016 if we make it so.


Change In America

The United States in the 21st Century is fundamentally different than when it was the preeminent, ascendant world power of the 20th century. It would be simple to point to one or two major events as the catalysts for this change (9/11, the Great Recession, Barack Obama’s election), but in reality the world is in a constant state of flux and the status quo never lasts long.

I have known conservative religious types to warn of the danger of Same Sex Marriage by claiming that ancient Rome’s embrace of homosexuality heralded their downfall. Besides nicely illustrating the causation/correlation conflation fallacy and showing a complete lack of historical literacy, this thinking also illustrates our most common myth about reality. People are prone to believe that their present moment in history is the default, and any deviation from their norm is an affront, when in fact it’s inevitable.

Change is the constant. One of the failings of the environmentalist movement is that in their urgency to warn of Global Warming-caused catastrophes, they initially fell back onto the easy, grabby language of World Ending Apocalypse. The world isn’t ending, but it is changing, a fate that means very little to the planet Earth, but should prove a real boon to Slip N’ Slide sales in Alaska.

We Need Change

The ideas which are holding back or actively dragging down society can be traced to one terrible piece of reasoning: “It’s what I’ve always believed.”

The country I have come to know intimately is one that can be hard to love at times. Overt anti-science, anti-intellectual, sexist and homophobic public policies and talking points are easy targets for Jon Stewart or John Oliver to lampoon, but far subtler, less political strands of these worldviews inhabit average people in ways that are harder to extract from their, otherwise, fundamental decency. Good people can have lousy beliefs, especially if they’ve never had a reason to question them. It’s simple to think that everyone protesting against same sex marriage or outside Planned Parenthood is just a religious fanatic, but I was maybe five or six the first time I carried a sign in a “Pro-life” march. I didn’t know what I opposed (or supported), and it wasn’t until I was well into my 20s that I thought back on those days with any embarrassment.

Some people never examine their beliefs. That is a shame and the reason why ignorant, hateful people are so prominent in our society (well, that and because controversial statements make nice headlines). We of the “educated, liberal” persuasion shake our heads at others for their backwards beliefs, and yet it’s among liberal enclaves that pseudo-scientific (not scientific at all, actually) idiocy runs most rampant, from the Anti-Vaccine movement to whatever miracle vitamin Dr. Oz is peddling this week. No political, religious or social group holds a monopoly on bad ideas and ignorance.

The oft-ignored extension of the “some people don’t examine their beliefs” rule is that nobody examines all of their beliefs. When Descartes famously stated “I think, therefore I am,” he coined the definitive statement of Rationalism, but his hyperbolic doubt remained credulous about one central belief: God. Even the forefather of rational skepticism had his blind spots, is it any surprise that the rest of us are no better at scrutinizing our beliefs? Another great philosopher, Dr. Gregory House, once bellowed, “Climb out of your holes people!” but we live in holes and nobody wants to be homeless.

We Hate Change

It is quite possible that people seem angrier and more miserable today because the internet allows us to vent more freely and, thus, the dickish thoughts that we always had but kept to ourselves are now coming into the open. This view suggests that humanity isn’t growing shittier, we’re just more open about our fecal tendencies. I like this interpretation because it jives with the underlying optimism I hold for the human race (even if I’m pessimistic about individuals).

However, it’s hard to ignore the police killings of innocent teenagers and the increased mass shootings, along with the corruption at every level of power, both political and financial. The world may be less violent over all than at any other time in human history, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still acting like savages.

I would argue that if there is one underlying cause for so much of the malignant behavior in our society, it’s change. Rapid, unstoppable change. The last 50 years has produced more social upheaval than almost all of human history before it. For 20 years, we have been in a technological explosion like no one’s ever seen. When Gene Roddenberry envisioned the 23rd century in the original Star Trek, it didn’t look all that much different from the world we inhabit in the second decade of the 21st century (minus the space travel; though that may not be far off). In our time, cultural revolution is more pronounced in one year than it was in entire decades of the previous century.

As the old axiom goes, nobody likes change. Sure, some people embrace new things more readily than others, but even for a guy who has made a life of moving from city to city, I’m not always receptive to shifting sands. We are especially unhappy when a change occurs without our input or permission.

I don’t mean to deny individual autonomy because we are all ultimately responsible for our actions, but I think the depletion of civility and society’s rapid transformation are more than casually linked. I don’t have any studies to support that hypothesis (better minds than mine would have to devise ways to test it), but it’s no stretch to suggest that big changes often have unexpected consequences. If the Civil Rights movement of the 60s was met with fierce opposition, is it any wonder that there is so much turmoil in the wake of social changes that include race, gender and sexual orientation in one massive tsunami? The United States isn’t so much a melting pot as a churning caldron.

