When I was a kid, I would stay up all night in the summer. I stayed awake to meet the sun as it was rising. After I had said my hellos, I would sneak out of the house through the front door and run away for a while as everyone in my house slept. Opening the creaking door without waking anyone was nerve-wracking for me back then, but as soon as I closed that door behind me and breathed in the morning air, my nerves soothed themselves into a low-thrumming thrill. Back then, adventure wasn’t found in travel to other countries, or even in ideas. Back then, adventure was as simple as entering the world outside my front door while the rest of my family slept—completely unaware of the journey I was experiencing.
When I had left the house, I would run to a nearby lake and run around some more. I ran because I was afraid I would be caught if someone saw me. I ran because it seemed safer to run than walk while doing something my parents wouldn’t approve of. Mostly, I ran because it was so fun to run. My experience was completely different when I ran through it rather than strolled. It became something special. It seemed rushed in the reality of the moment, but when I play it back in my memories, the time is as clear and pretty as anything.
I never stayed long. The whole time I was away, I would be thinking about going back. In hindsight, even my disobedience was obedient—the guilt at disobeying my parents was always there. So, I would return and creep back into the house, close and lock the door behind me, calm my heart, and sleep well into the afternoon. My parents must have thought I was so lazy—and in a way, I was. I was lazy when it came to the duties I had as a child. However, I was diligent in dealing with my curiosity. I worked hard in weaving my imagination into my reality. There was a deep-set sluggishness within me that adults often berated me for. Little did anyone know, that sluggishness only existed because of all the attention I reserved for the mysteries I experienced just past sunrise. No one had ever seen the child I became in the dawn. I perceive that fact as a small secret and gift I keep close. The moments I spent alone in the world as a child were some of the happiest of my life.
I had probably snuck out about twenty times until I stopped completely one day. I stopped when I began to consider that the world outside my front door wasn’t an adventure anymore. Suddenly, the world had become something to fear. Like any timid, well-behaved child, I listened to and felt that fear until I was old enough to understand that the fear I was living in wasn’t my own. It was the product of the people around me who had introduced the idea that the world was completely unsafe into my small, impressionable mind.
Now, I take walks in the middle of the night when I’m feeling alone and old. At times, I see that childhood fear creep back up my throat. It returns when I think I’ve seen a figure in the dark or heard someone following my steps. In those moments, I remember that this life is still a mystery. I also try to remember that this life I live is something to admire rather than fear. It’s something to recline into and love deeply and appreciate. So, I walk on with a calm heart and quiet mind, knowing the dangers—but determined not to shrink from them unless they actually happen. Until that day comes, I’m perfectly at peace with being what some may consider a happy fool.
I also try to remember that this life I live is something to admire rather than fear. It’s something to recline into and love deeply and appreciate.
Now, for me, the adventure can lie within anything. Adventure is in music. It’s in a melody that makes me build a story from nothing, just from the notes—that’s adventure. Adventure is the sound my shoes make on my walk away from home, it’s the wind that hurts my cheeks and in the sound of strangers’ overheard conversation. It can exist anywhere. This is the beauty of growing up—in the moments when we realize just how wonderful the world we live in actually is. Those moments are precious, and it’s easy to forget just how valuable they are. Life, after all, is limited. We tend to forget that part in favor of living life as if it is endless.
Hope comes easily to me, it seems. I’ve been accused many times of being an optimist. I’m a happy person who is sometimes labeled an optimist, but I like to think of myself as a realist. I see the reality that my life hasn’t been bad at all, so there is little point in trying to twist it into something tragic when I could simply realize that I am genuinely happy—I have been happy during times when I thought I had nothing, and I am happy now. I’m happy because I’m a realist–I look at my life and the people within it and the things that have happened and almost all have been genuinely good—or at the least, mediocre. Nothing is bad. Nothing is spoiled. In a life full of growth and bounty, it would be an immense shame to focus on the rot.
It took me a while to realize that tragedy isn’t popular in real life personalities. It’s marketable in characters and in most artistic mediums. But in the artist, tragedy does not make the individual interesting or alluring or more intelligent. It makes them tragic. Tragedy rots our lives. Self-imposed tragedy can be like a pesticide we choose to spray over our memories that were perhaps not quite as bad as we recall them to be. We watch these tragic heroes and we read about tragic villains and think, No one will love me, respect me, and admire me unless my life has been hard. Meanwhile, many people less fortunate than us have to go on merely surviving instead of living. Many do so without the privilege of yelling their melancholy to every stranger they pass. Meanwhile, so many of us are trying to be tragic.
The thing is, people are too busy to read our lives like a book and fall in love with the story. They’re too busy living their own lives. So, it would be foolish to expect that time from strangers or even loved ones. Even if we have the odd individual in our lives who tries to sacrifice themselves for our problems, we usually end up draining them. People aren’t made to balance multiple lives upon their shoulders. We can choose to stop that selfish behavior whenever we catch ourselves at it. We certainly won’t lose any friends if we begin to act like one ourselves.
Something I have been accused of more than being an optimist, however, is writing stories that overstate the beauty of life. This is a strange thing to be accused of. In a world full of optimists, pessimists, narcissists, cellists, optimists who become pessimists, pessimists who become nihilists, and any combination of personality known to exist, I get accused of promoting happiness. Maybe it’s in the way I promote it? Some people won’t connect to my point of view, and that’s alright. No one’s opinions are invalid. With that said, I will never feel guilt about the privilege I possess in celebrating my life. I will continue to acknowledge and appreciate it.
After all this talk of accusation, I should say something in my defense. There’s no shortage of stories about the futility of life and the suffering in it, so I might as well add some stories to the other end of that spectrum. I simply can’t find any harm in being positive. I might as well be positive. So, I remain optimistic until something turns me back into that scared little child who gave up sunrise adventures in favor of being afraid. In these moments, I try to remember that positivity is a choice. I try my hardest to stop being afraid, take my child-self’s hand in mine, and walk towards the path of happiness. There is adventure in that walk. There is adventure in the sound of my steps. It’s in the wind against my skin. It’s in my heart, and in the shape of my wide and unabashedly happy grin.