I love big trips. I love to go new places, see new things, meet new people. I love the opportunity to learn something new, to see myself in a different way. I will always love the adventure of travel.
But here’s the thing I’m learning — that we can accumulate experiences just like we accumulate things. We can become lured by the “big” experience and the outrageous adventure, just like we can be lured by trendy fashion and the latest gadgets. Once I’m home from a trip, I’m already planning the next one, longing for the day when I can travel at will to accumulate even more experiences.
There’s nothing wrong with big adventures, but I noticed I was using them more as a chance to escape than an opportunity to expand. Once back to my “regular” life, I was melancholy. The specialness had worn off. The hit of adrenaline was gone. It’s the same feeling I get after training for a major race. There’s a little bit of post-race depression that settles over me. And I immediately start planning for the next big race. Because living a “big” life means doing “big” things.
What if, instead of only thinking that “big” adventures were worthwhile, I looked for opportunities for everyday adventures?
What if instead of longing to be back in the mountains of Vermont, I really took in the beauty of the Sunday morning run I was doing on the Lockport canal path? Sure, I have run that path dozens of times before, but this was the first, and only time, I would be running it that day. My mind still wandered, but time again, I came back to the moment. I looked at the trees, the sunrise sparkling off the water, and I smiled, grateful for the opportunity to be here, in this moment.
What if I applied this to all aspects of my life?
I’ve thought about this in terms of generosity. We usually associate generosity with big donations of time and money. Generous benefactors, we call them. But generosity doesn’t have to be big to effective. It doesn’t even have to be formalized and organized. What if I smile at people? What if I say hello to strangers? What if I take a deep breath at the grocery store and realize the person who may be irritating me is doing the best job he or she can? (Maybe that person’s cat died that day, or their grandmother is sick, or no one has bothered to say hello and smile at them in days.)
What if I have a few dollar bills in my pocket and drop them into the guitar case of the guy singing on the street corner? What if when someone asks for change, I give them a dollar and a smile? Isn’t that the thing we all are longing for — to be acknowledged, to feel we have been seen, and by being seen, that we matter?
Oh, I will still love those big moments — those trips and races and opportunities that feel special because they are outside my daily life. And those are still important to expanding my sense of the world and the people in it. But what if I approach everyday moments with as much excitement and anticipation as I do those big events? What if I took the time to acknowledge those small, everyday opportunities, to say “I see you” even when those actions not considered big and bold? What if the life-changing moments happen on familiar streets? What would my life look like then?