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Adventure or monotony?


Have you ever noticed that monotony is essentially the opposite of adventure? But, there is safety in monotony, which we also need? Thus, to be happy we need to intertwine new experiences with monotony in order to have both adventure and safety? That’s sort of funny, isn’t it? I suppose we are all different too; thus the level of adventure and the level of safety we need is self-defined. It’s sort of strange that so many interests we have as humans are competing.


I know, this isn’t really a particularly novel idea. Esther Perel, in her book, “Mating in Captivity” talks about the competing interests we have in a relationship: both for “passion” (similar to adventure) and for safety. She talks about how that is quite difficult to find in one relationship. How they are really competing interests.


I think we do the same in life. We search for excitement and adventure, and yet we also strive to find safety. I’ve had many people in life tell me that they think I’m “adventurous.” This has always struck me as somewhat strange, as I don’t think of myself as overly adventurous. I am definitely a planner. I have been impulsive before, but most of the decisions I make in life, have been fairly well-considered. I had an intern many moons ago who said to me, “you act like you’re really laid back, but you’re totally a type A personality.” I thought it was funny. I am laid back about some things, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to have some control, or at least perceived control. I don’t like doing things without feeling I have a good sense of what I’m doing.

But, there is definitely something to stepping out of the comfort zone. I think there has always been part of my soul that desperately wanted to be something different. Growing up, I looked very much like my siblings, and was often compared to them. I just wanted to be my own person. I feel that way in life too. I don’t want to be defined by what life tells us to be. I want a life that is mine, not something that is prescribed to be by anyone.


Perhaps it all stems from being little and having everything defined. In many ways, I had very strict rules to abide by growing up. Most days were planned out for me. Vacations were mapped out, with every minute of the day occupied by some important activity. Because of this, I’ve gotten to the point that if you want me to do something, you should probably tell me to do the opposite, because I have such a hatred for being told what to do. Many times, I’ll even know that what you’re telling me to do is correct, and I’ll still want to do the opposite, strictly because I don’t like having someone else dictate to me what I should be doing.


I know there are many people who are the opposite. They want someone to tell them what to do. I’ve had clients in both law and social work ask me what I thought they should do. They got frustrated with me when I told them I couldn’t make the decision for them. I try to tell them, “I’m not you. How can I know what is best for you and your life? I can simply tell you the options and discuss some of the pros and cons of the different choices.” Some people hate that. In fact, I had one client, who was trying to insult me, said, “you have all the questions, but you don’t have the answers.” I REALLY wanted to tell him that is what therapists do. I refrained.

At the end of the day, most of us want certainty in our decisions. We are willing to take a chance if someone can assure us that choice is a safe choice. In fact, in reality, that is how I can be “adventurous.” Most of the things I do, others have done before me and can assure me that even if I do it, I can still be safe. Right? Scuba, canoeing with alligators, crossing suspension bridges in the jungle, playing with tigers. Is there a degree of risk? Sure. Is it risky? Not really. Even this decision to quit my job and try to create my own ideal. It’s been done before.

I also have friends who live on both sides of the spectrum. Very close friends of mine have spent their lives traveling the world. To me, they are the risk-takers. They live a very unconventional life in many ways. I couldn’t do what they do. I need more monotony; more safety and security. I also have friends who live on the other side. Friends who were married early, have steady jobs, have children and a map for their lives. I couldn’t live that way either. Too much monotony. Plus, I don’t trust the systems that my friends have put their trust in. Thus, for me, there is less safety (perceived) than for my friends.


So, how do you balance the mundane with the adventure? How do you find security without being bored? How do you allow yourself to be an individual without doing all the things prescribed by social mores? At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter an ounce what anyone else thinks of your choices. It matters what you think. How satisfied are you by the choices you’ve made?

Right now, I feel my life shifting. My priorities have shifted and I’m trying to make sense of where I find myself. I have very much defined myself with my career, and yet I no longer want to define myself that way. There must be something more to life, and I can’t stay where I have been emotionally. I think I need more adventure; and, I think I’m finally ready for a bit less safety. That is a hard concept to grapple with, however, when you’re so used to living a certain way. Because, to live an unconventional life, there are less guides. There are fewer rules. There is less security. But, damn. The last year of my life has been beautiful. I’ve met so many interesting people. I’ve experienced new places and new activities. I’ve felt freer than I have in a long time.


This morning, while eating breakfast, I watched whales breach the surface of the ocean. For about a half an hour, the whales slapped the water with their tales. Now I’m watching surfers try to ride waves without falling. This life has so many experiences that we miss by staying in the same place. There are so many moments of beauty and awe. But, here, I’m missing moments with friends and family. I’m missing experiences arguing a case or watching students succeed. Our lives are a series of choices. So many competing interests at play. Are you satisfied with the choices you’ve made?

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