Tonight I leave on an 8 PM flight for a six-day trip from Boston, Massachusetts, to Istanbul, Turkey. It’s a 10-hour flight—almost 5,000 miles—and when I say it’s a world away I mean it both literally and figuratively. I woke up uncharacteristically early this morning, pre-dawn, and as the sun broke over the trees and slowly swabbed the sky from pink to red to blue, I thought, “I don’t want to go.”
And then, almost immediately, I thought, “But I can’t wait to get there.”
That doesn’t make sense, does it? Do I want to go, or don’t I want to go? Does the idea of traveling to a place I’ve never experienced before excite me, or does it fill me to the brim with fear?
When I was a child, I was afraid of almost everything, but especially anything new. I preferred the preschool carpool I knew over the kindergarten bus I didn’t. I liked the predictability of that carpool: The same driver, the same handful of kids, the same worn leather seat by the window. The day when the big yellow kindergarten bus came rolling down the street toward me, I screamed and bolted for home.
But now that I think of it, I preferred being there—staying at home, in the kitchen with my mother, playing on our worn linoleum—more than anywhere else.
I suppose I could have stayed that way: I could have made a life for myself in my hometown, in the house I grew up in. You hear about people who never leave their houses or venture far from their hometowns: In the news recently was the story of a man who had last left his home 10 years earlier. He’d ballooned to a thousand pounds, had a 6-foot waist circumference, and couldn’t walk.
The problem is that most stories like that include the word “sad” or “horrifying” somewhere in the first paragraph. I might have an inner homebody, but that doesn’t make me an outlier. Because while I prefer to stay in my sanctuary, seeking refuge, I also play host to varying measures of curiosity (about people, and what makes them tick) and desire (to be part of something larger, to try new things, to be successful according to various definitions of the word).
The thing is that Curiosity and Desire can be annoying roommates for my inner Homebody. All Homebody wants to do is boil up some penne and sit on the couch with my girl, my daughter. But Curiosity shows up to crash the party: What would the pasta taste like in a café in Verona? I bet it would be fantastic! And then Desire chimes in: Could I get invited there for an event? Or hey, you know what? Maybe I could combine it with that trip to Munich?
Back to Istanbul. I was invited there a while ago to speak at a marketing conference. At first, it thrilled me. (That was Ego, whom you haven’t met yet. She hardly ever shows up, but sometimes makes a guest appearance.)
Then, Homebody spoke up, “NO.” (Homebody is always the first to speak. In other words, I always tell myself No before I consider the alternatives.) But, ultimately, Curiosity and Desire were the most persuasive: Istanbul is an amazing place, I hear. And: This is a great opportunity to keynote an international event and connect with some smart people in an interesting and new place.
I read a story last night about a lab experiment with a rat. The rat would be willing to scuttle across an electrified plate to access something he deemed irresistible—something akin to rat crack, I suppose. He would tolerate a high degree of discomfort—in his case, volts of electrical shock coursing through his body—to satisfy a perceived need. I guess I, in a way, am that rat. I’ve learned to accommodate these inherent contradictions coexisting within my own skin—and the resulting discomfort.
So do I want to go? Or would I rather stay home?
It seems the only answer is “Yes.”