“Do it while you’re young” is the bad advice people always give me. I assumed they would stop saying this as I stopped being so young. While 30 is by no means old, it’s also not the epitome of youth. But people believe I must be a bright-eyed young wanderer to launch the Great Adventure.
So what is it like to adventure at 30?
I always had a strong sense of purpose. As a kid I had many ideas on what I wanted to do in life, and I was quick to form them into solid plans as I got older. This is unusual, and it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous because everyone is impressed when a teenager has a really thorough plan. They flatter you and it feels good. You are rewarded for making plans.
But long-range plans always have an element of risk. More so if you made the plans when the two hemispheres of your brain weren’t done connecting yet. A 17 year old committing to a 10 year course of action (this school, this major, this career) is a crime against youth.
Plans have a way of blinding us. When you are sure you’re doing x you may never notice options y and θ. This is true at any age, but it’s particularly tragic when it limits someone in their formative years.
I became conscious of this during college. I decided to to drop my double major (business, philosophy) and just go with the one that moved my heart (philosophy). I took a risk and quit my part-time job as a project manager. I focused on my writing, launched my own field study, and sold spells and charms to make a living.
I tasted freedom, and I liked it.
It was then, at age 20, that I decided I was going to walk to South America. If I had, it may have been my first truly purposeless time in life. When people think of traveling they think of goalless wandering, and in many ways it would have been.
At 30, finally preparing to start my adventure, it is no longer purposeless. I spent my “drifting” time in the less exciting surrounds of Minneapolis, and I’m past that point. I know pretty well who I am; I know my ideals, and not to trust my beliefs. Would it have been more interesting to come of age on the road? Certainly. But there’s no doing it over. Drifting just to drift doesn’t hold the appeal it once held.
I have become keenly aware of my fragility. I maintain a functional bravery, because bravery is the most effective mode of living. But it is also a measured bravery. I test rusty old ladders before I climb them. I don’t balance along railings and ledges just for fun. When I try something for the first time, I seek out training.
This is very new.
For some people, easing off the pointless risk might be gradual. For me, breaking my ankle was all it took. I endangered my entire adventuring career with 1.5 daredevil seconds. I could have lost everything I love; instead I lost two years.
It left a deep impression on me. If I traveled in my early 20s I would have taken a lot more risk. That may not have been a good thing.
Recently I wrote about how maturity is pursuing your dreams. Passing up your dreams leads to regret and regret poisons everything else you do.
Well, for 8 years I passed up my dreams.
Regrets are like barbed arrows. They wound so easily but removing them is not so easy. I live with no regrets (as a matter of policy) in my current lifestyle, but I have regrets about the years I mis-spent. I try not to take these to heart; I don’t want them to spoil the fact that I’m now doing what I love. Perhaps my present lifestyle will be the antidote to my old regrets.
Is there something you wish you’d done earlier? Leave a comment and tell your story. Do you have regrets? Do they fade with time?