We’ve already talked about how I basically shut down or dropped all of my way-too-many commitments to projects and organizations around 5 years ago. When I discussed that time (in my column “Flashback: Shutting It All Down”), it was mostly in terms of minimizing my “to-do” load, so that I could focus on the most basic to-do item: being happy and healthy.
It was an act of extreme simplicity, in the name of sanity and well-being. And it worked!
It also cut me off from almost everybody that knew me.
Since that time, my main form of connecting with the outside world (aside from a small cluster of friends) has actually been right here in the pages of The Simplifier. First, anonymously writing the sections at the end, then writing a couple of feature articles and opening Notes, and eventually bringing my identity and more of my voice into my writing of the In the News, Featured at Project Simplify, and Keep Smiling sections. When The Simplifier re-shuffled after 4 years or so, I took a much bigger leap into re-introducing myself and connecting to the world: this column, The Not-So-Simple Life.
As a result, while anyone who has stuck around through the past 5 years of this newsletter would probably—nay, have to—consider me a blabbermouth, the other 99.99999% of the world hasn’t heard much from me for quite some time. (Unless you’re one of the 20 or so Twitter followers of mine who seem to be actually listening.)
On an in-person level, things have been even more muted. In any given chunk over the past 5 (or 10) years, there were maybe 2 or 3 people with whom I had enough contact that they had any real idea what was going on in my life. Beyond that there has been a gradually-growing (but still small) universe of freelance clients, but their peeks into my real world have been obviously limited.
Until this year, I hadn’t advertised, or marketed, or done outreach, or networked, for a very long time. Nor had I substantially dated, partied, “gone out”, or the like, for the better part of a decade.
Folks who met me during that time period have naturally concluded that I’m reclusive, a “hermit”, etc. But for the most part, I was just working some stuff out. (Very slowly, apparently.) After about 30 years of hubbub, I took 10 years or so of quiet time.
But I’M BACK, BABY!
Sorry—that was the old pre-hideout me. Obnoxious, loud, and aggressive. The new, humbled me does his comeback quietly and gradually.
That really is the more accurate way to put it, because this “comeback” has been happening slowly but surely for a while now. But in some very real ways, my going public and reconnecting with the other 7 billion folks out there is moving to a new level. I can’t say for certain that I’m ready for it, but I’m making it happen nonetheless. 10 years of Rip van Winkling is more than enough.
I’ve been ratcheting up my in-person game for the past year or so—and while moving 400 miles from everyone I know recently didn’t help, my social circle is growing again, rather than returning to the “circle of one” that it used to be.
Even more significantly—at least in terms of threatening my simplicity—I’m also taking some big steps back into “public life”.
At the beginning of this month, I launched a podcast (an audio show on the Internet) called Estranged. Estranged owes a lot to this column; it follows a similar model—i.e., me blabbing about me—but on the subjects of isolation, disconnection, and so on. It’s largely about those 10 years I was just describing, and trying to work out an agreement between the “connected” me and the isolated me over who I am and how I want to fit in with everyone else.
In other words, it’s a one-sided discussion where I talk to the world about why I ran away from it, and how we can work together again. Half of that proposed merger is about simplicity, and you and I have been having that discussion here for over a year now. The other half is about connection, and I’m taking that bull by both horns as 2011 rounds its final corner.
Actually, all three horns. The podcast is one horn: “open up a conversation about my isolation so as to finally put it to bed”. Horns 2 and 3 are equally daunting. Horn #2? Performing stand-up comedy before year’s end—in possibly the most high-visibility comedy city in the world, Los Angeles. And #3? Finding a business partner and/or manager, and growing my one-man freelance business into a group effort, with all the collaboration, marketing, networking, and public interfacing that that implies.
Connecting, collaborating, partnering. Public commitments, public exposure, and public pressure.
Yikes—I knew there was a reason I had that bull corralled for so long! Just you watch—he’ll have more horns before you know it. It’s all coming back to me now. I remember this game.
For the longest time, I’ve been cultivating simplicity the easy way: by keeping things simple. But we all know my ambitions won’t allow me to keep things super-simple forever (even if the world would let me, which is far from a given).
So I’m working my way back into the mix. Reactivating my membership in the world club. To say it feels daunting would only start to scratch the surface.
Am I a different person than the one that burned out from over-connection and over-commitment lo those many years ago? My hair is thinner—does that count?
I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past 10 years—and I’ve learned a lot about finding simplicity and happiness over the past five.
Have I learned enough?
There’s only one way to find out.
Lance Brown can be found at http://lancebrown.org. Archives of his column can be found here (blog-style) and here (listed by title). His podcast Estranged can be found on iTunes or at http://estranged.me.