As a lover of pop culture, a writer, and avid reader, I have often been told that I experience life rather than live it. This is probably true, because stories like The Hobbit, Aladdin, and Star Wars speak to me. They follow the archetypal hero’s journey; a man (or woman) living a simple life is invited (or, sometimes dragged) onto an adventure, encountering specific types of problems, and returns transformed. A good example of this is Bilbo Baggins, because he starts out living a very simple life, and returns with a thirst for adventure that he never really suppresses.
While it’s nice to immerse ourselves in the lives of Bilbo or Luke Skywalker, I think that we need to realize that we cannot all be Bilbo Baggins, because there are only a limited amount of dragons that need slaying.
Yet that doesn’t mean we can’t be adventurous.
The movie Up has stuck with me for years because of that opening montage. You know the one; it probably made you cry.
What struck me the most was not the end of Carl and Ellie’s relationship (although that is very, very sad), but rather that they spent their lives looking at everything as an adventure, even though they never flew to the other side of the world the way they wanted to. What if we tried to be the protagonist of our own adventure and lived our lives a little more like Carl and Ellie?
It’s hard, sometimes, to see the adventure when everyday is the same: wake up, drive to work, work, drive home, collapse on couch to binge 2 hours of Netflix, go to sleep. Wake up, repeat. Life, then, isn’t an adventure but a chore, and one that we take for granted. I fell into this routine over the last year or so, and instead of living, I existed. Life became a series of Mondays, marked only in the mundane changes of seasonal Starbucks drinks.
Stories like Hook, The Hobbit, or The Lion King have a protagonist that is thrown (sometimes literally) into adventure. Adventure happens to them, and not because of them. Carl and Ellie understood that life will feel like it’s in slo-mo, but it’s really in fast-forward. You reach the end before you know you’ve started, and if you want adventure, you have to go and find it.
I believe that being adventurous is a choice, and you can choose to look at life as a series of opportunities for excitement and new journeys, or you can keep existing instead of living. These opportunities may look like striking up a conversation with a stranger, trying a new flavor of ice cream, or taking that vacation that you’ve been meaning to take for the last decade.
I’m doing the latter. I am writing these words from the international terminal of LAX, and in a few minutes I will be on my way to visit new continents and countries, and to seek out every opportunity I have to create memories that will lift my spirits for decades to come. Adventure is out there; all we have to do is look for it.
A friend recently said to me that we should spend our lives pursuing the things that bring us joy, and let go of the things that don’t. Shortly after, I quit one of my two jobs (the one I really disliked) and booked a trip to Australia and New Zealand.
My flight is about to board, so I’ll leave you with this thought: find what makes you happy, because that is the biggest adventure of all.