My October adventure was compiling my first business tax return, but I’m fairly confident no one wants to read about that. While I found it was almost as exhilarating and terrifying as learning a little coding, most of you won’t consider it the kind of bold and risky undertaking that we commonly think of as adventure.
Which is funny because most adventures, especially heroic quests and Stephen King thrillers, start out as perfectly ordinary days. In which circumstance I have to say that I would never seriously contemplate a move to Castle Rock. Or for that matter, Midsomer. Though I would (of course) consider Lochdubh.
It does make me wonder why we think that adventures have to be larger than life events. That you must leave civilisation behind and venture into the empty places where monsters live. Where the landscape is treacherous, the weather is harsh, and you might die.
When we were children, all landscapes were treacherous. You let the screen door slam behind you as you left the house and it immediately winked out of existence until you got hungry, thirsty or needed a cuddle. Every day was an adventure, especially school holidays. Or maybe that’s because I grew up before computers in a home that didn’t have a television.
Is it because life loses its excitement as we age? We spend our childhoods wanting to be adults so that we can stay up late and do whatever we want, but when we get here the days pass in safe passivity. Or is it because we live our adventures vicariously through Rick Grimes, Sarah Linden, or Mr and Mrs Jennings for a couple of hours a day? (Much less exciting to call them by their names outside the context of their shows isn’t it?)
If there was a key or remote that let you open a door into an adventure, would you use it? As a child, no problem. You probably had no concept of anything so dangerous that it couldn’t by cured by your mother’s kiss. Now you’d probably want a risk assessment, protective equipment, and guaranteed repatriation in case of injury. Though when you think about it, the Apple iTunes agreement is a risky enough adventure itself.
The thing that stands between us and adventure is fear. Fear of getting hurt, and fear of looking foolish. One of the things that children don’t understand about adulthood is competence.
As a child, you have to learn everything. You expect everything to be a difficult and perilous journey from not knowing to gaining mastery. Many of us have scars to prove our bicycle taming abilities. And we expect people to laugh at us as we learn. Some of us hammed it up when we were falling off our bicycles, or teaching ourselves skateboard tricks. And how excited you were to show off your plaster cast and have everyone that mattered sign it.
But as an adult, you feel that you should just know things. That being alive on the planet for a period of time is sufficient for you to just be competent at things. Especially things you have never done before. You don’t remember that it took months of intensive practice to conquer the bicycle. Or the years of honing your sporting or artistic abilities. Now, you just know them.
It makes it hard to break free of the status quo. You stay uncomfortably in the job or relationship that you hate because you are afraid of the pain of leaving. And that you won’t look competent in your new job or relationship. And that your new situation will be worse. Better the devil you know and all that. But why is it so hard to imagine that a new job or relationship could be better?
Even though you have forgotten, you spent months or years learning how to be in that job or relationship. You learned the rules, and you lived by them, and now you don’t know how you know what is right or wrong, you just do.
Something else that you probably don’t see, is that every day you renegotiate your rules. Every day your place in your hierarchy changes a little according to what other people achieve and what you think they think about you. Things are never as fixed as you think they are.
So before you sink back into Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto, or Call of Duty, I have a challenge for you. Let’s call it the first step in preparing to take your own real-life adventure.
Go somewhere busy, where there are lots of people. Maybe get yourself a coffee and watch them for a while. None of them cares what you think about them. You are extra #732,045,643,204,256 in their life. If they have thought about you at all, it is to categorise you as a) “threat”, or b) “not a threat”. And the same for you – you don’t care about them either.
If you are game, try doing something a little risky. Try starting a conversation with the stranger sitting next to you. The absolute worse thing that can happen is that they pull out a knife and try to kill you, but you have already classified them as b) “not a threat”, or you wouldn’t have sat next to them. Who knos where that conversation might take you!
Let me know how you get on in the comments below.