Sometimes I wake up depressed. It can take several hours for the black cloud over my head to dissipate, and even then, I still have moments of hopelessness and loneliness. I struggle with fear. Will I ever amount to anything? Does my life have any meaning? Tasks without a timetable remain uncompleted. My bedroom is a disaster of clothes and books and papers. I can’t seem to unwind myself from the tangle. I feel like a failure.
After one such morning I checked my messages and noticed that I’d been asked to write about adventure for the OYAN blog. Naturally, I burst into tears. How could someone like me have anything to say about adventure?
A chunk of tissues and several deep breaths later, I found myself pulling out the dictionary. “Adventure,” according to Webster, is “an exciting and dangerous undertaking.” It’s what we pay money at the theater to see — explosions, car chases, distant lands, pirate ships, sword fights. It’s also what many of us feel like we lack in our boring, messy, uninteresting lives.
But the movie theater isn’t your only portal to adventure. Adventure is all around you, ready to be lived, written about, enjoyed. You don’t need a microscope to see it. Just a perspective change. Here are three keys to discovering the meaningful adventures in your life.
Recognizing adventure is not the same as creating adventure. People who create their own adventures can be found skydiving, swimming with sharks, or performing hijinks wearing a cape and sword. Recognizing adventure, on the other hand, is the ability to look at an item or circumstance that the majority of humanity considers mundane or boring and realize just how “exciting and dangerous” it truly is.
The trick to recognizing adventure in commonplace events is understanding what makes it meaningful. What purpose does it serve? Why is it important in your life?
For example, my teenage dream was to see a real castle. In September 2016, I found myself standing amid the ruins of an ancient castle in the Czech Republic. Broken walls, picturesque arches, crumbling towers, all surrounded by forest and perched at the top of a cliff overlooking a sun-drenched lake — it was a dream come true! But was I ecstatic? No. All I could think about was an adventure I’d encountered earlier that day — lunch at a friend’s house.
Perhaps that sounds dull and ordinary, but in my mind it was dangerous, unexplored terrain. I have few peer friends, and rarely, if ever, do I receive invites to homemade lunches. I entered the house with trepidation, my thoughts a pool of anxiety. Were my clothes right? My hair right? Suppose I committed some social faux pas. What if I didn’t like the meal? Or worse… what if I said something incredibly stupid and made a fool of myself? I sat tense and rigid in my seat. My hands shook every time I took a drink. And whenever anyone asked me a question, my words came out clumsy and awkward.
Okay, wait. How did lunch with a friend contain more adventure than a ruined castle? The lunch was meaningful to me in a way that the castle wasn’t. Sightseeing around the castle was just a pretty, passive, touristy trip. It contained no risks or rewards. But during lunch I stepped out of my comfort zone, risked looking like an idiot, and, in the end, overcame insecurities and found friendship, laughter, and good food. That experience healed a wound in the loneliest regions of my heart. It remains one of my favorite memories from my time in the Czech Republic.
After recognizing an adventure, your next battle is with honesty. Let’s face it—most people aren’t interested in the ordinary adventures you have every day. They’re caught up in their own preconceptions of adventure. They yawn and pull out their phones when you mention the delicious broccoli soup you had at your friend’s house. But they perk up if you mention a castle. They reward you by listening to your castle experiences. And when you post your favorite castle pictures, they applaud by hitting “like.”
So what’s the problem? Why not hide behind their misconceptions? Yes, maybe your life is dull and boring. But big deal! You saw a castle! So what if you struggle with anxiety and hopelessness on a regular basis? One excited person flipping through your scrapbook makes it all fade away.
But suppose your castle story isn’t what they need to hear. What if they’re hiding, too, just like you, from their boring lives, aching hurts, and insecurities. What if they need to hear that friendship is possible, that you made an idiot of yourself at lunch and everyone loved you anyway. Perhaps they’re craving to know how you conquered your anxieties and found joy.
Maybe they need to know that they can find meaning in their struggles, just like you found meaning in yours.
That’s where courage comes in. It takes courage to be honest, to recognize adventure, and to find meaning peeking out from behind the mundane. We need courage to write about adventure, and courage to live it.
One extreme I notice is when writers are so preoccupied with writing adventures that they forget to leave their computers and live them. We hide behind our words and fantasies and never deal with our problems. But experiencing adventure provides fresh ideas for stories. Battling through issues like anxiety, fear, anger, family problems, addictions, romance, despair, depression, and physical pain brings growth and change. It’s our chance to walk the valleys and climb the mountains and find hope and truth and joy where such glories shouldn’t exist.
A second extreme is to become so caught up in living that you never actually write. You don’t chronicle the journey. You don’t share it. You hoard it like a dragon on its nest. While your pile of treasure grows larger, no one else benefits.
To properly blend life and writing, meaning and adventure, you need courage. There is a world full of theater-goers and bookworms who want something deeper than car chases and explosions.
They want to know that you got out of bed this morning when you didn’t think you could, that you faced your fears and won, and that, somehow, you found joy. They’re looking for courage and honesty and eyes that see meaning in life, and wondering if they can have that sort of adventure, too.
Will you be the one to live the adventure? To write about it? To share it?
What adventures have you spotted in your own seemingly mundane experiences?
Caitlyn never knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her life goal was simply to follow God. And now she can testify that He is a good leader, a Father, and a friend. Caitlyn is passionate about stories, teaching, prayer, and finding hidden meaning in everything. She plans to follow God on the mission field this spring when she moves to the Czech Republic.