An Unexpected Journey

By now you’ve probably realized (if you even pay attention to this sort of thing) that I’ve been rather distant from my blog. I’ll blame a few things; a hellish workload that brought me away briefly from this site, the finals grind at my University, and a current Spring Break excursion out in Washington State. I’m not going to sneak a lie here and say something along the lines of I haven’t had the time to write, because I absolutely have had the time. The problem isn’t finding the time, the problem is finding the willpower.

I’m pretty satisfied with my willpower (both now and in the past). I’m going strong with a lenten period of sobriety (spoiler alert, I don’t even feel the slightest urge to indulge in a drink of any kind amazingly enough), I finished off the winter quarter strong, and I’ll be burgeoning into a spring season full of both challenge and opportunity.

I usually have an idea of what I’m writing when I sit down at my desk and attempt to hash out a mish-mash of jumbled words into some vestige of written word. I rarely plan out of any of my posts (planning is for the weak), but I at least have some idea of what I’m trying to describe into thought. Here, I have absolutely no clue. I don’t really want to even write this stupid post, but I will, because I started drafting it at 11 in the evening and I didn’t want the waning hours of the night spent on a project that would rest eternally in literary purgatory.

So yeah, back to my original train of thought… I’ve been purposely avoiding writing for about a week or so now, ever since I escaped the last of my final exams. I don’t know what really brought me back to this stupid thing, I could write you a short list of a few of my favorite things and maybe we can explore this topic together.

  • Last night I found myself watching the end of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy with mia famiglia. It was a fitting end to the trilogy for me, as I had completed the novels in the waning days of the past year and found myself anxiously anticipating the moment when I could binge-watch all of the movies at once. They didn’t disappoint, but I still like the books more (who doesn’t).
  • This past weekend I went on a family hike on a short trail about half an hour or so away from my childhood home.
  • I got my first stitches ever yesterday while visiting the doctor’s office. It was quite possibly the most exciting time of my few past weeks (hey, it was something new, give me a break).

All of this is irrelevant, this entire blogpost is irrelevant. I figured, hell, if the page is already open I might as well write enough to fill the rest of this blank slate. But, I’ll humor you for a while and go through this.

As lame as this sounds, I’m pretty sure the only reason I’m writing tonight is because of the Lord of the Rings. Finishing the books in November of 2014 was a monumental task, especially when coupled with a grueling finals schedule during the abrupt end of my fall quarter at DePaul. Though I felt a little smidgeon of closure with the last words of the traveling hobbits succumbing to their quiet life within the green hills of the Shire, I never felt entirely complete with how it ended. I knew this expansive trilogy of movies was sitting out there, awaiting some day and a half span where I could no longer carry the burden of not watching the international sensation that is Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

So yeah, I gave in and watched it the past couple of days. I was impressed, I felt ultimately relieved knowing that millions of fans around the world felt a comparable enjoyment to my own suitable enough to bring about the creation of such a beautiful cinematic rendition of the novels. It’s an exhilarating experience, watching the places of mere literary imagination manifest themselves in expensive movie sets and glittering landscapes. Yet beyond this, I still felt a tug at my heart that wasn’t fading with the diminishing power of the ring being un-forged in the depths of Mordor. Something was missing, either from the experience of watching the movie, or something that I couldn’t quite place my finger one. It could be me, the thing that’s missing.

I’ve known this for a while, even far before I finished Tolkien’s masterpiece for the first (and so far only) time. I crave adventure. Maybe not to the extent that a hobbit feels while locked up in a hole in the ground all season long, but maybe my feelings aren’t so monumentally different. For me, the adventure can be simple; it can be an evening caught on the lakeshore, watching the waves dance on the shimmering surface of a lake reflecting the pale light of the moon hovering above. It could be an evening on the town with friends, a quick coffee date with a stranger, a hike on a mountain during the foggiest hours of the early morning, an hour long walk in solitude through bustling streets packed with people on their way. And even then, with the many options laid out already and the many more left unsaid, I take even grander journey’s through the pages of a novel under the faint glow and smell of a scented candle above an empty fireplace, or at the quiet recluse of a writer at his desk with the timely tick of a clock’s hand in the living room adjacent to my study.

I find my own ways to experience the inexperienced, to explore the unexplored, to travel the roads less traveled. They’re a weird combination of the conventional and unconventional, the weird and the ordinary, but they’re what work for me. Sometimes my travels take me with a long friend, or a new companion by my side. Often, it’s only me and myself when I embark on these little trips through the unimagined corners of the unexplored. I desire the Unexpected Journey, so to quote Bilbo Baggins in his original travels from the safe confines of the Shire. Right now I’m the hobbit in the Shire, sitting back in an easy chair with my eyes glancing upon rolling hills of green, smoking a large pipe and humming some unintelligible elvish tune from an age long gone (breaking news readers, I have entered full dweeb. Please escape while there is still hope for ye).

