Sometimes I wish I was a more adventurous sort of person.
It usually happens after I read something about that sort of person — someone a little wild, a little raw around the edges, someone whose life seems to burn brighter and hotter than my own. In this case, the novel was All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry, which is about a couple of girls in the punk rock scene in 1990s Seattle (I think it’s Seattle, though the city is unnamed). There’s sex and some drugs and a lot of drinking, late nights out at raucous parties, excess so extreme that it takes a hellish toll. Not exactly appealing, is it? (Though the book is excellent!) It’s not so much that I want any of those things, because I don’t, but I do envy their ability to ignore or throw aside any sense of repercussions. I’m too naturally sensible to get rid of any inhibitions I have, so, inhibited, I live a quiet, staid life.
Which is fine, most of the time. But it’s possible to be too quiet and too staid, to inhibit yourself almost to a sort of death. Sometimes you have to be able to take a risk, to gamble that things will work out all right. Sometimes you even have to stop and redefine what “all right” might even mean. If you’re like me — exceedingly sensible — then at first glance all right means a steady job with a comprehensive health package and a 401k, a car and an apartment and a future in a suburb somewhere, with the requisite 2.5 children, the dog, the cat, the white picket fence. All right means enough money leftover for buying books and taking the occasional trip, always planned well in advance, never spontaneous and never stretching the budget. All right means everything is lined up, your ducks in a row, steady gains and nothing risked.
But “all right” might not be all right. I left the nine to five job with the benefits package a little over a year ago, because I was not actually all right. I was miserable. I hated my job. That almost seemed to be the sensible thing, hating the office job — the thing that made me just like everyone else. And, sensibly enough, I stuck with it for a long time, until suddenly I couldn’t anymore, and I quit almost spontaneously, in a weird week that caught me so off guard I wasn’t myself anymore.
Things could have gone badly from there, definitely. I was the breadwinner of our little family — me, my husband, and our cat Reesie — so my quitting was a major deal, to say the least. But that was just the first in a rapid-fire chain of events, because during my very last week at the old job my husband was offered a job in the Boston area. He took it; we moved; and here we are a year later, both of us working again, the cat well-fed, us well-fed, our financial situation maybe not as good as it once was but not so bad, either. We’ve got friends here. I belong to a local writing group and I’m a member of two book clubs with a third starting up next month. I’ve attended Readercon twice now, and have seen some of my favorite authors in person at bookstores throughout the area. I can’t afford to buy every single book I want to own, but now that I’m frequenting the library I’m picking up books I never would have otherwise, and loving them.
In other words, I’m all right. But maybe I wouldn’t have any of this if I hadn’t done the stupid thing and quit that sensible job in the first place. Don’t get me wrong: there’s a time and a place for sensibility, definitely. But having the occasional, sensible adventure is important too. To me that means going out when I might have preferred staying in, or splurging on a day trip to Salem, or teaching myself how to bake bread and cook new foods. It means reaching out to that writing group, taking the Readercon plunge, diving headlong into a new draft even when the little doubts suggest otherwise. They’re little adventures, maybe, but I don’t need big thrills. The little ones are enough. As Theodora Goss says in this excellent blog post, “I am the adventure: all of the things I do could be ordinary, but my imagination transforms them.”
I’ve got imagination. I think I can handle that.
And as for being the quiet, staid one? Well, anytime I start thinking it’d be great to be wild, I can go back and read “The Quiet Girls,” a poem by Catherine Pierce. “Still we float like spores, aloft and away.” We skirt the big dangers, have our quiet little adventures, take the sensible risks, and even if floating isn’t quite like flying, at least it’s not falling. We’re still aloft and airborne, just at a pace more suitable to us.
And the view is pretty good, too.