The Roads Not Yet Taken

Moving forward & resisting convenience

Bouquet 09 by Neil Farber. Forward to a friend for good luck n luvin in 2021 ;) Don’t break the chain!

An opening we are all familiar with: Apologies for a delayed response. Thank you Alex Tan for the recent mention in his newsletter Common Discourse (check it out!), which promptly encouraged me to get back to writing my own after a long hiatus.

To everyone who has subscribed since I last wrote, welcome! This newsletter has no fixed parameters simply because I wanted to create one small space, somewhere, where I don’t have to define or categorise anything. In our hyper-branded age, can something meandering and ever-changing succeed? I don’t know, perhaps because navigating that elegantly is difficult but also its own form of branding. Paul Jarvis’ site reads: I used to have a personal brand, and now I don’t. (And I really fuck with that). Broadly however, I write about ~that moment the feeling strikes~ often through the lens of the internet.

This week I’ve been thinking about all the lives I could live, how one is not better than the other but simply different and the strange post-growth phase I’m navigating.

A tale of multiple lives

How many visions do you have for your life? I have plenty. There was the Before Coronavirus one in which I finally made a commitment to a city, that city being New York (because if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, right?) and embarking on a somewhat hotshot design path before launching my own company. There was the lofty childhood vision: that I’d be a writer, a “real one” with published books before transitioning into screenwriting and directing while somehow raising three kids (because now we *can* have it all….right?). I would of course shun some traditional monikers, like marriage maybe, though I secretly adored its suggestion of having achieved the ordinary and I would live in a hot place where the primary language is not English and certain seasons are defined by tropical rain.

Then there’s the reality of my life which is not all that removed from those visions and currently straddles a type of nomansland, though definitely minus the kids. I am trying to ride the personal mood I am in right now, perhaps because I have returned to São Paulo, this city of vitality and mystery and possibility that I have loved hard and inevitably left. I didn’t expect to be here again and though many facets of home still remain, I can’t ignore the fact that I am absolutely not the same. Or more so, I don’t want to revert to being the same. Some central dilemmas persist: how do we resist convenience? When do second chances expire? What does movement or growth or healing really mean? And, mostly, how can I remain flexible and open-minded without negotiating with my boundaries?

Growth vs healing

I’ve been thinking about the difference between growth and healing and why the past year and a half feels pivotal for me, as though I’ve managed to break through some walls that I’ve spent the better part of the last decade attempting. For me, growth implies moving forward or upwards, embodying a kind of expansion whereas healing looks more like completeness, a coming of full circle. Growth for me is embarking on the new; healing on the other hand is resolving what we’ve been carrying with us.

Faced now with previous chapters of my life, I feel a crippling pressure to prove that this growth and healing isn’t momentary but instead cemented. I find this difficult to balance with trying to ~stay present~ and to keep my mind and heart open to the possibility for new experiences, or to give old relationships new life because if I’ve changed, why wouldn’t other people have changed too? It’s risky however, this tentative period where I have realigned my inner world and values but I still haven’t been in this new space all that long. This kind of pressure is creating a framework for perfectionism and absolutism where all progress feels undone by one “slip up”. I want to be flexible, but not at the cost of my boundaries. Maybe that is the marker of growth — when you are no longer willing to compromise on your non-negotiables.

Getting rid of convenience

A significant part of this growth and healing centred around ridding my life of convenience. This might sound strange — it’s not that I’m seeking inconvenience — but perhaps what I really mean is that worthy relationships require effort and removing means of convenience can be rather revealing. Resisting convenience is about the longer term goal over the short term gratification. I’m trying to be receptive to the energy and effort that is extended to me as well as being the one to set that precedent. It can be hard to let go of people that have journeyed with us or permeated important periods of our lives but I’m only interested now in what flows freely both ways.

Removing convenience has been a little step in the direction of a certain kind of courage. I’ve always been a head-first type of person; I used to think that being courageous meant doing grand things like moving across the world and against all odds staying there or turning up at the bar, pride and dignity in hand, ready to risk everything for the faintest possibility of ecstasy. I cared less about how I was perceived than how I felt, but there are less chaotic ways of living.

I’m not sure that I now know what courage really means at all but I do know that it looks different. I have come to know quieter forms of courage, the type that takes root within us, that can be a smart withdrawal rather than leading the charge. Instead of hyper-resilience and independence where everything had to be handled on my own, it can look like surrender or a desire, even a pleasure, in relying on others and realising that this doesn’t diminish me. The same things look different simply depending on where you’re at. I’m undecided about the current view, but I do know that I need to find the courage to stare at it for a while.

The door is open

What can we ultimately do but our best? I’ve ~emotionally distanced~ from 2021 in order to manage my expectations but when all is said and done, after potentially many years have passed, I hope to still be right here: on a veranda amongst the trees or with my bare feet on a cold grassy lawn staring up at the purple sky, alive, and if not happy in the impossible ways that we believe we can only be happy then happy still for that fact — that I’m here looking at this, grateful that anything has been at all.

Or maybe it is a dialogue that goes something like you, looking at me, seeing all the things that I’ve always wanted to but still have yet to see. The growth and healing that have taken place didn’t happen alone but instead: in conversation, with myself, with my surroundings and ultimately with those who also dared to get close enough to change. And I never want to stop having those.

This week in “Things”

🌼 No links this week. Just email the absolute best person that you know and let them know.


I’m Emily Nabnian and Send Virtual Flowers is a weekly digital bouquet from me to you about that moment when the feeling strikes. It is an experiment in alternative modes of communication inspired by the things that touch me and perhaps you too. If someone came to mind while you were reading this, consider passing the bouquet along by sharing. If you’d like to talk to me about anything, just hit reply.