Today is my 32nd birthday. I know that 32 isn’t old by any means, but I think today I’m feeling 32. I’m feeling the weight of another year gone by, incredulously scrawling an extra tally mark next to my name. I’m also feeling the occasional soreness from simple physical activity and instantly tired as soon as the clock strikes 9pm. That’s mostly how 32 I feel.
Over the past year, I learned something new about myself. I’m still working through the implications of this discovery, so bear with me. A public admission may alienate me from my peers, but I think 32 needs to be a year of brutal honesty — a year of grappling with the burden of secrecy I’ve been suppressing for 3+ decades. So, here it is:
I am not adventurous.
I’m not. I’m like the opposite of a North Face advertisement. A turtle who loves her shell. I like safety and predictability, but mostly I’m just embarrassed that I don’t know how to do things that would possibly qualify me as a person who seeks adventure. (My REI membership is just a cover, I swear.)
In high school I went to summer camp in Michigan with my best friend Morgan, and one of the first things we did there was a high ropes course, aka my literal nightmare. If you’re not familiar with this form of American torture sold as “fun” or “teambuilding,” you wear a harness and a helmet, climb up a wooden structure 20-30 feet high, and attempt to balance on wires and swinging bridges while not dying. A person on the ground holds your life in their hands with a rope and some metal clips, and you’re expected to accept this as a form of entertainment — an adventure.
I started crying as soon as I put the helmet on. It was a partner course, so Morgan and I had to hold onto each other the entire time, leaving neither of my hands free to wipe the tears that obscured my vision. I reluctantly climbed up while the rest of our cabin did some obligatory cheering, shouting that I could DO IT and I was GONNA MAKE IT and I GOT THIS. I will never forget inching my way along a wire that separated into a wide V shape, forcing me to rely on Morgan for balance, and forcing my legs to shake so uncontrollably that I was sure the wire would snap from enduring unprecedented amounts of friction.
My body survived, but a part of my soul died that day.
This year, more than ever, I’ve noticed an overuse of the word “adventure.” It’s become this pervasive term that makes me wonder if we all have the same understanding of its meaning. Do we? According to a very reputable source, “adventure” has two main definitions:
- participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises
- a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome
With how often the word is thrown around, I’m pretty sure the rest of the world subscribes to the first definition, and I’m over here riding solo on number 2. But the second definition DOES apply, so let’s just think about this for a second. If your inspirational mountain/sunset artwork included a whimsical text overlay reading “
Adventure Hazardous action of uncertain outcome is calling,” would you hang it up in your living room? Probably not.
So how did I develop such an aversion to adventure? I don’t know. Part of me thinks it’s in my nature. Part of me blames it on never learning how to camp or ski or rock climb or do anything that involved survival skills as a child. Part of me blames it on all the terrifying mishaps that have occurred while attempting adventurous activities, such as when I had a near-death parasailing experience, or when a camper I was responsible for got air-lifted after a horseback riding accident, or when I struggled through a backpacking trip that I still can’t believe didn’t kill me.
Whatever the reason, now, at 32, “adventure” is definitely NOT calling.
At some point in the past year, I bit the bullet and begrudgingly made profiles on a couple of dating apps. Guys on dating apps are generally terrible at describing themselves. I can say this because I usually swipe left until the app is like “there is no one left in your area,” and I’m dumbfounded that I’ve exhausted all of my options. I’ve read A LOT of bios, and the common thread is a single word to describe a person’s interests as though I’m expected to know what he’s talking about.
“I’m very adventurous!”
“I love anything with adventure!”
Oh, really? You love adventure? What are you, a shark tamer? Do you chase tornadoes on a snowmobile? Do you hunt and gather to feed yourself?
Sometimes photos of rock climbing or snow boarding or the Tough Mudder finish line accompany these proclamations of adventure, but I tend to be skeptical. Every commercial and blog and Pinterest board tells us we’re built to be adventurous — to seize the day, live life to the fullest — but the word itself is so ubiquitous that I can’t help but feel like its lost a little bit of its meaning.
Maybe these guys are adventurous, but maybe they just think they’re supposed to be. In any case, I just imagine one of them trying to talk to me about spelunking or something, and I’d tell him about my weekend spent with my dog, The OC, and a boy band coloring book, and that would be the end of it.
Ok, so I don’t fit the traditionally adventurous mold. I accept it. But maybe 32 is the year I start looking at the word “adventure” differently. Maybe I can reclaim it and give it meaning again — or give it my own meaning. Who cares if I refuse to get on a horse or swim far out into the ocean (YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S DOWN THERE) or cliff jump or bungee jump or participate in any other variety of jumping?
This year, my adventure is about staying. It’s about investing. Settling. Finding my place. Those are all things I’ve been working on for a while, but this year I want to really live them.
I’m buying a house this fall. I know, I know. It’s like the “American Dream” and so many people do it, but until recently it was always something I thought I’d do if and when I got married. It wasn’t something that 32-year-old single Tara would do by her little self. But God put this dream in my heart, and I’m going after it, however boring and inhibiting and financially draining it may seem to anyone else.
I have big dreams for my little house. I don’t know where it is or what it looks like or how big it is, but I do know that the love poured into it will be poured back out onto any and every visitor. I know that the door will always be open, and it will be a haven of comfort where guests will always be welcome. I know that it’s where I will care for others and myself and begin to live my adventure of staying, investing, settling, and place.
This summer I’m serving in Ukraine for two weeks with some people I really love. I’m stepping away from my leadership role in a ministry that has been a part of my life for nearly 4 years. I’m giving myself time to figure out what’s next. I want to find a church. I want to cultivate my home team, my tribe. I want my roots to grow deep and my fruit to flourish.
I don’t have to be the most interesting person in the room or tell the most exciting stories. I can reserve the right to give a permanent NO to white water rafting and anything with the word “zip line” in it. The advancement of my story depends on my willingness to say yes to what compels me, even if it’s the domestic and mundane. There will be plenty of “hazardous actions of uncertain outcomes” for me to face in the future, I’m sure. But for now, I’m waiting and dreaming and hoping for the ways God will use year 32 to redefine adventure.