Six years ago, an adventure for me was making it through eight hours of school. Not really an adventure, I know. I’d dawdle to that big brick structure in the middle of town, building myself up for maths class and wondering if I could get through it without faking some kind of instrumental lesson. I don’t remember much of a spark behind my eyes. What I do remember is lots of sighing, pondering and imagining. I wonder whether I was living in the real world at all.
During this period of my life, I always admired people who did things like school exchange. I wondered how they could do it, how they could board that twenty-something hour plane by themselves and leave their family behind for three months. That idea seemed overwhelming to me.
There were times where I’d simply refuse to leave the state on a family holiday. My fear of flying would push me to breakdown point and I’d have to use every inch of willpower to force myself to remain calm. I liked feeling safe and the unknown was never safe. It was always dangerous, full of sharp edges and slippery slopes. I even missed a family trip to San Francisco during this time. I couldn’t board the plane.
People would nudge me, laughing. “Where’s your sense of adventure?” They’d ask. I would wonder about that too. Would I ever be the kind of free-spirit that I longed to be? Would I be able to travel the world? Or live anywhere outside of Hobart, ever? No, I decided I wouldn’t be able to.
I am happy to say that time has transformed me. I have discovered that sense of adventure. It didn’t happen overnight though. I worked on it. I went after it like a moth searching for the flame. It was a slow process of learning how to take constructive criticism, how to deep-breathe, how to ignore the voice of those little demons inside my head. In terms of travel, I participated in fear of flying class, I had cognitive therapy training and even hypnotherapy. As I said, it didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t particularly cheap.
Even now I wonder about my own sense of adventure. For me, having a sense of adventure means being in situations that are out of my comfort zone. I try to do it every day, whether it is taking a lift or catching a tram in peak hour when it is difficult to breathe among the hoards. I strive to beat my claustrophobia.
Last year, I challenged myself on a daily basis. I caught more planes than I cared to, I walked the deserted streets of London-Derry despite panicking over the bomb scare. I didn’t go into melt down if a plane was delayed or we missed a train. It didn’t matter how out of my comfort zone I was, I forced myself forward.
I think this has paid off. I now have this constant thrill of excitement when I think about new adventures – whether it is an overseas trip or simply an interview for a job. I can happily swim in the ocean despite my old fear of sharks lurking below. In fact, I even enjoy it. I will gladly get in a lift if it means saving my legs ten flights of stairs. I can look into the eyes of someone criticising me and rationally give my point of view. The more I develop these skills, the more I find that spark.
I wonder what I will be like in another six years time. Will I have honed in on the free-spirit? Whatever that is? I hope so. But for now, I can proudly say to those people who asked, “yes I have found a sense of adventure, have you?”
Well, have you?