I’ve gone on adventures.
As a girl, I would wander into the woods for hours. I’d deliberately leave the trail and confuse myself, testing my sense of direction and wondering how long it would take to get home. I’d ride my horse into the state park and not worry about lunch (that may be where my mild obsession with foraging and survivalism comes from). Thrill-seeking in the rural Ohio countryside included climbing trees too high, riding bikes down big hills, clamboring up slides of shale that banked on side of the lake – always a little worried that the root I grasped would give way, and I’d end up going for an unexpected swim 20 feet below.
As a girl, my adventures weren’t always physical. I remember craving crackers and cheese and beef jerky every time the characters in the book I read had to settle for travel food by smoky campfires in murky woods. I tried to mimic the recipes that Laura Ingalls Wilder mentioned. My imagination was limited only by the amount of books I could fit in my bag to and from the library.
Of course, there are other kinds of adventure. There is the first kiss, the first broken heart, the first aching stab of betrayal. I’ve gone on many of those as well.
As an adult, I’ve upgraded my adventures a little bit.
- On the advice of a stranger, I’ve driven eight hours to an exit of the interstate where there may or may not be a roadside sign telling me where to go next. (1996)
- When the hostels were sold out, I’ve slept on the floor of the Hauptbahnhof München curled around my pack. (2000)
- I’ve loaded up a backpack and set off down the Appalachian Trail with a friend I hadn’t been close to since grade school and a bunch of her friends – whom I’d never met before entering the woods with them. (2011)
And there are the other kinds of adventure adults must face: changing careers, buying a house, leaving a long-term relationship. None of them are easy, but they are adventures, of a sort.
Setting off on an adventure
In an exchange of tweets with M. Todd Gallowglas, I told him that I was working toward making my job “daydreaming for a living”. I described the sensation as “I have that “setting off on an adventure” feel lately. My pack strapped on, a staff that may or may not be magical….”
I feel like I’m looking down this path from a great height.
Behind me, I can see the rounded hilltops that I’ve already climbed over – I can see the one rugged mountain of actually finishing the novel. Before me, I see valleys and at least one rushing river to forge. I see even taller mountains and then the rest is lost beyond that foggy horizon.
My pack is heavy, but only because I’m carrying everything I need. It’s not needlessly weighed down with worries and what-ifs. My step is light and springy – no worn blisters yet. My boots still feel like they cushion my stride.
The dew is still wet on the forest floor, and it’s especially lovely on the flowers that sway in the morning’s breeze. I’ve woken up to birdsong, and the day ahead promises to be sunny and crisp. My companions are at turns quiet and comical, kind and quizzical. We keep our eyes open for wonders.
I wish this adventure had the ease and simplicity of the physical sort. I can handle sweating, testing my endurance to its limits. I can handle adrenaline surges when we spot a bear in the forest.
However, this adventure will be much more like the falling in love, heartbreaking sort. It will include risking everything. It will include putting more of myself out there than I’m necessarily comfortable with. It will demand honesty and attention. This adventure is possibly the biggest I’ve ever faced, because it will require all aspects of my Self in order to reach my destination. I will test my endurance in butt-in-chair hours working on my work. I will test my courage as I put too much of what I feel and believe into every page, masked carefully in outrageous fiction. I will test my perseverance as my whole identity is challenged through the rejection and acceptance process (then again through reviews and acclaim).
This will be my biggest adventure yet.