A Timely Awakening

Malcolm Avner exploring Tucson AZ

Without fail, when I reveal to someone that I recently moved from San Diego to Tucson, their response is an incredulous, WHY? Understandable. San Diego is one of the most desirable hometowns on the planet. While cost of living was a factor, there was a more profound motivation behind the relocation.

During my 30 years in San Diego, I established many cherished relationships, favored haunts and restaurants, and developed an appreciation for living in a technologically and culturally cutting-edge community. Life was good.

Reaching the milestone age of 60 prompted me to revisit my values and my life’s alignment to those values. I pondered the following question, asked from an envisioned future deathbed: If I live the rest of my life on this current trajectory, would I feel fulfilled? My answer was a resounding NO. 

Missing was the engagement of curiosity and adventurousness that could lead to unforeseen opportunities for growth and meaning. Too many decisions favored the “comfort” of my routines and conveniences. From that assessment, a commitment to change was born. As Trevor Noah fittingly wrote in his book, Born a Crime, “The hood was strangely comforting, but comfort can be dangerous. Comfort provides a floor but also a ceiling.” I was feeling squashed against my ceiling in San Diego.

Another way to look at this is from one of my favorite how-to books about change: Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath. A change method put forth in their book is, Tweak the Environment. Their theory is that by altering the environment, change in behavior is more accessible. Granted, changing hometowns is a mighty big tweak. Not disproportionate to the need, though, given my stickiness to habits and tendency to overemphasize the good and tolerate unpleasantness.

For my wife, Beth, and me, the move to Tucson was the culmination of 3 years of meticulous research. We read books, blogs, reports and reviews to identify communities that met our detailed criteria. We interviewed residents of high-potential locales. We narrowed our search to the Southwest (because a real winter was out of the question, along with hurricanes and massive wildfires). Twice, we packed up the car and the dog and travelled for a month to likely cities throughout the Southwest for firsthand experiences. We made the move to Tucson at the end of July (2019) with total confidence that this was the best choice, given our priorities – and with great uncertainty whether this is where we will stay long-term. 

The guidance that has propelled me for the past 3 years came in the form of this wisdom:

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller

Here’s to staring down fears, having faith, and initiating fresh starts!

The Backwards World of Self-Criticism

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