Appreciating home

October flew by and I almost missed writing this post. One reason may be because I’m making some changes to my daily routine, with the biggest one being daily exercise. I credit/blame my new FitBit — it keeps me accountable, and I can’t fool myself into thinking that I’m more active than I actually am. As a result, I’m getting much more exercise than I used to, and I’m sleeping better too. All good things.

This month marks 16 years that I’ve lived in my current home, which is the longest I’ve stayed anywhere, including my childhood home. Like any long-term relationship, I’d been taking it for granted lately and even fell into the trap of thinking I’d be happier someplace else. Part of it may be because I met a new neighbor who moved to my building from a ritzier area and she clearly hates it here. I get it. Living in a high rise is not for everyone, especially coming from a big house with a yard.

Unfortunately, I let her attitude affect me and I even went as far as checking out a townhouse for sale in a more residential neighborhood. I didn’t even have to enter the townhouse (which felt cramped despite having 50% more square footage than my current place) to nix the whole idea. The area was too quiet, too removed from the downtown vibe I’m used to. The relief I felt when I returned to my little box in the sky wiped out all thoughts of moving.

The clincher was when a friend called that evening and asked if I wanted to watch the UofM-MSU game that was live-screening at a nearby movie theatre. How nearby? I got there in less than 10 minutes, on foot.

Sometimes I have to wander my town like a tourist to really appreciate where I live. My building is even next to a hotel! It’s an incredibly walkable town, and not just in the bars/restaurants/cute shops kind of way. The mixed use layout here means I can walk to a grocery store, two hardware stores, two drugstores, the library, several parks, the doctor’s office, the post office, the community theatre, city hall, an Amtrak station(!), even the auto mechanic. It’s so convenient to simply drop off my car for an oil change and walk back home. And if I ever feel lonely, all I have to do is step outside. There are always people around, and simply being among them makes me feel less alone.

No place is perfect, but it’s easy to let the search for perfect get in the way of appreciating the good, or even great. I’m now putting more TLC into my current living space and I already feel better. If I ever get that grass-is-greener urge again, I’ll visit a McMansion subdivision. That’ll creep me out for at least a year.

Tick, Tick…Boom! is a must-watch for anyone who does creative work

This is a movie about failure and getting back up, and his masterpiece is ahead of him. And it’s hopeful because maybe so is yours.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, director of Tick, Tick…Boom!

It’s been over six weeks since I first watched Tick, Tick…Boom! on Netflix (I reopened my Netflix subscription for one month just to watch this) and I still can’t stop thinking about it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the movie, it’s an adaptation of a rock monologue by Jonathan Larson, who would later go on to write the smash hit Rent.

Tick, Tick…Boom is all about the “before,” when Jonathan was still working in a diner, rewriting and sweating over a futuristic dystopian musical he’d been working for 8 years with no clue whether all his efforts would be worth it. He turns 30 in eight days, his girlfriend wants to move to the Berkshires, his friends are dying from AIDS, and his best friend has given up acting to take an office job on Madison Avenue.

Far too often, the stories we read about artists are all about the successes, and we think that if we simply do what they did, then we can be successful too. This is the definition of survivorship bias. For every successful person out there, there are thousands of others who did the same things but didn’t have the same outcome. We never see hear those stories, though, and I think that’s dangerous. It makes creative success sound less like a crapshoot than it actually is.

I’ve even met writers who refuse to believe in luck, thinking that if they did all the right things, they can be the next Rowling or Patterson or King. Maybe, but that’s like saying if I buy a lottery ticket, I could win the Powerball–it’s technically correct, but it ignores how little control we have over the outcome. You can be immensely hard-working and talented and still not achieve conventional success because there are simply too many candidates for too few spots.

What I love about Tick, Tick…Boom is that it captures the strength and folly of choosing to persevere in the face of rejection and the sacrifices it requires to do so. Jonathan Larson chose to do a show revealing a vulnerable time in his life during a vulnerable time in his life (while he was working on Rent).

Sadly, he died the night before Rent‘s first off-Broadway preview performance. He was only 35 years old. He didn’t live to see how successful his work became or how he influenced a new generation of creators, including Lin-Manuel Miranda.

I’m not a genius like Jonathan Larson and my 20s are way behind me, but I still connected with his decision to just keep working despite the rejections and indifference from the powers-that-be. I’ve learned to get satisfaction from writing stories and releasing them into the world with no expectations. As Jonathan says in the song “Why,” “I’m gonna spend my time this way.”

There are SO many great videos and interviews covering Tick, Tick…Boom!, but the one that resonated with me the most is this scene where Jonathan learns that the musical he sank 8 years into won’t be picked up by a producer (and receives excellent advice from his agent):

No matter what, keep working on the next project.