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A Truth I've Come to Value
This post was originally written nine years ago and never published. I’m posting it this week as part of a seven day publishing experiment to take a deep dive into my drafts folder, and air out the stuff that I hesitated on.
I don’t remember why I didn’t press publish on this one. I think I was focused on my company at the time, hesitant to share something more personal then, or overthinking edits. But here we are, in 2014:
I sleep in front of a giant map of the world. It’s a beautiful map, full of endless geographic detail. The idea I had when I got the map was that I’d stick a pin in all the places I’ve been. I’ve slept in front of this map for more than five years in three different NYC apartments and, aside from a few cities in the US, I have not stuck in any new pins.
I dream of traveling and I’ve had the means to travel ever since I put the map on the wall but I’ve always come up with some reason to stay where I was. My parents don’t travel much and I didn’t study abroad in college. When I graduated a trip was my fantasy and a way to manage my own psychology. I’d tell myself that I can travel when I close funding for my startup or reach some other imagined milestone. I met the first milestone but it wasn’t long before I came up with new caveats to the deal with myself. Another year went by where I stayed.
In It’s a Wonderful Life the main character spends most of his life hitting moments like this. He fantasies about traveling the world but every time he’s about to leave he convinces himself that he needs to stay. It’s a Wonderful Life is a movie you watch around the holidays because his self sacrifice is rewarded in the end. An angel shows him his world would really have fallen apart if he left and those who count on him for so many years—pay him back with an actual basket of money. This is not the way it usually works in the real world, but the film is also a holiday favorite because its lows are so low. After spending most of his life denying his dreams for others, he stands on the ledge of a snowy bridge clutching a life insurance plan; he’s convinced that his body is the only valuable remaining piece of himself.
Around this time last year I was alone in my room in front of my map and I bought a plane ticket for Tokyo. It was a seven day trip and the flight left the next morning. It was not something I planned or could even really afford but I clicked submit.
I’ve had a year to reflect on this trip and pay off the AmEx Bill. In some sense my trip was pretty common. White technologist heads East to discover self is a cliche for a reason. I booked an airbnb in Shibuya. Took the bullet train to a sculpture garden on a mountain top and attempted to impress the locals with my dance moves. The biggest surprise to the trip is that after spending all those years sleeping under the map, wanting to go somewhere, it didn’t feel like that big of a deal to finally be there. I just felt lucid and more at peace.
What you dream and what you fear feed off each other. Each gives the other electricity. The biggest problem with pausing your dreams is that you lose touch with what you’re actually afraid of and your thought process warps. Every time I denied myself a trip, I promised myself something bigger in exchange. The trip needed to be perfect. Somehow worthy of all the sacrifice and now even further from my original grasp.
It’s easy to slip into this. Every day you get older it gets easier to fall into the decisions you made the day before. So you have to say it over and over again.
Travel in the direction of your fear.
A note from 2023. Shout out to Scott Kidder and James Del who I joined on the trip. And Aniq Rahman who encouraged me to say yes and buy the plane ticket the night before.