Well, we all knew this day would come. It’s our very last week of One Good Phrase. Soon, I’ll give you a little summary post to point you toward all the little gems of phrases that have come through this space since we began working through them ten months ago. But, there’s no one I’d rather end this sweet journey with than my friend Laura Turner. Laura was an internet writer-friend who moved to San Francisco and became a Real Life Friend. The kind who brings lunch over on Fridays and goes for walks with me in the park with my two-year-old. And also: The kind who consistently uses her words to say things just the way they ought to be said. So happy to have her here to bring one more One Good Phrase to us today.
I was eighteen years old and sitting on a bench at Westmont College the first time I read the words “the adventure continues.” It was late August, and my family had just driven back to their new home in Northern California while I was left to make sense of my new home in Santa Barbara. Before they hit the 101 in the tan Windstar, my dad handed me a gift bag with the likeness of Spongebob Squarepants.
“Don’t open this until we’re gone,” he said, his eyes rimmed with red. We were all exhausted—a move across the country from suburban Chicago to California had taken enough energy and now, three days later, I was moving into a dorm room with a quiet girl from Colorado in a tiny dorm at the top of a hill.
I couldn’t say anything in response, out of fear that I would cry or vomit or faint. My anxiety, always on high alert in daily life, had reached dangerous levels as a result of all the change packed into that week in August. The tears came anyway when I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him tight.
I had never felt so alone, and so odd in my alone-ness, as I did at that moment. I was afraid of being alone, terrified at my certainty that I would never find any friends, never please God with faith enough to move mountains when I could not even have faith enough to be excited about the beginning of college.
The Spongebob bag contained one of the best gifts I have ever gotten. It was a journal my dad kept for me my senior year of high school, recounting family memories and weird stories and hopes for the future. I sat on that bench across from Kerrwood Hall and read the whole thing straight through, then read it again, until my face was splotchy and wet and the sun had dipped down low in the sky and I had to go meet my freshman orientation group for dinner.
“Dear Lo-lo bean,” the journal started, using my first and favorite nickname. “The adventure continues,” it ended, and those three words have stuck with me ever since.
The conception of life as an adventure doesn’t come easily or naturally to me. A series of well-planned achievements; yes. A proving ground for my worth and talents; even better. An adventure requires risk and openness, and even as a child I tiptoed on the sand at the beach so as not to get my feet too wet.
Living with anxiety is a tricky thing. I want to be liked, want approval and acclaim, but I don’t want to do anything that might make me less palatable to the people I want to impress. Living in these constraints is hardly an adventure, but it’s the truth of my life most days. People on adventures are the most free people in the world, and that freedom is why I’ve always been drawn to stories of people whose lives are very different from mine, people who live from their guts.
“The adventure continues,” I would whisper to myself as I navigated Westmont’s halcyonic campus, walking past kumquat bushes and birds of paradise. “The adventure continues,” I would smile to myself after making a batch of new friends in one fell swoop at a bonfire on the beach. “The adventure continues,” I had engraved on my husband’s wedding ring as a gift, the familiar sign-off to our cards to one another. It was actually “the adv cont,” because the ring company would only engrave 10 characters for free, and is now the shorthand we use to remind ourselves of where we started, where we are, where we’re going.
But the primary adventure is the one that involves no one else, not my husband or closest friends or family. It is the adventure of daily life lived toward God, like Pilgrim in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress:
“This hill though high I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way of life lies here.
Come, pluck up, heart; let’s neither faint nor fear. ”
That bench is still there in Santa Barbara, across from Kerrwood Hall. I am in my home in San Francisco, with who knows what kind of adventure ahead of me. It is the gift of the daily that draws me toward the way of life, and has ever since I was young, whether I knew it or not. In my deepest anxiety is a longing for adventure, and that is good news, because the adventure continues.
Laura Turner is a writer living in San Francisco. She is an MFA candidate at Seattle Pacific University in Creative Nonfiction writing. She loves hot dogs.
Photo credit: plastanka on Flickr