I’m going to have an adventure, I’m going to teach English in China for a year. Or that’s what I am calling it. It’s probably more like a mid-life crisis, but who wants to say that. What’s fascinating about adventures is they tend to come with growth and transitions.
We have moments in our life when we move from one part to another – single to married, childless to parenthood, lost to found. We also tend to learn stuff about ourselves and the world during transitions. We grow and change and discover something new.
Transitions are interesting to watch because they tend to be filled with drama. It’s not easy growing or changing. Transitions are something people can relate to, because we’ve all had similar moments. Art is filled with moments of transition, of enlightenment, and of conflict.
Let me share the drama of the beginning of the adventure:
I had a plan, originally, I was going to be all done by the end of January. Except during the first two weeks of January I had to “grieve”. I needed to say good-bye to this life, to let go. It’s not easy to let go, even if you decided to make a change. Sometimes you need to give yourself permission to wallow in the moment.
Paper, Paper, Paper
You cannot get away from paperwork. Changes often involve signing a piece of paper or a bunch of papers. I needed to get a visa for China, and that required sending a bunch of paperwork so it could be approved. I also own a condo, so I needed to deal with all my stuff. I had to do the paperwork required that would let me leave my home for at least a year, and that means setting stuff up and getting things in order before I leave, so I can enjoy myself once I go.
You cannot escape from Murphy. He likes to throw a curve at you, that you were not planning to deal with. For me that meant that my dryer died a week and a half before I go. Now I am trying to replace the dryer and have it installed before I leave. This meant rearranging my original plan. I was not happy about it – I had a plan, and then the plan went astray. There is a reason I have a plan, it makes me feel safe and organized and calm. Changing the plan upsets me, and then I feel too much.
Can I Quit Now?
There is a moment in most transitions where I want to quit. Where I become overwhelmed, or frustrated, or lost. These moments fill me with despair and make me wish I could go back in time and choose a different path. I know this is normal. I even know there will probably be several moments where I want to quit. Not because I really want to quit, just because adventures are hard, and when things get hard, its normal to think of times that life was easy, boring, but easy.
Emotions Running High
My brother visited today to pick up some of my stuff to keep at his place. He mentioned my emotions were a bit high. Of course, they are high, I am trying to wrap up my life in the country I have lived in since birth. I am feeling sad and scared, and excited and curious. These emotions are strong and they are running through my body and head all at the same time competing for space. I can’t escape them, so I guess I’m just going to have to deal.
Real Life Intrudes
When you go on an adventure it’s not like you get a break from life. You still need to eat, and do laundry and spend time with friends. You still need to do some of the things that are a regular part of life, that get in the way of you moving forward with your adventure. It’s these real-life moments that remind us we are still part of something bigger than ourselves, that when we go on an adventure, we cannot truly escape our life. You cannot leave your life behind, you bring it with you were ever you go. It also happens to intrude on your adventure at inopportune times.
Going on adventures are risky. They are full of unknowns. People keep asking me questions about China and working there and my answer is, “I don’t know”. This great unknown is scary. I’m not much of a risk taker. This feels like a really big risk to me. Now, I now it’s a path many people I’ve taken and survived, even thrived. But, I don’t know what the future holds and that feels scary. It’s okay to be scared. Just nod to it and keep on going. Life is risky even when you stay in the same place, you never know what bus will come around the corner and knock you off your feet. Staying in one place does not keep you safe. Knowing that and embracing it, helps with the fear.
Call to Action
In screenwriting, there is a moment at the beginning of the story where the hero is “called to action”. This is the moment where they get pulled out of their regular life and into the adventure. It’s not unusual for the hero to refuse this call at first. Who wants to go on an adventure, when they can stay in their nice, safe, boring world? Of course, in stories, something happens, and the hero is forced or chooses to accept the call.
For me the call happened on the way home from my brother’s. My car was hit by another and the car died. Thankfully, I am okay. This moment forced me to make a choice. Did I want to buy another car or did I want to go on an adventure? I chose adventure, because I was unhappy at work, so I decided to change my life in a big way.
While stories and art do not represent real life, they do reflect it. I did not refuse the call, and expected moment in a screenplay. I did get a call to action, and I did say, yes. Stories and art are not meant to be mirror images of real life, they reflect humanity and those moments that change us. Stories help us make sense of the world and the transitions that we experience.
Writing this article is helping me reflect on what it happening. To put into words the complex and varied emotions I am feeling. It helps to release those emotions, to free them, so I can leave them behind when I get on a plane and go to China in a week. (Although I have a feeling I cannot escape them either.)
I’m lucky. Unlike most heroes, I get a bit of time to plan. I get to pack and decide what to bring and what to leave behind. I’m in control, and I made the decision to go on this adventure. Sometimes we don’t get to choose. When my parents got sick, well that’s not an adventure I chose, it was one I was forced onto because that happens in life to.
Being adventure ready is not really about the suitcase. It’s what is inside of you that helps. Do you have a sense of humor to help you out when things go astray? Can you sidestep when something blocks your path? Can you find a solution when presented with an obstacle? Are you willing to dig deep and find reserves of strength you may not know you have?
Everything you need on your adventure is inside of you. The suitcase is your heart, and your mind, and your soul. These are the important pieces that will help you survive and hopefully thrive. An adventure is about the journey, not the destination. It is about how you grow and change and hopefully become a better person on the inside.
Ready or not, here I come!
Questions to Ponder
What moments in your life have you experienced a call to action?
What adventure might you take?
How did you change and grow from your adventures?
Adventures wanted, scaredy cats welcomed.