On Restlessness and Adventuring
Far over the Misty Mountains cold,
To dungeons deep and caverns old,
We must away, ere break of day,
To seek our pale enchanted gold.
It is important to remember wonder. Over the past years, facing the fiscal nightmare of living in New York City and the sudden pressure to comfortably wed passion to paychecks, a few great truths began slipping into obscurity. Logistical concerns about making ends meet (what does that even mean?) invaded and subtly supplanted the more wondrous priorities of a dreamer.
I mean, it was real touch and go for a minute there. The following two desires flew into conflict: 1) to feel untethered, free to explore and uncertain of the next adventure; and 2) to find domestic bliss with the woman I love, the dog I adore, and in communion with family and friends. How to be a wanderer but find security for myself and my family?
In this next year I will once again endeavor to link vision and passion with craft, doing the logistical dreamer dance that was so spoiling in undergrad. I’ll go into heavy debt in the hopes of one day finding a career that is stimulating and fulfilling at the same time that it pays the bills. In that choice, I like to think I struck a smart balance in the aforementioned conflict. Of course, expecting to get paid as a journalist favors the dreamer, but I’m down with that.
This down time, though, of treading water creatively and making a home in Chicago left my passions wanting for attention. I didn’t register that neglect until a curious little catalyst forced my restlessness into focus. My sister found a book report written by our oldest brother when he was just nine about The Hobbit, opening with the same selection at the top of this post. Tolkien’s big in my family, and most people that know me well have seen my eyes go dreamy and bright whenever someone expresses interest in that mythology (The Silmarillion is still pure and beautiful, uncorrupted in conversation by a film trilogy marked by both home runs and strike-outs). With the music of The Hobbit in my mind, I watched clips of the old Rankin/Bass cartoon on YouTube. For those in the dark, this masterpiece of 1977 knocks the sense of wonder and magic out of the park, owing much to the stellar soundtrack. Yeah, Glenn Yarbrough’s warble may not be your cup of tea, but tell me the opening or the music in Mirkwood as the spiders strike isn’t miraculous. Real, imagination-riling music. I’ll admit that nostalgia fills me with bias on this front. Can’t be helped.
Point is, quick clips of that old movie rekindled the purest bits of my childhood, of imagining life as an adventure with myself cast as the hero. Although the hero bit was much less critical than just living in that world of wonder. And so restlessness washed over me and did its damndest to ruin the day.
Here’s the lesson, as close as I can reckon it. Sooner or later most people butt heads painfully with the tedious, unsexy need to make ends meet. Ideally, passion and paycheck line up perfectly and the dreamer gets fed daily with care. But if not, it’s critical to touch the things that make your jaw drop and your bullshit slip away in an instant. Remember and experience wonder. In some form or another. Listen to some slayerly album and really give it focus, see Inception again and hold it close, read Dune and feel a terrible purpose. Adventure. It’s imperative.
Restlessness manifested for me with an upset tummy and the glimmers of desperation. And I think a lot of depression emerges from the neglecting suffocation of the parts of us that worship wonder. Keep that muscle primed, honor imagination and elation. Stand by the gray stone when the thrush knocks and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the key-hole.
P.S. Once in your life, say “Revenge? You? Ha! I am Smaug! I kill when I wish! I am strong, strong, strong!”
I can’t wait to read your adventure stories about the expert superhuman and his dog.
This is my struggle, too. I have not yet married passion and paycheck. Not sure if I can in this job — the work time isn’t doing it for my psyche, and can that psyche (and a true true love for my life outside work and real adventure) be sated by four weeks’ vacation a year and approximately one day off a week? Probably not, even if those four weeks and weekend days are the most explosive and adventuresome days of my life. Will a job and the stability that come with it ever make me happy, or will I change jobs and cities approximately every year like I have for the last several years in search of this very balance of which you write?
I have some time off coming up and a lot of miles to drive where I can think more about these things, but I’m not sure if there are answers. For now, I get through most days by accepting my responsibility as provider, which is a comfortable role for me and a sometimes good enough reason to sacrifice my tiny personal freedom and work for the man.
My horoscope is also mocking me:
If your home is like a museum, a staid assemblage of fine memories, I suggest you shake things up a bit. If your imagination is filled with tape loops that keep running storylines you’ve heard a thousand times before, shake things up a bit. If your daily actions are so thoroughly possessed by the anesthetizing demons of habit that you can’t recall your last creative innovation, shake things up a bit. On the other hand, there’s no need for blame. Don’t berate yourself for your sluggishness. It was an inevitable byproduct of your efforts to solidify and stabilize your life. Just slip into a more playful mode and enjoy a bout of experimentation.
I miss you lots. And for what it’s worth, I think you’re doing a great job.
That is really beautiful work.