I’m seeing now that there is a truer sense of adventure- one that is more real, has substance. You and I already know this, but we are so selfish. We’ll do anything to protect ourselves. We’ll do whatever it takes to avoid getting hurt. We love being comfortable, and so we have a hard time being true adventurers. Because pain is an adventure. And grief is an adventure. And death is absolutely an adventure. Doing the hard thing is an adventure. And being known (as well as knowing) is an adventure. And loving is an adventure, the most dangerous of them all. So here’s to adventuring, for more than just adventure’s sake.
A few weeks ago, I watched one of my favorite movies with some of my friends. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a good one. I love the cinematography and the colorful vibrant aesthetics of the film, but I love, love, love the story.
If you’ve never seen it before, here’s a brief synopsis: Walter Mitty works for LIFE magazine. He arrives at work one day to find that they are going all-online and half the company will loose their job. Walter’s responsibility is to produce the final cover photo, as he has worked closely with the magazine’s best photographer over the years. However, the slide for the requested photo goes missing, and Walter finds himself on an epic journey: hopping on helicopters in Iceland, long boarding through the hills, escaping a volcano, and eventually, trekking through the Himalayas’ alone until he finds the photographer himself to recover the lost photo. Bonus points, in the end he ends up with the girl of his dreams.
It’s such a feel-good film, but after I watched it for the third time, it resonated much deeper than before. I walked home that night with a good feeling, but I wasn’t sure what it was just yet. I stood on the steps of my apartment building and looked up at the trees, feeling the wind whisk around and thinking about why I love that movie so much. The next afternoon, I was in a coffee shop finishing The Two Towers. Some of my absolute favorite literary words, spoken by Sam (the great!) leapt off the page and I quickly pulled out my journal to write them down. I clicked my pen and wrote the date: July 26. And it hit me, 11 months ago on that day, I moved to Korea! What perfect words to find me on this important milestone:
Sam echoes so many of my own thoughts as I realized how long I had been in Korea and the significance of reaching that point in the year. If I knew what I was getting into at the start, (the difficulty of the education system, the awfulness of living alone, all the struggles with food), I would have said, “No. Thanks.” when given the opportunity to come here. But, what if the tales that really matter are ones in which the good and the bad are often simultaneous? I firmly believe the difficulties are absolutely journeying through, for they are the best tales, however unglamorous, painful your story may be, however ragged you find yourself in the end.
I read this quote and started thinking about how I’ve struggled all year to see how this year matters as a part of my story. Sure, it has been full of sweet memories, new relationships, and more mercies and grace and growth than I can articulate, but it has been so hard for me to find meaning and significance in many areas of my life here, and often, during seasons of my life in the past.
I started thinking about what Sam said about “adventures.” For a long time, I’ve been wondering about what that word really means. It used to make me unreasonably frustrated when I would see #adventure on someone’s picture of a totally average activity, or when someone would call a midnight run to wal-mart spontaneity for the sake of “adventure.” I know myself and our culture cheapens words so quickly, and I sometimes hate that this one is being stamped all over everything we do. Do you have to take a high-risk in order to be worthy of #adventure? Do you have to reach the top of the mountain on your hike in order to call it an adventure, or is half-way up still “adventurous” enough?
Back in May, something started to grow in my heart that weaved itself into my thoughts on both what makes this journey matter, and what truly defines adventure. I’ve never felt a desire like this in my whole life, and I never imagined that living in Korea and traveling around the country would plant and grow this seed. I was standing on top of a mountain next to Andrew, looking out over the sea and the small islands that speckled the horizon before us, and a moment you would expect to be filled with such awe and wonder and exhilaration from the climb was actually a space for me to verbalize a thought that was brooding and finally surfaced out into the air before us. Tired. I told Andrew I was very, very tired. The past 9 months had been either high and intense or low-key and empty, and the constant up-and-down was wearing me out. I remember telling Andrew that for the first time in my life, I want to settle in a place and root myself deeply somewhere. Some of the happiest times of living in Korea has been where I feel like I’m actually living, just doing life normally; creating a daily routine, investing in the people around me, working hard at my job, and trying to simply cultivate a sense of existence in a foreign place.
I want the tale of my life to matter, and I love that Korea has provided a million mountaintop moments, but I am so completely ready for a season of life that is consistent. Not in circumstances, but in rooting myself in one place, seeking the adventure of sinking in. This has brought me to a really cool conclusion, but far greater, a great place of freedom! Let’s feel free to call our lives adventures! I don’t have to live under the pressure for a “big life” anymore. We don’t have to be an adrenaline junkies to have adventurous times. I don’t have to stand on mountaintops or wake up on a cliff overlooking the beach or jump into mud flats or run around lantern festivals in order to have a sense of existence in Korea, because “adventure” is not found in the most extreme things you can do. Saying “yes” to the unknown and saying “yes” to Jesus has led me on the greatest adventures I’ve ever known. Everything from traumatic bus rides to getting lost on a rural island to eating raw fish to exploring Seoul to people and relationships (and alllllllll the bulgogi), saying “yes” always finds me in the most unimaginable places, and all of it has been the most wonderful, undeserving gift! The “big life” I used to pray for has been fun for 365 days now, but it’s time to settle into a life that is driven by something actually much, much bigger.
As I was watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, this is what struck: I love that he just found himself on such a life-changing adventure. I love the scene where he simply shows up at the airport and hands his passport over the desk and asks for 1 ticket to Iceland. I love that it was such a simple “yes” that lead him on this quest, and I love watching all the wild moments he finds himself in. But just as much as I love the scenes of him longboarding or hiking up to the mountains, I love the simplicity of very last minute of the film. You’re left with just as much of a sense of beauty and joy and exhilaration when he simply takes his girls hand and walks down the street that you do when he’s scaling the mountains in a blizzard or playing soccer in the Himilayan sunset. He has had adventures, no doubt. But as you watch Walter and Cheryl hold hands and walk down the street, you are left with a sense that the greatest adventure is about to begin.
I want to live that way. I want to gather moments of meaning and significance and use them to water the seeds that become roots in a place, in a story, in an adventure that matters. I want to stand on shores and try new foods and meet new people just as much as I want to walk the floors of my home and prepare favorite recipes and build into my oldest and dearest friends. That’s the sort of tale I want to fall into. Am I going to miss the crazy weekend trips and the unknowns and spontaneity of living overseas? Absolutely! But I am so excited to take this year and all it’s hardships, lessons, memories, and relationships and continue to allow it to keep changing me as I return home and keep living all of life as an adventure. The tales that really matter, as Samwise said, aren’t the ones you go searching for when life is dull and adventures look exciting. They’re just the one’s folks are landed in, their paths laid out that way.
“Blessed is the one who’s hope is in the Lord…
he will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out it’s roots by the stream.”