It helps to give up one Washington for another, better one.
LYNDEN, Washington — “Waste more time.”
Rarely had your scribe bothered to make New Year’s resolutions, much less follow through on them. This one was different. As the clock turned over to 2010, it’s what I set out to do in earnest.
The details up to that point are tedious. After humping it in D.C. since 2003, I was tired. Tired of the politics, tired of the godawful weather, tired of D.C.’s culture of pointless productivity, endless boozing, and ambition uber alles.
I wanted to get out and, more to the point, to not take D.C. home with me. One huge problem long-term denizens of D.C. face is reentry. The tempo of normal America is slower. Many of the habits you pick up in D.C. do not serve you well elsewhere. This leads to frustration on, say, visits home to the family.
Thus, the resolution. “Waste more time.” It was too short to forget, too pungent to ignore, too much of a stretch to allow easy rationalizing. Time to stop and smell the blackberries rather than type furiously on them, to finally take frivolous living seriously.
How did this resolution play out? It started in May with a test drive. My friend Tim needed to drive from D.C. to Seattle and wanted company. We made it in just under three days in his turbocharged Jetta TDI. In one stretch, we covered 500 miles in six hours.
The new job helped. The old one chained me to a desk in D.C. This new one came with the freedom to work elsewhere and travel. A trip back to the good Washington in June to celebrate the kid brother’s birthday turned into an extended stay and then a change of residence, with trips to D.C.
The new wheels helped as well. The speedometer of my slightly used 2001 Dodge Stratus climbed 12,000 miles in six months, with trips to Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and the back roads of Whatcom and Skagit Counties. (Who knew there was a town called Concrete?)
Ultimately mileage is just a number. I went places and did things I would not have done before, to softball games, batting cages, caverns, motocross races. I spent a week at the county fair, rode a helicopter, spelunked in the Ape Caves, and was christened an “honorary Mexican” by actually Mexican relatives.
You might suppose all this wasted time made for less work output, though that’s not clear. I finished and saw two books published, helped to launch and maintain two websites, and whipped up plenty of op-eds, blog posts, interviews, and speeches.
Maybe more could have been accomplished, but that’s beside the point. “Waste more time” finally gave me permission to begin putting together a life that was about more than production and ambition. It would be pretty hard to top for next year, so I’m thinking: don’t even try.
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