Whenever someone asks me how I am, I tell them honestly. Sometimes that would be: “pretty good,” but more often it’s: “…kinda crappy; I fail at romantic intimacy and this drives away people who get impatient with my ineptitude. Also, I haven’t composed anything in a while, which puts me in some sort of existential crisis of purpose. And my car…”
It’s only at this point I realize “How’s it goin’?” is more of a greeting than an inquiry. Oops.
“Pretty good, I guess…”
The question, “What’s new?” however, I always answer in the same way: “Not much.” This is usually not satisfactory for I’ve noticed those who specifically ask “What’s new?” actually want to know what’s new. The following conversation has definitely happened more than once:
Guy – “Hey, what’s new with you?”
Me – “Not much.”
Guy – “…aren’t you leaving for grad school soon?”
Me – “Oh yeah. I’m moving to Texas in a month or two.”
Guy – “…didn’t you just get back from a road trip across country?”
Me – “Oh yeah, that. Yeah.”
Guy – “Any exciting stories?”
Me – “Maybe. I guess. I don’t know. No.”
Guy – …
I suppose the reason for this isn’t that I see “What’s new?” as a formality of greeting, but rather, to me, nothing is really ever new. Let’s take the aforementioned road trip for instance…
A while back, I agreed to drop everything I’ve been up to in life to fly out to Indiana to drive my pseudo-not really-I guess we were at the time-but in retrospect it totally wasn’t because we only held hands-but maybe it kind of was-high school is a strange place anyway-I’m not sure-she probably doesn’t count it on even days-or all days-ex-sorta maybe-girlfriend across country to the San Francisco Bay Area where we both live. Part of it makes sense; we continue(d) to be friends and now our parents are BFFs, so it could’ve been a favor from our family to their family as family friends for me (unemployed and out of school, and thus not officially doing anything worth mentioning) to escort her home. You know… for safety… or something like that.
But really, it made no sense at all. Why would I drop my leisurely life hanging out with my local buddies and enjoying the modestly luxurious comforts of my Los Angeles city apartment to spend a week of potentially awkward* driving across country with someone I honestly haven’t talked much with in the past four years? Especially since she could’ve a) just as well driven herself, b) sold her car (which was worth only slightly more than the gas money we paid to drive it across country), or c) gotten the car transported and flown. It doesn’t make much sense why I would’ve been okay… or rather – happy to do this.
I suppose it came down to the saying: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Every morning when I wake up, I’m the same me. Every day after every morning, I do things throughout the day in an attempt to make tomorrow morning’s me somehow different. I’m not an unhappy person, but I’m necessarily a happy person either, and my daily routine of tasks are designed to make me wake up the next morning happier. Unfortunately, this never happens. Why should I expect the next day to yield something else?
And thus, along came an opportunity to do something completely different than what I have become accustomed to in my life. Out of the monotony of my daily routine, I was clutched and thrown into a plane headed for a state I’ve never been to in order to reconnect with an old friend via circumstances I’ve never experienced. My life routine wasn’t working – why not try something new? Maybe, just maybe, after the adventure of driving, I would get back to my apartment and wake up a new me, or maybe just a slightly happier me.
And so I went. And so we drove. And so I returned. And so I woke up yesterday as I had woken up previous to the trip. And so I will wake up tomorrow as I woke up yesterday.
Really, what did I expect to find? Was I somehow going to drive over artistic inspiration, find Jesus hitchhiking, or have some life-changing epiphany showering in the roadside Motel 6? Sure, I saw the country, but it’s already a memory. And yes, I reconnected a bit with an old friend, but now we’re still mutual disembodied heads on Facebook represented by lines of text describing who we are and what we like.
This is why whenever someone asks me “What’s new?” I always respond with “not much.” It doesn’t matter what life experience you have – if you wake up tomorrow as the exact same person, how can you claim anything to be new in your life? The only things worth mentioning are things that somehow change us and influence us. Yes, things happen, but most of what happens also happens to millions if not billions of other people in the world. When it comes down to it, finding situations that have actual real self-defining consequence is the most difficult of our earthly quests.
And that is my goal in life: to find consequence, so that tomorrow when I wake up, I can have a better answer for “What’s new?”
Oh… my sweet elusive Consequence. You can run, but you can’t hide.
* If you were pretty sure your parents were trying to hook you up with an old friend of yours with whom you were going to spend days upon days in a car, you’d find it potentially awkward too.