Choose Your Own Adventure
I’ve never been a fan of choose your own adventure books. It bugs me that there could be more than one ending to a story, that the choice to have tea instead of coffee is a tipping point without you even realizing it. But I dislike them mostly because I like to read the end first of a novel first.
I want to know what I'm getting into ahead of time. I need to know if I’m going to have to protect my heart; if I’ll end up crying or be furiously angry or maybe I’ll come away in love. But I'd like to know ahead of time what direction we're headed in. (Which is funny now that I think about it because I've done more than my fair share of jumping into something life wise without looking first.)
But I didn’t read chose your own adventures stories growing up because maybe they’re closer to the real world than I’m comfortable with. And flipping those pages back and forth at random, skipping this bit or that bit, drives me a little crazy. There are a million little points of stop or start in our day to day choices, our lives shifting and changing, without a solid black and white the end. But I would really love to have that ultimate closure.
So, I read the last page first. And it's overlapped with my own novels and short stories. I start at the end. From there? Who knows. But how we all end up has always been something I've wanted to be concrete, a solid and fixed point. But life is variable and I need to be more open to embracing the adventure of the unknown and squash the desire to start with the last page.
Some of it is the desire to control, to be able to check off neat little boxes on a long list at the end of the day. Which I do by the way. The last few years I’ve become a planner addict and I firmly believe it’s never too early to start sketching out the next year. (I preordered my 2019 Passion Planner last week and I wish I’d get it in the mail now and not October when they ship. Because I totally have things to put in it already.) But I think a lot of it comes from the desire to reach a place where I can look back and say, "Yes, this is success. This is the happy ending I'd hoped for." But it's not about the how you got there but the journey. It's cliché, something we're all reminded of, a part of societal memory. But still true even if it's worn around the edges and happens to be on half the motivational posters you will ever see in your lifetime. Maybe it's everywhere though because it's so easy to forget.
So, if it’s all about the journey and not the destination, when or where do you consider yourself successful on this adventurous life? Because adventure is absolutely a part of it. At what point do you feel like it’s enough?
Marisa and I discuss this on a regular basis. We met in our early twenties in a writing class, before we'd started writing and blogging and turning something we loved into a career and full time side hustle. But are we successful yet? Have we reached that point? Success can be measured a myriad of ways. There were points in the past, plateaus reached, high points that made it possible to look back and see it all so clearly, that felt like success. But there’s always the next peak to reach. And even with stretches of terrible laziness I’m never satisfied with myself when I’m not working towards something.
You might not think that sucess and adventure have a lot in common but for me they’re intertwined. I can’t have one without the other.
Sometimes life gets in the way, whatever forward momentum you’ve built up is abruptly halted, you can be blindsided, pushed off course. My most recent months have been filled with illness in the family, stress over the visitation schedule with my kids, and my day job. There hasn't been a lot of time for writing or photography or blogging or traveling. And I realized that's how I measure success. When I'm doing all of those things, when I'm being present in the moment with my kids, when I've got a to-do list filled with photo sessions and word counts to be reached or researching our next road trip, I feel successful.
I might not always be booking photography clients, I might not be selling short stories or getting requests on my novels, or traveling 24/7, but if I'm working toward all those things I'm counting it. Success (and adventure) is as simple as waking up in the morning and choosing it.
And I'll take all the small victories I can get.