Will You Trade Novelty For Belonging?
The older I get, the less desire I have to experiment. When going for a coffee, I always choose a coconut cappuccino in my favorite coffee chain. When eating out it’s usually one of the same 5 restaurants, and at each of them I often choose the same dish as the last time. I go to the same yoga studio since 2018 and always bump into the same people in class. After many years of searching I finally found one hairdresser that I visit regularly, who does my hair exactly the same way every time.
Even when traveling we now return to the same places. This May we’ll go on another yoga retreat in the same place and with the same teacher as before. We spent the New Year’s holiday in Matala precisely because we went there twice before and loved it. And every time we’re driving around Europe in our RV, we always somehow end up close to Lake Garda even if we didn’t originally plan to. The gravitational pull of this place is just impossible to resist.
I used to think doing the same things over and over again is an extremely boring way to live a life. I was terrified by one of my mom’s friends who went to the same seaside resort every summer for over 30 years. Why would you ever want to come back to the same place when there’s so much more world to discover? Why eat the same stuff again when there are so many delicious dishes from all around the world to try?
I’m glad I had a chance to experience all this novelty and variety, but at this point I’m actually bored of trying new stuff. I’ve probably encountered more options to choose from than most people, but I know this is not enough to stop one from searching for even more. The world is so vast and full of possibilities, why should you settle for anything less than perfect? What if the next house, date, or holiday spot will be even better than the previous one?
Now that I’m slowly settling down, I see that my reward for giving up optionality is belonging. I’m no longer just buying things, services, or experiences, I do it as a part of an ongoing relationship. My yoga teacher is now also my brother’s and best friend’s yoga teacher. My yoga teacher’s kid loves playing with my kid. My hairdresser always remembers what my family has been up to and has confided in me her wildest plans and dreams.
I’m not opposed to trying new things for the sake of novelty. Especially your early twenties are just perfect for that. Years ago I told a much older friend I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and he was like, so why don’t you just try all sorts of things and see what makes you happy? This was the simplest and most powerful piece of advice I ever got. I still often think about it to this day.
But after a few years of trying all sorts of things, there comes a time to choose which of these things actually bring you joy. I wouldn’t want to marry my first high school sweetheart, but even more so I wouldn’t want to go on a date with someone new every week for the rest of my life. Only by giving up options you can build something deep and lasting.
Now that I think about it, buying stuff anonymously is quite a recent development. My grandma must have known her butcher, her shoemaker, and all the personal details of their lives. Unlike my grandma, I have hundreds of butchers, hairdressers and yoga teachers in my city, and I get to choose which relationships to cultivate. It wasn’t easy to find relationships like this in a two-million-people anonymous crowd, but now that I’m slowly getting started, it truly feels like the best of both worlds.
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I am definitely yearning for a deeper sense of belonging and connection to the community around me, now that I’ve moved back to London after a year of nomadic travels. I won’t give up entirely on novelty but I certainly won’t make a point of seeking it.
Something I've wondered is if parents get enough novelty and challenge from raising a kid
You don't really need to go chasing novelty when your child is constantly learning and growing (and also constantly sick)