I read a Facebook post today (from one of my junior friends) that said “Why live if you’re not LIVING? Go out and have an adventure!”
As someone that has just finished his fifth novel, his thirty-third short story, performing in his fifth play in five years, teaches at three different schools as an educational privateer, has three jobs and eight children and is working furiously on a speech he has to give at the American Choral Directors’ Association Trade Secrets conference this summer, you might expect me to concur. I’ve sung for the Pope, in Rome, after surviving a terrorist attack two days before. I’ve met presidents and prophets, defied the Soviet empire behind the Iron Curtain, run a presidential campaign. I get paid to sing opera. I speak HUNGARIAN, for crying out loud.
The greatest joy of my life is twenty-five years of marriage to Jeanette. My proudest achievement is fifteen years of hard (and mostly excruciatingly dull) work as a loan officer and branch manager. What makes me most satisfied with my life is that whatever I’ve committed to – most of them pretty obscure – I show up on time, prepared, and do the best I can.
This is the adventure of my life, not the paragraph above it. We do, in our extraordinarily rich society, talk a lot about having adventures and following our muses and generally being “passionate” about stuff, but I’m a lot more interested in and respectful of those that quietly do their work, do it well, and don’t think much about themselves. I’m happiest not when I’m contemplating a novel launch or singing opera, but when I’m sitting on my couch rubbing my wife’s back, watching a silly movie with my children.
Most of the world’s work is done by those we’ve never heard of. They come, they do their jobs, and they go. The reason I can teach history is that there are hard-working women and men that built a school. The reason I can go on stage as the Great and Powerful Oz is that my wife has dinner and driving covered, and dozens of people are handling everything from mics to lighting to costumes to props to tickets and concessions and a partridge in a pear tree. Every adventure I have had depended heavily on hundreds of others doing a job for which they get little credit and (often) less money. In the end, I think their labor is worth every bit as much as the kind we see in the headlines, and maybe more. The Red Baron is an amazing guy, but you know, his mechanic must have been something, too. Every day. For years.
The adventure of your life, should you desire to have one, shouldn’t it be woven into your life, into everything you do? By all means, have an adventure. Better yet – make an adventure out of what you’re doing now.
It’s a lot more satisfying that way. And a great deal cheaper.