There’s no returning to the status quo. Which status quo would that even be?

We Has Change

Will our society continue to evolve this dramatically and this abruptly from here on out? Most experts predict a technological plateau at some point, but since we’re experiencing a period like none other in human history, it’s really anybody’s guess. The concept of the ‘Technological Singularity’ suggests that there’s an endpoint for both human and technological evolution, but how far off is that? Could there be a ‘Societal Singularity’?

Whatever comes next for America, we should expect it to be met with challenges. It’s easy to get frustrated if you’re fighting for civil rights and facing backlash. It can be just as frustrating to be passionate about something, anything, and find nothing but hate and abuse thrown back at you. But take solace: if the world seems especially brutish to you, consider that these may be the growing pains of a society rapidly exploding through puberty. Awkward, ugly puberty.

And if that’s the case, maybe a stable, humane adulthood is still ahead of us.

1 World Trade Center 2

“Should I Stay or Should I Go?”: The Case for Change


A friend recently contacted me in regards to a career opportunity that would require relocating across the country and leaving behind a life she’s been building for a number of years. It’s a major decision, with a whole host of factors that doesn’t make the decision a basic binary choice. Few choices in life are that simple.

When she called me about it, there was really no question how I was going to advise her: Take the job, make the move.

I believe in change. As a central tenet of 10 Cities / 10 Years, I’ve discussed the importance and empowerment of embracing change. If you’re seeking my opinion on a big life choice, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that I’m going to recommend the path not-yet-taken. I suppose that could be seen as kind of self-serving, a way of justifying my personal life direction by encouraging others to follow suit. And, sure, that’s probably true. So what?

All things being equal, change is always the better choice. We all have a finite amount of time to store up life experiences before we enter the void, so why not try to make them as diverse as possible? Look, either we disappear into nothingness when we die or we go to heaven/hell. Either way, eternity is going to be one monotonous slog. It’s our years here among the corporeal when we get to mix it up some, try strange things, live different places, get new tattoos. Change is the sole province of the living.

Even if your life is pretty damn good right where you’re at, that’s no reason to fear change. If you managed to make a good life for yourself once, there’s no reason to assume you won’t be able to do the same somewhere else. Over the past 9 years, I’ve lived in 9 cities. I didn’t love every single one, and there were definitely times when I realized I wasn’t as happy as I was the city before. That’s the great thing about embracing change as a life philosophy, though. I always knew that the next year offered me another chance to make things better.

Now, I want to stress the “all things being equal.” I’m not advocating masochism or self-sabotage. Not every opportunity is a good one, and it’s certainly not always the right time to pick up and move. In any decision, a multitude of factors can weigh heavily for one side or the other, in which case the choice becomes easy. But, after one has carefully loaded up all the relevant materials on both sides of the scale, if there is no obvious winner, the possibility of change is a 20-ton weight.

Change isn’t for everyone, I realize. And that’s good. The world needs people who embrace stasis. Without the risk-adverse, how could we have a 4th Transformers movie coming out this summer? And Lord knows every company likes to have at least one employee who’s been around for a couple decades. It provides a sense of continuity. People who never make a significant change or step outside their comfort zone are the ones keeping most industries alive, buying the same thing over and over and over (and over) again.

If, though, life offers you a detour and there’s no good reason not to take it, take it. Every time.

I don’t know what my friend will decide because I can’t possibly know all the factors involved in her choice, but knowing her, whichever way she goes, it will be the right decision.

But if you ever come to me with a tough choice, you can go ahead and just assume what I’m going to suggest: Try something new. A change is gonna do you good.

I'm pretty much Gandhi, but better.

This Is The Most Important Post You’ll Read All Day/Week/Month/Year/LIFE

Really, truly, this is it. This is the post that will change everything. After this post goes viral, nothing will be the same.

Dogs will be cats. Gravity will pull up. Nicholas Cage movies will be good.

This post is so earth-shatteringly, life-changingly, adverb-creatingly important that you need to share it immediately, before you’ve even finished it, because I promise it’ll be worth it and why even think about it, just Tweet it and Facebook it and Tumblr it and Instagram it and Myspace it and Snail Mail it and Pony Express it and Carrier Pigeon it because if there is anyone who hasn’t read it by the end of the week they won’t be able to function in the new paradigm that will have shifted or begun or matriculated or whatever it is paradigms do.

