It was unlike the two of us to take a break from the hum of normal life. We had always moved through milestones quickly together. Within four years, we both finished graduate school, moved to New York City together, began new jobs, got engaged, planned and hosted a wedding.
By the end of last July, we found ourselves on a new shore, preparing for a new major voyage—another move, this time to Los Angeles. From within a haze of depletion, we had an inspired idea. We wanted a summer. With both of us working remotely, it was possible, a near unheard of luxury.
Northeast Ohio does not disappoint in the summer: Its landscape flooded with green vitality. Its rivers like veins pulsing. Its fields becoming golden in the heat, and its wildflowers always in bloom. Familiarity filled my days for those precious weeks: the vibrant green landscape, the scent of gardenias, the sounds of cicadas, the humid air like a blanket wrapped around me and the chill of pool water brought memories of childhood flooding back. With those memories came a childlike joy.
August quickly melted into September. On the day of our departure, the sky was suddenly as gray as my mood. I was jarred back to the harsh loneliness of adulthood. Lushness replaced by lists of utilities companies to call, earthquake preparedness to-dos, questions about car insurance, unfinished job and program applications and never-ending Zillow suggestions to sift through. With tears welling in my eyes, I reluctantly dragged my heavy suitcase away from our family home to the car. Off we went. I felt suddenly anxious, unsure and on guard.
I was jarred back to the harsh loneliness of adulthood.
If my emotional landscape were a garden, then several rows would be dedicated to varieties of anxiety: anticipation anxiety, generalized anxiety, separation anxiety and social anxiety, to name a few. My anxiety, which had often been amplified by the busyness of New York, was eased by the comfort of an August at home. Our month-long break brought me peace, while moving was bringing instability and uncertainty.
Recently, The New York Times published a story about a renewed search for answers in Amelia Earhart’s disappearance and presumed death. A picture of Earhart standing proudly beside her aircraft. I was struck by her seeming confidence in the face of uncertainty, in the face of danger. Earhart was radiant in the light of adventure, her life’s work. It was, after all, she who said, “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”
Unlike Amelia though, I do not seek adventure. I seek safety. Although I am well-traveled and my husband and I are moving clear across the country, I do not adventure for its own sake or rely upon it for inspiration. I have leapt for the sake of other things: love, responsibility, education and edification. I function by virtue of preparation (even our cat has a disaster preparation kit).
I do not seek adventure. I seek safety.
I fear losing loved ones and losing control. I fear. So I avoid danger by avoiding and mitigating risk. The blessing and the curse of the anxious, compassionate soul.
Rest, in contrast, is expansive to me. When I can turn the dial down on my anxiety, I thrive. My parasympathetic nervous system thaws the rest of my mind. I feel warm, new, more open and more myself. In a less defended state, I can see more clearly, love more deeply and access my authentic creativity.
Despite all the reasons I knew we’d chosen Los Angeles, I missed the embrace of home. Under the fluorescent airport lights, as uncomfortable as I was, I wondered: Could I allow something else to replace my anxiety? Could I displace, for a time, my myriad worries about highway traffic, natural disasters, snakes, heat stroke and not finding a house, to allow a little room for joy? Could I slightly lean in to adventure?
Could I displace, for a time, my myriad worries…to allow a little room for joy?
As I often do, I looked up the etymology for “adventure,” assuming it was derived from some shorthand for jumping carelessly off a metaphorical cliff without regard for personal safety or preservation of life. I was surprised to learn that “adventure,” derived from the Latin word for “arrive.” At one point, it was most accurately described as “a wonder, a miracle, accounts of marvelous things.”
Minutes later, a boisterous little girl walked onto the plane with her family. She called out, “Where are all the California people?” Passing our row, she turned to me and said, “Hey!” Everyone laughed.
Barreling down the runway a few minutes later, I felt something like excitement rise within me. The clouds lifted to reveal thick stripes of pink and orange, my hometown wishing us “farewell for now.”
It has been nearly a year since our summer move.
The funny thing is it has been one of the most complicated moves we have ever made. We have faced a major house flood, stalled renovations, another move, a gas leak and, most recently, a family illness. It has been anything but an easy period. Nevertheless, it has still been joyful and peaceful—a great adventure.
I have since learned to see differently by honoring adventure even in small and ordinary ways. It is joy, it turns out, that sustains us, helping us arrive each day in our own lives. Joy helps us find the strength within ourselves to love each other, to love the world, to appreciate the day we’ve been given, to pay attention, to be brave and leap.