My current physical location, the place of my birth and ascent to adolescence, is the perfect Shire; cozy, loving, seemingly the perfect place to live out one’s life in relative peace and quiet. Any Baggins’ would find refuge between the towering mountains and green expanses of the Northwest’s evergreen forests (though I figure like most rational beings, even the Hobbits would eventually tire of the unrelenting rain). I’d like to think I’m a Bilbo & Frodo Baggins hybrid; I wish I could simultaneously combine Bilbo’s naive thirst for adventure while coupling it with Frodo’s desire to temper curiosity with courage and strength within the guise of some grand adventure. People seek this sort of healthy balance in their life, or at least I always thought that (until I came to the conclusion, rightly or not, that many people opt for comfort over the uncertain tidings that adventure can bring). It’s the reason why the Baggins’ were so maligned in the Shire after the discovery of the ring and the ensuing frivolities that followed from both Frodo and Bilbo; they broke the conventional of Shire and Hobbit life. They escaped the Shire.

You can read and watch the Lord of the Rings and see the trilogy as a metaphor for many things; a religious sort of battle, a furious conflict between the forces of industrialization and the lifestyle of those still connected to the land (I love that one specifically), etc. But I’ve always seen, even as a kid when I read the Hobbit and saw the old cartoons, as one thing ultimately; the battle between comfort and adventure. It’s a struggle that grips most souls, and for the majority the safety of the Shire shields the frightened traveler from the horrors of a Middle Earth in the grips of a worldwide war testing the very balance between life and death. For them, they want nothing to do with the dangers of the lands outside of the Shire; a pipe filled with weed and a plentiful helping of second breakfast will do them well. I think we all seek comfort, or at least happiness. I know I certainly seek the latter, and to an extent a form of contentedness formed through years of self discovery and reflection. But, for me, happiness only comes at the end of a long life lived with the intention of discovering something new everyday.

Years ago I could still live with this desire for ‘adventure’ still flaming strong here in the Shire, in the part of my life that I call the ‘old life’, but those days are long gone. The hills of the Shire, the mountains of the Northwest, are as beautiful as ever. But they remain unmoved and unchanged from the very way that I saw them everyday for much of my young life. The cosmetic things change; the storefronts evolve, new buildings are erected, maybe even parts of my family move about, but the foundational things remain the same, glued to the very ground of which I used to derive a sort of adventure from. I no longer come to the Shire and face an Unexpected Journey, but rather a very expected journey; a happy, comforting, and joyful sort of adventure, sitting back in comfortable chairs and enjoying plentiful times with wonderful people. But it’s not fulfilling, and I’m sure there was a specific point in Bilbo’s and Frodo’s life (or rather, in Tolkien’s head) when they discovered it too. I discovered it sometime in High School, and rode the waves of that new found freedom into college like a tsunami barging its way onto an unexpected village. I flooded into a crowded Metropolis that, despite its expansively dizzying density, was absolutely liberating. Everyday has been a sort of unexpected journey; I’ve dealt repeatedly with my own Ents, Gollum’s, and even Orc’s (I’ll avoid going into details about the various Orc’s in my life. That won’t make for a good welcoming when I arrive back home in Chicago).

I’m continuing this unexpected journey through the unexplored depths of Middle Earth (cough cough *Chicago*) and through many facets of my life. I’ll explore new places, try my hands at new exciting opportunities, and continue to meet new people that both enrich and strain the experience of my journey. Ultimately, this is all enriching. It’s an exciting time for me, a wandering hobbit from the far-side of Middle Earth (full disclosure, my height makes it very difficult for any rational person to envision me as a Hobbit. I apologize for that discrepancy).
All I know is this; the Shire, as far as it may be, will always be a part of this Hobbit’s life. And just like both Frodo and Bilbo, I’ve left the Shire to fulfill by deepest dreams of exploring the rest of the world’s unexplored lands. Now it’s only a game of waiting to see how long it is until I leave the Shire for the last time.

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.
The chances, the changes are all yours to make.
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.

The greatest adventure is there if you’re bold.
Let go of the moment that life makes you hold.
To measure the meaning can make you delay;
It’s time you stop thinkin’ and wasting the day.

The man who’s a dreamer and never takes leave
Who thinks of a world that is just make-believe
Will never know passion, will never know pain.
Who sits by the window will one day see rain.

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said.
The chances, the changes are all yours to make.
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.

The Hobbit

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