You remember that post last week that was the most important post you had read all week? This post is even more important-er than that.

And that video you saw yesterday, the one that was going to revolutionize the way the world thinks about stuff? Yeah, well, be prepared to be nostalgic, because that’s the past. This post is the PRESENT! No, wait, this post is the FUTURE! YES!

This post is so revolutionary that it’s preemptively nullified any upcoming ‘Most Important’ posts that haven’t been created yet.

That’s right, Upworthy.com, this post single-handedly makes your entire existence meaningless. BAM! I’d apologize, but I don’t have time for that, I’ve got to write the single most important thing to ever exist in all of history. Suck it, The Bible.

For too long, the world has existed the way it is, with bad things happening to good people, and the rich getting richer, and low-fat ice cream not tasting as good as real ice cream. Well, NO MORE! It’s time for a change, and I want you to remember that it was in this post where you first read someone calling for change.

Sure, sure, other people have called for change, in the past. The Occupy Wall Street movement wanted change. And the Tea Party wanted change. And Obama wanted change. And Bush, Jr. wanted change. And Hobo Henry wanted change. But their change wasn’t the same as the Change I want. So my Change is more important. And better, and faster, and sexier, and bluer, and less filling, and twice the flavor, and child proof, and chemical free, and available in your choice of Red, Blue or Taupe, and perfect for those quiet Sunday afternoons when you’ve got nothing to do and you’re bored and want to leave the house but you don’t want to go to the movies alone and it’s too cold to walk around downtown so you stay in and flip through the channels all day and then on Monday Susan asks, “How was your weekend?” and you’re like, “It was nice,” and then you just go back to your desk.

Yeah, that’s my Change. BAP!

I hope you weren’t too attached to the status quo, because: BOOM! That’s dead.

Someday, your children are going to ask you about what the world was like before the existence of The Most Important Post Ever and you’ll think back wistfully and try to remember, but you won’t be able to because it’ll seem like a completely different life and so you’ll send little Bobby and Esmeralda to bed and sit in silence in your easy chair and wonder if you’re too old to wear skinny jeans, but NO, you’re not too old, because ‘too old’ is a construct of the world that existed before The Most Important Post Ever and that no longer applies in this newer, better world, so go ahead, buy those skinny jeans, they look great on you. FLURP!

And when the world comes knocking on my door to thank me for FINALLY changing the world in the right way after all those other posts and videos and viral links didn’t do the job, I’ll be modest and say, “I just knew something had to be done.”

It was the least I could do.

You’re welcome, world. You’re welcome.

I'm pretty much Gandhi, but better.


The End (of my year in Seattle) Is Nigh


365 days can sure fly.  I have less than two weeks until I move from Seattle to New Orleans, exactly a week until my last day of work and not enough hours in the day to do everything I wanted to do before I left this city.

I’m resigned to the fact that there are countless things I never got around to doing while I lived here, and frankly none of them bother me much.  I’d rather leave a city thinking about how much more there was to do than leave thinking, “Well, that city’s got nothing more to offer.”  Someday I’ll return to the Emerald City, I can do some of it then.

What I’m most concerned about is making time for friends before I leave.  A lunch here, a drink there, a conversation to bring the story full circle.  Some friends I met when I first arrived, or soon after at my first job.  Others I met only recently, in the last few months at my current job.  These people, the friends, the acquaintances, they define 10 Cities/10 Years more than any city landmark or tourist attraction.

And some of them I will never see again.  On a day-to-day basis, there are so many people that play an important role in your experiences, but someday they’ll stop being there and you won’t notice an appreciable difference in your life.  This is probably more common for those of us who regularly travel and move, but I imagine it’s pretty much a universal truth.  How many times have you been in a conversation with a friend and suddenly a name is mentioned and you realize you haven’t heard from or even thought of that person in years, and you didn’t even notice?

How many times have you been that name?

And then there are the friends…

This previous weekend, I was blessed with a visit from two of my closest friends from my year in Chicago.  The three of us worked together while I was there and it was with the two of them (and a few other close friends) that I experienced a great deal of the city.  Due to the dramatic upheaval taking place in my personal life that year, I consider my relationship with these two friends to have been paramount to my (barely) maintained sanity.

I have a mere handful of friends on this level, which may be more or less than your average person.  But I count myself lucky because these friends are spread throughout the country.  What an asset to have such support in the varied corners of the country.  It counts for so much.

