From moving out to moving still

When I was a kid, airplane used to be my magical vehicle. I sit on a seat, look up at the signs, open seat pockets and ash trays (good old days), and look outside through the window. When the engine started, my heart also started to pound. When the plane thrusted faster, my heart started to beat faster in sync. When the metal body lifted off—that floating moment followed by an even stronger push—ecstasy wrapped me. All through the rest of the flight, one sentence kept echoing in my head: “I am going somewhere”

Probably because my family moved multiple times when I was a small kid, I never felt I “belonged” to a particular place. When we were stationed in Malta, I stomped on the ground to make sure that the soil was real because I could not believe that the world I was standing on actually existed. The only time I felt really secure was when I was on the move. It did not matter where I was headed. I was happy as long as I was going somewhere.

Fast forward and I am still happiest when I am moving. But it is not like I am not riding my motorcycle all around the world (though that experience would be truly valuable). Going somewhere does not have to be physical. As long as my inner accelerator is ignited, physical displacement is not necessary.

While I am stationed in one physical location, nowadays I do try many “hobbies” probably to enjoy the sensation of “moving on.” I take a bite on anything that arouses my curiosity. Sketching. Dance. Yoga. Scuba diving. Buddhism. Technical writing. Poem.

I spend tons of hours (and money) into practice, and just when I reach the cusp of mastery, the entrance ticket to the “expert” club, I move on to something else because I feel I saw how it “ends.” (Almost) arrived at the destination. Off to the next journey! I seem to have become the king of curiosity, but a master of none.

On the other hand, there are two areas where I seem to have enduring interest: Language and people. Both takes time to mature, and both lasts long. I have been practicing English for more than three decades, Chinese for a decade, and Spanish for four years. Motivation for none of them fades away. While my love life tends to have a shorter life span than I hoped for, I almost never cut ties with people with whom I shared deeper bondings. Friendship lasts for decades.

It is as if I constantly shift between polar opposites: fluctuation and stability. Is it that I only feel comfortable traveling from either side to the other, just like the young version of me used to be?

Actually, they aren’t opposites. When I take a long hard look at my “stable” items to find the secret, I do not find stability. I still find constant shifting.

People are, by default, unstable. If that sounds negative, let’s say we all change. All the time. Moment by moment, year by year, decade by decade, we change what we eat, work, relate to, think, and “are.” I personally rarely experience a day when I am in the same mood from morning to night, and when that happens, I am sick—either physically or mentally. As thousands of philosophers describe, we end our life wondering who we are. We are the biggest enigma to us.

The same goes for language, which is a tool created to express the constantly changing nature and us, and from its structure restricts and forms most of our identity and consciousness. Language is directly connected to who we are at the deepest core.

Therefore, I haven’t been holding a long-term bonding with people and language because they are “stable.” I have been with them because they never stop changing. For me, dealing with them is no difference from hopping on a train that goes “somewhere.”

When interacting with people and language, I cannot have a chance to bore myself. Every day and every interaction brings something unexpected on the table. We never get bored of each other.

…And that brings me to my “boredom” issue on hobbies (or even works) where I can easily bore myself more or less through lack of (forced) unexpectedness. Unlike people and language, I can easily stop and fool myself by saying “that’s it.”

I wasn’t bored by my activities. I was boring myself out of them.

So far, I have had enough fun constantly swapping my next “new thing.” Maybe it is time for me to dig in the same place and induce “new things” vertically (deeper), not horizontally (shallower). I am still going somewhere.