Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Stickers, scribbles, cracks, and adventure

Seven years ago, I went on a big adventure. I spent the summer in Alaska volunteering at a Bible camp, then went on to Australia to see Jacob and Michelle get married, and proceeded on to South Korea for a semester abroad. All in all, it was a nine month trip. This Rubbermaid container was one of my pieces of luggage. It is covered in memories- stickers from Tokyo airport security, an "Ian was here" note, scuffs and cracks, and dozens of notes and phone numbers written during my missing-passport adventure in LAX. I was stuck for two days in LA because a Korean consulate employee dropped my urgent/overnight mail with my passport and visa into a drop box on a Friday afternoon and it was not picked up until Monday. I was able to crash with a friend of Ian's until it arrived, just in time for me to make it to the wedding and to lose my 20th birthday the international date line while flying west.



The nine-month experience was amazing and my thirst for adventure has burned ever since. My life is different now- I'm in loan repayment, have a rental house, and have embarked on the adventure of life together with Sarah. When such excellent adventures are in my past as a single man, it can make it hard to see weekend trips as adventures. It can even feel like a loss- and in a way it is. But what I have gained- progress towards financial freedom, a home, and a soulmate who loves me unconditionally- are more valuable than the most carefree international romp. There is a part of each of us that desires to have everything good with no sacrifice. As children, we learn that we can't hold every single toy in our little hands, that we cannot have energy to play if we do not go to sleep, and that we sometimes give up a demand in order to keep a friend. These simple concepts are really the same as opening up the joy of marriage by leaving behind the vacuum of responsibility that exists in singleness- but multiplied by the magnitude of a lifetime, they sometimes daunt me. I wish I had ridden a motorcycle across Vietnam, built a trebuchet, learned to freedive or play the guitar, turbo'd an E30, hiked the Appalachian trail or spent some of that freedom a thousand other ways than I did. (Video games, tinkering, and eating, mostly) 

I do not feel bitter, though, or underprivileged. I could compare myself with any epic Youtube video or somebody's amazing Facebook album, but that would be sad, untrue, and ungrateful. I've had a good run at youth. I went on big adventures and had wonderful experiences that many others more deserving than I did not. I did not deserve such a wonderful youth as I've had. The adventures are not over; I am not resigning myself to some boring picture of adulthood or placing the Ned I have been in a memory box. But I will acknowledge that my adventure looks different now, just like the Ned in the mirror. My knees are not what they once were, I need to avoid widowing Sarah via motorcycle wreck, and over the next couple decades, I'll probably be rediscovering the world through my children's eyes. My hope now, and my image of adventure to come, is to continue to discover the joy, the freedom, and the excitement of leaving an imprint on the world around me that will matter when the dust settles. Who will I have loved? With whom will I have shared the truth? What encouragement have I given to my family and friends? When this world fades away, will my adventure die with it, or will it be recorded in those whom I'll worship with, and in the book of life? So says the proverb, "as we spend our days, so we spend our lives". I'm not starting today- I started August 8, 1987. I am nearly 27 years into my adventure, and I intend to use what I have left to live with eternal purpose. 

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