Monday, September 3, 2007

Whaddaya Mean, "Born Explorer?"

or, "Why did I start this blog, anyway?"

One of my earliest wishes was to live in a house that reconfigured itself every night as I slept, so that I would have a whole new home to explore every single morning. Despite the fact that I, even then, realized this to be an impossible dream, it is a memory that has stuck with me to this day. Though I led something of a sheltered life, as I grew up, I managed to find ways to feed my hunger for exploring. Not allowed to snoop around in houses into which I was invited (for reasons of propriety), I contented myself with nosing around houses in the process of being built. A little later in life I would explore the small hummocks and wooded areas remaining in my neighborhood, although I would sometimes get in trouble for this, as such areas were considered unsafe; full of frightening and deadly prospects like rattlesnakes and alligators.

I was limited in those days to the areas I could reach on foot or via bicycle, and I always had to be home in time for dinner (the sheltered life isn't all bad :). So I explored and re-explored the same places, while deep inside me grew a longing to continually expand my range. It was always a little exciting to discover that someone else had been operating in an area; finding dirt freshly churned by bike tires, or the wood and nails indicative of a nascent tree fort. Still, I knew there was a much wider world out there to be discovered, and I longed for the day it would be within reach.

When I got a little older, I had a friend who lived across the highway. Her neighborhood was unexplored territory for me, and I ached to walk or bike it and get myself lost among the unfamiliar twists and turns. Given the size of the subdivision, I realized it would be nigh impossible to truly get lost, but that did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for exploration. Alas, my friend was not similarly inclined, and so those many roads remained closed to me.

More than almost anything, though, I wanted to be a Girl Scout. They, it seemed, had all sorts of adventures: camping, hiking, picnicking, and all sorts of learning. Many reasons were given for why I was never allowed; mostly relating to my allergies (for which I was in constant treatment) and money. It wasn’t until much later in life that I discovered the real reason: my mother was terrified that I might be molested while out on a camping trip. Nevertheless, I checked the Junior and Cadet Girl Scout handbooks out of the library repeatedly, practicing knot tying and lashing things together, reading up on the numerous other skills required to be a good camper, and endlessly poring over the requirements for various badges, daydreaming about someday being able to fulfill them.

Needless to say, that day never came. Thus I am now in a permanent second childhood; one where I grab every available chance to explore. Regardless of whether it’s a friend who’s bought a new house giving me the nickel tour, a two-week camping trip planned around the ghost towns of a given area, the hiking trails of a nearby state park, or the urban exploration of a deserted old building down the block, I am constantly looking for, and finding, new ways to discover the world around me.

During my explorations, and especially during my long hikes alone in the woods, I make many discoveries about life, the universe and everything. Most importantly, though, it is then that I learn the most about myself. I have come to many epiphanies, including the realization that I am a die-hard fan of novelty. Exploring the same place twice holds little appeal for me, unless it has been long enough for the place to have changed. This desire for the new and unusual is a consistent thread throughout my non-exploring life as well. I'm always looking for new flavors, new music, new scents, and new scrapbook supplies. :)

It also has a somewhat darker side; this desire for constant change and newness does not lend itself well to anything of permanence. It is to this trait that, among other things, I attribute the fact that I had already bought and sold a house and begun and ended a marriage before the age of 30. If I had given myself the opportunity to realize my deep-seated need for novelty, I hope that I would never have made the mistakes I did. The reality, however, is that I did make them, and that the best I can now do is learn from them. Learn from them, and also share them here, in the hopes that someone else may be so enlightened, hopefully before they make similar errors. We must make an important choice in life; either play the hand we are dealt, or fold (spend our lives wishing we were, had, or did something we didn't). I've chosen to do the best I can with what I've got. Rather than fight my innermost nature, I now embrace it, and accept that it likely means I will never have a life that most consider normal. It can be difficult, but thus far I have found it very rewarding; much more rewarding than trying to fit in, keep up with the Joneses, and otherwise conform to a norm with which I was never truly comfortable.

This, then, is the place where you can vicariously join me on my journeys, and enjoy the amazing wonders that might be found halfway down the street, or halfway around the world. And if you happen to learn something about yourself or someone you know in the process, well, don't blame me. :)