“Let’s go exploring!”
Many summer afternoons my friend Lisa would show up at my front door, a mischievous glint in her bright blue eyes, and issue that invitation. Actually it was more like a command, since Lisa was definitely the master sergeant and I the dutiful foot soldier in our childhood relationship.
In those days, the idea of exploring struck fear into my heart. The expeditions we’d been on in the past usually got me into big trouble. Like the time we “explored” the woods behind the railroad tracks or tried out the new McDonald’s on the opposite side of a very busy intersection. Both places were verboten in the limited range of acceptable places for me to play, and ended up with me being grounded from further exploratory activities. Even if our escapades weren’t discovered (which they almost always were) I never enjoyed them because I was so fearful of the consequences.
So my relationship with exploration got off to a bad start. I wasn’t encouraged to try new things nor given many opportunities to push the boundaries of my safe little suburban existence. And though part of me would like to say all that has changed – that since becoming an adult I’ve trekked through the desert and swum with the dolphins, lived in city and country and everywhere in between, gone sky diving and para-sailing – it hasn’t. My idea of exploration is more likely to be trying a new flavor of ice cream than going on a hike in the wilderness.
But with maturity comes a sense of time tunneling inward, a feeling that the opportunities for exploration are no longer limitless but actually quite finite. I suddenly find myself faced with the desire to “go exploring” in some uncharted waters, and this time, instead of being fearful, I’m pleasantly excited about the prospect.
The difference now is that the exploration is MY choice, undertaken on MY terms. Those childhood experiences with exploring – the ones that never worked out quite right – were always thrust upon me by a friend who knew she could bend my will to hers. Agreeable to a fault, especially as a child, I was never one to rock the boat. Go along to get along, that was my motto.
But I think wandering into uncharted territory is more satisfying if the impetus to move comes from within instead of without. Life doesn’t always allow us those choices, especially as we get older. Sometimes the new experiences we face are dictated by illness or job loss or divorce. When that happens we feel adrift, frightened, unsure which direction to turn. I’ve been in some of those situations too, and they were just as uncomfortable as the times I tagged along with my friend, looking anxiously over my shoulder to see if someone was watching.
But this time, I’m choosing when and how I want to go exploring and I’m looking forward to taking advantage of it. My husband and I are moving out of the home we’ve lived in for all 36 years of our married life, and into a new condominium in a neighboring community. And although we’re only moving eight miles down the road, after living so long in one place, it might as well be a different country for us. We’ll have a new neighborhood to explore, with new neighbors to meet, opportunities to try different hobbies (a golf course, pool, and tennis courts are at our disposal) and an historic downtown nearby with lots of quaint shops and restaurants.
Now instead of butterflies of fear at the prospect of heading off into new territories, I’m feeling shivers of excitement.
It’s been a long time since I was that frightened little girl trailing along behind her fearless friend. Looks like I’m finally ready to go exploring.