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Captains Curious: From Itchy Feet to an Itchy Mind


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Welcome to Captains Curious, a weekly series of guest posts on the subject of Curiosity. The newest member of the Captains Curious is LaVonne Ellis! To learn about the series and the other Captains Curious, please click here.

I have a restless nature

Image: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have a restless nature, so I used to move a lot.

Conveniently, I wound up in broadcasting, an industry that requires frequent relocations in order to move up the career ladder. I loved it.

I was always curious about my new surroundings

The library would be my first stop, to read up on the history of the area. I loved the stimulation of new situations and things to learn: How to pronounce local place names correctly, where to find the nearest post office or pharmacy, the quickest way to get to work at five in the morning – and wow, look at that gorgeous view!

After a year or two it would all become routine

The minivan seemed to know where everything was without my even thinking about it. The view became so much wallpaper to my bleary, sleep-deprived eyes. I’d seen it all before.

That was when I’d start to feel the familiar itch to look for a new job, a new city.

This went on for years, until…

This went on for years, until I moved to a small, urban apartment in a sun-blasted San Diego neighborhood that held no interest for me at the time.

It was cheap. That was my only reason for renting it. The career was pretty much over. At 51, I had aged out. I was unemployed with a young son to raise. I told myself this place was only temporary, until I could get back on my feet. That was nearly 14 years ago.

Every year when the move-in date comes around, I marvel at how long it’s been. My son grew up here. It’s odd to think that when he is old, this is what he will remember as his childhood home.

Curiosity made it home for me too.

After the minivan was repossessed, we came to know our neighborhood inside and out, walking everywhere. I got all the bus schedules and a transit map that I tacked onto the wall, and together we explored the city.

But as time passed and finances improved, the old itch came back like clockwork every two or three years. I had a car again. I could move if I wanted to. I’d look at maps and google cities – Taos, Flagstaff, Portland, even Mazatlan. I loved San Diego, but I wanted something new to explore.

In the old days, I would have made an audition tape, typed up a resume, and sent them to all the radio stations in my city of choice. In a month or two, I’d find myself in a new and challenging environment – just the ticket.

The old itch came back like clockwork, but…

But I was tired. I no longer had the energy to be bright and perky on the air at dawn, or to prove myself to another crowd of skeptical local journalists. Plus, what station in this youth-obsessed media culture would hire a woman my age? And I had to admit, I was feeling awfully comfortable knowing exactly which shortcut home was best for avoiding all the stoplights.

Okay, I asked myself, now what? If moving is out, how do we stay, well – interested?

The answer that came back was Curiosity.

I took yoga classes, meditated, and began reading about Buddhism.

I learned a new way of cooking and eating without convenience foods.

I bought lots of books and kitchen gadgets.

I became obsessed with growing food on my balcony, and read every blog and book I could find on the subject. (I didn’t grow much food, but there’s always another summer.)

I learned about food storage, collecting mason jars and 5-gallon buckets that filled every cupboard and spare corner of the apartment. (I may have gotten a little carried away.)

And then one day…

One day, I decided to re-examine everything – every habit, every thought, every unconscious moment in my life. I washed dishes in a different order, brushed my teeth up and down instead of sideways, grew my short grey hair long. When old regrets popped up at the same automatic triggers, I let them go. I turned off the TV and found a better use for my time: Starting a business.

I was curious to see if I could find a better way to do the routine, daily stuff, but what I found was a whole new life that, ironically, looks to outsiders pretty much the same as it did before.

By examining the most mundane details of my life, I became truly present in the moment for the first time. I wasn’t dreaming of a future in another place. I was solidly here, right now, aware.

And intensely curious.

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When LaVonne Ellis isn’t busy being the Chief CustomerLover at http://customerlove.me, she is constantly learning about business, life, and herself.


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Would you like to submit a guest post on the subject of Curiosity? Send an email to susan {at} susanTblake {dot} com with the subject line: Captains Curious.

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8 Responses to Captains Curious: From Itchy Feet to an Itchy Mind

  1. Square-Peg Karen June 9, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    Ohmyword, LaVonne – my head was nodding up and down vigorously while I read your post!

    I’m not much for moving (been in the same house for 30+ years), but I’ve sure got a restless nature — and I LOVE to learn, following my nose – the way it sounds like you do.

    Curiosity rocks! Love your post – and I am so glad to “meet” another of the Cap’n’s.

  2. LaVonne Ellis June 9, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    Hi, Karen – nice to meet you too! Funny, I looked up another city a few weeks ago and then thought, “Nah. I like it here.” Weird.

  3. Charlotta June 9, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    You are a great writer. This post made me .. warm in my heart (don’t know how else to put it).

    I have also moved quite a bit and people always ask “And? How do you like it?” about the new town. I struggle to answer that question; I adapt so fast that if the new place is indeed better I have to consciously remind myself of that. And if the new place is worse by all objective measures I’m still as happy (or unhappy) as usual.

    I guess this is a reminder that the party becomes as fun as we make it.

  4. LaVonne Ellis June 9, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Wow, thanks for the compliment! Yes, it took me a long time to realize that I couldn’t get away from myself, and that really was what I was trying to do. No matter how fascinating the new city was, I always wound up living the same life.

  5. Tisha | tMedia June 9, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    Ah, yes…I know that itch very well. In my B.C. days (before children), I was always yearning for something, somewhere – pretty much anywhere but where I happened to be.

    It wasn’t until I had kids and uprooted my family to move across country (the itch, yet again) that I realized no matter where we ended up, the lessons, the excitement (or lack thereof) and the element of the unknown would all be the same.

    Isn’t it funny that even when your attitude and certain behaviors changed, the outside appearance of your life looked exactly the same as it had before?

    Just goes to show that appreciating life has nothing to do with location – it’s all about the perspective.

    This is a lovely post LaVonne. And I echo Charlotta’s comment – you ARE a great writer!

  6. LaVonne Ellis June 10, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    Aww, thanks Tisha! I still get the urge to move, though. Just a few minutes ago, I saw Bindu Wiles tweet a pic of Vancouver and describe how clean the air is there (I have a thing about clean air) and I caught myself wondering how I could make that move happen. And every time I read one of Srini Rao’s posts from Costa Rica, I start wanting to live there. I guess it never goes away completely. *sigh*

  7. Karim June 14, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Wah LaVonne,

    I didn’t know you were that adventurous! I liked your article very much, thank you for sharing : )

    Why!? I think you could go anywhere you’d like! It just takes some good financial independance, some personal items, and you’re on the road again, I highly recommend you make some travels, because it’s clearly something you love doing.

    I wish you’ll be able to visit all those other wonderful places someday soon : )

    Meanwhile, have a very cool day!

    Karim

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