I mentioned this to a friend the other day, but I’ve come to a place where I’m seeing a real balance in the good and bad of the way I’ve lived my life.  On the one hand, it can be exhausting moving every year, both a physical and mental toll (not to mention a financial poison), and each passing year makes me wonder if I’m drifting irretrievably out of reach of a ‘normal’ life with a career, a wife and a kid.  It’s a lot of potential loss.

And then, I have a weekend with friends like this past one I realize how much I’m also gaining.  I don’t know what awaits at the end of the 10 Cities Rainbow (though, I’m pretty certain it’s not a pot o’ gold), but if I can settle my feet and gaze about me to see the faces of my friends spread throughout the nation, then I think I’ll be pretty well off.

I live a strange life.  I live a hard life.  I live a life, at times, quite lonely.

I live a good life.

They do not move

ESTRAGON:Wait! (He moves away from Vladimir.) I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t have been better off alone, each one for himself. (He crosses the stage and sits down on the mound.) We weren’t made for the same road.
(without anger.) It’s not certain.
No, nothing is certain. Vladimir slowly crosses the stage and sits down beside Estragon.

VLADIMIR:We can still part, if you think it would be better.
It’s not worthwhile now. Silence.
No, it’s not worthwhile now. Silence.
Well, shall we go?
Yes, let’s go.
They do not move.

Waiting for Godot, Act 1, by Samuel Beckett

“They do not move” is my twelfth tattoo, all but two of which I have gotten since beginning 10 Cities/10 Years. With each new piece of ink, I try to incorporate a message that speaks both broadly to the project as a whole and specifically to the previous year of my life.

The phrase ‘They do not move’ is the final stage direction in both acts of Beckett’s seminal work of absurdity, Waiting for Godot. The play is repetitive, both in the repeated dialogue and in the way nothing really changes from the first act to the second. This is one of those plays that absolutely invites interpretation and pretty much rewards anyone’s personal take with intentionally ambiguous lines and phrases that go in a hundred different directions.

Probably the most common reading of the play is to assume that “Godot” is a reference to God, and the fact that Godot never arrives and the characters don’t really seem to know who Godot is (though they’re pretty sure they know who he isn’t) gives weight to the idea that this work is Beckett’s criticism of religion and faith. However, Beckett has denied that he intended Godot to represent God, while still admitting that it could have been an unconscious choice. Beckett never gave a definitive interpretation, which means we readers are left to read into the work what we want. It is a literary Rorschach test.

Personally, I think the God-centric reading of the play makes a lot of sense and certainly jives with the frequent references to Jesus and the Bible throughout the play.

Who or whatever ‘Godot’ represents, though, I take the larger message of the play to be a pointed criticism of people who waste away their lives waiting for something, anything, to give them direction, instead of just picking a path and going. The absent instigator could be God, or a career, or a romantic partner or just any sort of passion that never arrives.

I think we all know people who talk about what they’re going to do, someday. They’ve got a lot of dreams, a lot of plans, maybe even genuine ambition, but what they don’t possess is will and self-actualization.  They’ll bitch about their job and tell you what they’re going to be doing in 5 years, but 5 years later they’re still bitching about the same job. They do not move.

Over the last year, I’ve received a lot of support from both friends and strangers who have encouraged me through this project and have offered their support.

But I’ve also received a fair amount of criticism from people who think my life is irresponsible, that because I’m not securing a financial future I’m somehow harming myself and, apparently, them, too. I need health insurance, they’ve admonished. I’m never going to have a career, they’ve warned.  I’m going to end up mooching off the government, they’ve fumed.

What I’ve taken from this critique is that there will always be people whose imagination is only as big as their wallets. They are afraid of the world and taking risks, and they want others to share their fears because that will validate their inertia. How many of these people who would deem to tell me how to live my life are actually satisfied with their own?  In my experience, the people who actually enjoy their lives rarely spend time criticizing others.

I have no patience for people who bitch about their lives but won’t take action to change it. If you’re waiting for the Deus ex machina to come fix your life, be prepared to wait a long, long time.

I move. And I commend the people I meet in my travels that are making moves of their own. That might mean relocating to a new city, but it just as well could mean taking the plunge with a serious relationship or going back to school or finding a new career. A change is a change, and sometimes all life needs is a catalyst.

In Beckett’s hand, an immobile life is an absurdist comedy, but in the real world it’s nothing short of tragedy.

ESTRAGON:Well? Shall we go?
Pull on your trousers.

Pull on your trousers.
You want me to pull off my trousers?
Pull ON your trousers.
(realizing his trousers are down). True. He pulls up his trousers.
Well? Shall we go?
Yes, let’s go.