Choose Your Own Adventure
Do you remember those children’s books?
They set up the basic plot points and setting. As you read, you got to choose how the story unfolded, which fork in the road your intrepid characters took, how they explored their world and, eventually, how they saved the day.
If you were like me, you’d go back and reread, choosing new adventures, until you’d read through all the possibilities.
Life’s a lot like that. We all get lots of choices and forks in the road.
Robert Frost’s two paths diverged in a wood. Famously, he chose the one less traveled by. We know from his field reports, that made all the difference.
Unlike the Choose Your Own Adventure series, we don’t get to go back and rechoose.
That’s usually reserved for the silver screen.
I don’t know if you watch Doctor Who, the long-running British series about an ancient time-and-space traveling alien. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of adventure. All too often in the winding courses of his travels, legions of bad guys plot to obliterate The Doctor and annihilate his pet planet, Ours.
In the episode, “Turn Left,” the bad guys crafted a nefarious plot, all the more stunning for its simplicity, to remove The Doctor’s linchpin – his companion Donna Noble. Heretofore, none of us, leastwise The Doctor nor Donna herself, knew her to be the most important woman in all of time and space.
Except for the bad guys. They infected Donna with a bug – literally, a big ugly backpack-sized bug – to unmake a single solitary decision already made and long ago. The one that led to The Doctor. She had turned right. That’s all. One choice.
The bad guys convinced her to turn left. That’s all. Just go a different way. Pick the other path. On a not-really important day. In a not-really important week. Of a not-really important life. And, boy howdy, did that make all the difference!
Because it was a multi-part season ender – not a series ender – I’ll leave the details to your viewing pleasure. Spoiler alert: Sacrifices were made. Worlds were saved. Bad guys thwarted.
Mundane choices, world-saving adventures – your mileage may vary.
We can’t all be Donna Noble. Or George Bailey. Because they’re make-believe.
We all get daily chances to expand, grow, go deeper, go wider, go hard or go home.
I asked a couple friends – from real life and from books – to talk about adventure. We’ll start broadly, with Mark Twain on adventure in general, and end specifically, with my friend Kristy Meyer’s touching story of adventures in domesticity.
Between Twain and Meyer, we’ll hear from Emelia Sam, oral and maxillofacial surgeon and tribe-builder of purpose-minded soul-seekers. Truth be told, Emelia’s reflection sent my mind back to Donna Noble, the temp office worker whose mediocre existence was, in fact, miraculous. As a follow-along and how-to guide, we’ll hear briefly from the pilgrim of Tinker Creek herself, Annie Dillard.
Mark Twain – American author
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Emelia Sam – One soul bending the world towards compassion
Life presents us with countless opportunities to explore the breadth of who we could be. Yet despite the spectrum of experience offered, few of us venture beyond mostly self-imposed boundaries.
Of course, there are risk-takers, the larger than life personalities whose stories captivate the masses. Why? Because observers secretly wonder how different their lives could be if they would take such chances.
We find massive inspiration in those who leap into unfamiliar territory and find themselves in spaces of unprecedented wonder. Their stories fuel the hope that one brave decision can catapult a mediocre existence into the miraculous.
But it’s not just a one-time choice. These revered individuals make the decision to leap over and over again. They commit to curiosity.
Whether it’s hiking in the Himalayas or being the first to say “I love you,” uncertainty is met head-on. To willingly dive into the unknown sets apart the people living life and those just passing time.
Adventure is a catalyst for self-discovery and expansion. It’s an invitation to possibility and answers the question, “Who will I be on the other side of this?”
In choosing to rendezvous with uncertainty, we meet so much more of ourselves.
Annie Dillard – American author
Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock – more than a maple – a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.
Kristy Meyer – “Writing for fun, sometimes comedy. When I'm lucky, it's both.”
After two days of vacation and a stern email with "Go do it. You're saving a life," from my cousin, I embarked on a trip to the most terrifying place I'd ever been.
I walked slowly up and down the aisles, making sure none of the eyes around me expected anything of me.
Suddenly, I found a face with gold-flecked brown eyes that were wary. Her shaggy, golden, red-tinged fur looked sweet and inviting. Like Benji.
But her look matched my feelings. She stood up, causing me to step back. She had a leg missing. My terror mounted.
We both sat in our "get to know ya" room, looking tentatively at each other. I asked to look one more time at a black dog I'd seen. My Dog Adoption Guide ignored my pathetic request and said, "You just stay here awhile. Get to know Christy."
I looked at the dog in front of me, named "Christy" by the Humane Society, in some clear and forceful push from Karma, who knew I was a chicken in such matters.
Slowly, I petted the trepidatious dog, and asked "Do you want to live with me?" She gave me glance that said, "I don't know. You look a little shady."
Fifteen minutes later, Christy-soon-to-be-Ginger is hopping around to visit each of her Humane Society caretakers in turn.
I stood watching, numb, thinking, "Oh my god, this thing is going to break my heart. Please don't let me kill it."
May these stories of adventure inspire yours.
Needless to say, Kristy and her dog Ginger did splendidly in their adventure together.
Suzanne Hoenig - Based in the Texas Hill Country, Suzanne is learning the lay of the land and the life upon it. When she’s not hiking, gardening and learning to restore native habitats, she’s working with amazing clients to craft compelling content and grow healthy communities.