The Permanent Adventure
"be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart"
There’s a certain kind of person
in a certain stage of life
who cannot fit in
You look at houses and see cages
You look at jobs and ask, what’s the point?
You see friends overworked, underslept, complaining, comparing,
compensating with alcohol, Amazon, television, toys
You want none of this
You want a life out there, not in here
You will not toil endlessly for a chance to taste freedom on weekends and holidays
You want evidence that you are, in fact, living
Dirt under the fingernails, blood in the mouth
Heart fluttering, pupils locked
Yes, it’s unreasonable,
Regardless, normality will not suffice
You want your life to be a permanent adventure
(at least for a good long while)
And you want to begin today
Where does it come from?
This discontent, this restlessness, this wanderlust?
Books and movies?
Affluence and individualism?
Boredom, impatience, fear of commitment?
Yes, sure, and—
Who fondly remembers those frantic school mornings, shoving cereal in mouth, rushing toward tedium?
Who happily wakes up sick to their stomach, fearing where they must go each day?
Who calmly watches their body stiffen and decay, hunched over screens?
Who peacefully dwells on the edge of financial ruin, technically free but functionally enslaved?
Who joyously serves an organization that will forget them, doing work of questionable value?
Life spent in nature, travel, creative effort
surrounded by friends, new and old
doing work that matters, and not too much of it
earning little, needing less
indebted to many, in debt to none
Life in motion: walking, running, swimming, riding, dancing
migration: many homes, no permanent residence
flirtation: with people, places, ideas
contribution: to worthwhile causes
infrequent doubt and anxiety
little fear of wasting it all
Imagine mountains, forests, soft brown trails
coastlines, crashing waves, winds, solitudes
long walks, long books, long conversations
time unbroken, attention kept whole.
Stepping from train, bus, plane
into heat, cold, smell, dialect
landscapes, strangers, possibilities
notebooks scribbled whole.
Bringing your creativity everywhere
typing, scheming, dreaming, building
bustling coffeeshops, quiet rooms
one long continuous thread of the mind
You can have it all.
And: you cannot have it all.
You cannot have the life sold on television and movies and social media
the emotional states promised by advertisers
carefree nights on the town, nice drinks and meals and rooms
the house, the furnishings, the studio
new clothes, new car, new toys in the garage
Without the full-time job, dual-income partnership, dedicated home base
You cannot move across the country, hop the flight, disappear into the mountains
With the mortgage, the garden
the 12-month lease,
the kids or pets or rooted partner.
The permanent adventure
is a state of purposeful hunger
Weaning yourself from comfort and predictability
To find what lies beyond
A little Buddhist, a little beat
A little capitalist, a little Marxist
And not necessarily forever
You can still go for the house, family, pet, garden
Just not now
Don’t walk these paths out of fear
Walk them because you’ve used yourself up,
burnt your candle to the wick,
scratched the itch that would not go away
What do you think will happen if you don’t take the adventure?
What kind of partner, friend, parent will you be?
What kind of employee, neighbor, citizen?
Repressed, regretful, resentful?
Seemingly present, actually elsewhere?
Why do you think you’re reading this now?
Because you have a problem
Because you are broken, infected, obsessed
Because you cannot dwell in this world—
not yet, at least.
…be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet