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Complacent Corner

I’m a creature of comfort. I look forward to my daily morning routine: a 3-mile walk with music, shower, breakfast, coffee, and Wordle session—in that order.

There’s something dangerous about these comforting rituals, however. They sink us into a rut of complacency. We become so monotonous in the way we navigate through a day (everyday), that we close ourselves off to new experiences, however healthy they might be for our existence and future. I learned that over this past month.

Nine months ago, our family made a trip halfway across the country to drop our only son off for his first year of college. How time transpired so quickly is a topic for another time (see my review of The Midnight Library for possible multiverse scenarios that might explain this phenomena), but as I pulled up to my son's dorm to begin the move-out process, I had no idea what I was about to experience.

First and foremost, when I saw him burst through the door to greet me with a smile on his face, my heart returned his smile. I know that might be a cheesy thing for a dad to say about his son that’s now grown into a young man, but it’s the truth. I didn’t realize just how much I had missed him until seeing him in person.

After our gratifying reunion and talk about how time flies (just like me, I know my son won’t fully understand or appreciate this concept until he has a son/daughter of his own in the same position), we crossed over the threshold of a college student’s living quarters, untouched by a parent's hand for three quarters of a calendar year..

In the span of ten seconds, I felt as though my heartbeat registered running a complete marathon, or sprint—maybe both, at the same time. I’m sort of a neat freak. I like for things to be in their place. Even if I might sometimes bury things in a drawer (out of sight, out of mind), my eyes long to see order and peaceful tranquility in my external surroundings. What greeted me was neither.

My comfortable morning routine became something quite different. There was still the shower, breakfast and coffee from the hotel lobby, and Wordle session. But that’s where the similarities to my rituals at home ended. Strewn across my room each evening over the course of a week were containers and garbage bags full of assorted items that needed categorized, packed, and stored.

After varied trips to Lowe’s for packing crates, Wal-Mart for cleaning supplies and vacuum seal bags, and even a Ford dealership to replace a front grill on my Mustang that was torn off after I hit road debris on the outbound trip, I had decidedly shifted my daily routine to something new. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. In hindsight, being in Oklahoma, I suppose I wasn’t that far away from there, after all.

Initially, I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure how to proceed, if I was doing it right or well, and if I would find my way to a successful completion of the task at hand. But a funny thing happened as I made infinitesimal progress toward a hard deadline. My nerves calmed. My mood improved, along with my confidence. And that buried spirit of adventure began to poke its head from beneath the sand.

It sounds silly, I know, for some spirt of adventure to reappear while moving your son out of his college dorm, but it’s the truth. Sometimes it’s the most unexpected things that light a spark inside us. On the drive home, we traveled through severe thunderstorms (a high point when your son is studying meteorology), stayed at a hotel in Memphis Central Station, and walked the streets of downtown Atlanta to order Chinese food from the same place my wife and I visited nine months prior after dropping him off.

How time does fly. Whether we’re mired in a rut or embarking upon new adventures, it passes all the same, and it reminds me how precious each moment is to our human experience. There is an idiom, expressing that life begins at the edge of our comfort zone. And I suppose that’s true, but a different one resonates with me even more after my 3000-mile round trip journey over this past month.

It’s easy to become comfortable with our present circumstances. And perhaps it's natural to do so. But maybe our best life begins when we look around and make a choice to escape that corner of complacency that we didn’t even know we were trapped inside.

Like that severe thunderstorm we found ourselves immersed in on the drive home, we eventually found our way back into the sunlight, and every moment of the journey along the way—exciting, scary, funny, and gut-wrenching—made it an experience to remember. And isn’t that what we’re living for—to build lasting memories with those we love and the hope of passing them along to future generations.

Keep going. There might be clouds on the horizon. But there’s always sunshine waiting on the other side of the storm, and the view is brilliant.


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