My friends all went to Paris, but I didn’t. They climbed the Eifel Tower and brought back a little Eifel Tower pin for me. It was 1976, I was in grade school and I had the chance to spend a week in Paris with my class. I chose not to go because I was afraid of the metro. In retrospect it was silly and thirty some years later I still think it was a bad decision. And, unfortunately, it was the beginning of many such decisions that I made because I didn’t want to get hurt, fail, look like a loser, or a myriad other reasons.
Some of you who have been around me in the last few years have heard this story or been with me as I take a painful trip down this particular memory lane. There are other lanes that are equally as painful to travel down like the memory lane where I chose to go to an in-state college rather than the out of state one that I really wanted to. But this blog isn’t about my regrets; it’s about what has happened since I decided to live life by the seat of my pants and allow myself to truly participate in life.
Recently I found the following quote by Theodore Roosevelt in our local newspaper:
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure….than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
I read the quote and realized that so many years of my life were lived in a gray twilight. I had no great victories or defeats because I had failed to dare.
When I made the decision a couple of years ago to begin to take chances, a whole new world opened up to me. I began to see the world in a different light. I have tried some daring things in the past few years and I have some mementos of those trials. I could never bear to wear the little Eifel Tower pin on my shirt, maybe because it was a reminder of what I had missed. Today, though, I sport three little lady bugs on my right ankle. They are a constant reminder of my mom, but also of my desire to live life fully.
Not all of my quests have been amazing, death defying acts. Some are more sedate such as seeking a promotion that would change my world. Some people wouldn’t consider this to be a great adventure, but it has been. I was granted the promotion and it has turned my life upside down in many ways, but in the last six months I have been changed. I have been touched by the lives of the people I now supervise. I have an incredible team of 9 people and they are all unique, they all come from different experiences, and they all bring different things to the team. The promotion requires that I stretch myself and challenge myself on a regular basis. Some days that stretching and challenging makes me want to run screaming to the 9th floor and jump off the building. When the day is over though I am a different person because of the situation and because I chose to face it rather than jumping off the building!
Recently I have been pondering my approach to men and dating. I have always played my hand very close to my chest for fear of being found out and being hurt. This stems back to a situation in 6th grade with my first crush. His name was James and he was foxy (I believe that’s the word we used back then) and I just wanted to be near him. He found out about my crush and let me know he knew. I don’t know whether he thought it was a good thing or a bad thing because as soon as he knew I withdrew into my shell. I was mortified and for once was glad when it came time to move to another duty station a short while later. The problem with this approach is that men don’t see interest and they move on. I always rationalized that the right man would come along and scale the wall I had built. He would be worthy of my love. That may be the case, but I know there was purpose in my singleness. I don’t lie awake at night with regrets of not being married or in a dating relationship, but I wonder what great friendships I might have missed out on over the years because of my fear.
I choose to write about my missed opportunities and my new adventures not because they are all that amazing. I put them out there because I see others who are letting life march on without them. Life is busy or tough or tiring and so they let experiences pass them by. My quest for life may involve jumping out of planes or white water rafting or getting a tattoo. That doesn’t mean everyone should choose those things. Sometimes it is the little things that open the biggest doors. Maybe it’s taking a class, pursuing a hobby, talking to someone in the elevator. Little things can make a world of difference if you are open to the adventure in everyday life.
Hard to believe when I look back that the gray twilight permeated my life because of two instances that happened in grade school. I allowed those two childhood memories to hold me back for the next twenty some years. I have been living an abbreviated life because of fear. John 10:10 talks about the thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but that Jesus comes “that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” God wants for each of us to have abundant life, not necessarily in the tons of money in the bank sense or climbing great mountains, but He wants us to partake of all the He has given us. We live in an awesome world and have the opportunity to do and encounter great things. Reach out of your comfort zone in little ways to see what might happen. It could just change your life!