The word can bring to mind many scenarios. We may think of Lewis and Clark crossing uncharted territory that later became the United States. We may imagine Amelia Earhart flying solo over the Atlantic, Neil Armstrong taking that first step for mankind when he set foot on the moon, or Jacques Cousteau exploring the bottom of the ocean.
Closer to home, our 20-year-old daughter packs her bags and sets off to spend a year studying in Spain. Our neighbor and his friend head into the Smoky Mountains for a day hike, lose their way, and after spending a night shivering by a fire, find their way back to their car. The shy librarian who lives next door to us decides to take up skydiving. Our nephew and his young wife become the parents of twins and buy their first house.
All these events, great and small, qualify as adventures, which my online dictionary defines as “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.”
But what if we broadened that definition? What might happen if we woke each morning and before getting out of bed said to ourselves, “Today is going to be an adventure”? How might that pronouncement change the way we live our lives?
Zest for Living
When I think of people who romp through the day, who consider living itself a grand and exciting activity, two names come immediately to mind: Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
From the several biographies I’ve read of Roosevelt and Churchill, here were two men who knew how to live life to the hilt, who could participate in the morning in government affairs and who in the afternoon could give themselves over to joyous play. Roosevelt was famous for joining his children and their friends in various games, and Churchill found pleasure and fun in building brick walls and painting watercolors.
And then there was a man I knew back in my Charlottesville, Virginia, days, a doctoral student in organic chemistry who graduated from medical school.
It’s not for his academic achievements that I remember him, but for his enormous enthusiasm. Several times, he paddled a canoe down the Shenandoah River. He learned to pilot a glider. He was such a fan of all things Sherlock Holmes that he named his dog Watson and often wore a cape and a deerstalker cap just like the famous detective. When the two of us watched “Rocky II” in the local theater, he spent the fight scenes dodging and ducking in his seat as if he were with the fighters in the ring.
A bit goofy? Sure. But that man brought a rack of spices to everyday living.
When Things Go Wrong
The English writer G.K. Chesterton also knew how to make an adventure of the mundane. He dressed flamboyantly in a cape and a rumpled hat, he often carried a swordstick, he bought a revolver on his wedding day to protect his bride from bandits and pirates, and he looked at the world with the eyes of a romantic and a wonder-struck child.
And it was Chesterton who said, “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”
That point of view can turn minor disasters into triumphs. Recently, for instance, a series of necessary car repairs with delays in the shipment of various parts led me to spend 12 hours over three days in town. The repair shop happens to be located just a few blocks from Main Street, and so I spent that time writing in my favorite coffee shop, enjoying lunch at a café, and simply strolling around Front Royal.
Was it an inconvenience? Of course. I didn’t enjoy being stuck for hours at a time without a means of transportation. Earlier, however, while working on an article about Chesterton, I had come across the above quote and used it to my advantage. Instead of becoming angry or discouraged by the delays and trips into town, I used this to get some work finished, to explore the town, to try a delicious chicken salad croissant, and to swing by our local used bookstore and browse the shelves.
Chesterton helped me transform misfortune into adventure.
From the Ordinary …
Perhaps you begin your morning by groaning and kicking off the bedsheets. You then slog downstairs to the kitchen, grunt at your spouse and the kids, and gulp down a couple cups of coffee. You shower and dress, drive to work, put in the morning sorting through your company’s invoices, and grab a sandwich at the café where you mumble a thank you to the girl behind the counter. You’ve encountered this young woman several hundred times, but you’ve never really looked at her. You never learned her name. You put in more hours in the office, and then you head home, where you mow the lawn, pour a vodka tonic, eat supper, watch television, and eventually go to bed.
In the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” T.S. Eliot’s narrator says, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” Many of us can easily fall into such a rut, so caught up in our own affairs and routines that we are oblivious to the wonders and marvels around us.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
… To the Extraordinary
Here’s what happened to me years ago.
Shortly before my 40th birthday, “Today is going to be an adventure” popped unbidden into my head as soon as I opened my eyes one morning. Weird, I know, and I have no idea if that promise—or perhaps a threat—was a bit of a dream left over from sleep, but there it was. It happened again a second morning, and a third, and then it became my mantra.
For a time, “Today is going to be an adventure” changed my world. It gave me a new pair of glasses, and I saw both my problems and the people around me with different eyes. My business and financial difficulties became obstacles to be battled and conquered rather than chains dragging me down. People, from my wife and children to the cashier at the Easy Stop, became more vivid, more real to me somehow. Life seemed sweeter and more precious, a quest rather than a climbing wall.
And then I stopped. For no comprehensible reason at all, I furled that banner that had so inspired me. Foolishly, I forgot the power of those words and tucked away what was fast becoming an excellent habit.
The chaos and mess of the past many months—the pandemic, the ugly bickering and name-calling, the cancel culture movement, and more—have left many of us, regardless of our politics, disheartened and gloomy. Family members, friends, and several readers, including some from overseas, have spoken or written to me of their mental and spiritual struggles, a condition with which I, too, can readily identify.
Reading the Chesterton quote reminded me that a remedy, or at least a palliative medication, might be found in my old motto: “Today is going to be an adventure.” For a week now, I have started the day saying those words along with my prayers, and have found my drooping spirit coming to life again. Full recovery may take a good while, but in the meantime, at least some of the pleasure and excitement of life have returned to me.
If you’re one of those who also feel that the world has lost its savor, why not give “Today is going to be an adventure” a shot?
After all, what have you got to lose?