As much as I try, (and I try almost daily), it seems that you cannot prepare, plan, or force once in a lifetime experiences. I don't mean high events like getting married, or having a bay... although both of those things aren't technically 'once in a lifetime' are they? At least not for some. I'm more specifically referring to seemingly small life experiences, or brief moments that catch us off guard but impact us forever. Some of the most profound and intimate experiences seem to happen in the everyday, when we least expect them.
This happened to me recently. Here's the set-up. It was raining in San Diego. This has happened twice in the past two years so it was a big deal. I was living in a tent, as I had been for the past month. If you're curious why, click here to read more about it. I spent 2 hours inside my tent that day, alone, in the rain. I thought it would be cool, I thought maybe it would be one of those experiences I'd never forget. It was not. I left my tent at 4pm, I couldn't take it anymore.
I drove around in the rain with nothing to do, and nowhere to go. I was missing my family a lot. I decided to head toward Balboa Park. I did this for no reason in particular, it was just there and I thought it might be a cool drive in the rain. After driving around for a bit I decided to do something crazy, I decided to leave the comfort and protection of the car, and risk the rugged Southern California rain on foot. I grabbed an umbrella that was luckily in the car, and walked. I ended up walking for literal hours in Balboa Park, in the rain, in flip-flops. It was empty. All I could hear was the drizzleing drops of rain on my umbrella. I walked alone through the ever so rarely isolated park.
I grabbed my iPhone and shot some video. It does no justice for how cool it was, but you kind of get an idea.
Let me pop out of the story real quick. In general, and any other time, if I were given the option to go walk around outside in the rain, or veg out under a blanket watching old movies from home, I'd pick the latter 150% of the time. I love the rain, but I love it because it makes vegging out under blankets in your comfy clothes with a candle and an old movie an amazing experience. But, that was not an option for me this day. I had a tent. I had already spent two hours in that tent, in the rain, reading a book, which - side note - caused me to learn two things I'll share with you very briefly before continuing:
1. Leaning back against something is a priceless luxury. In a tent, your options are to lay down, sit cross legged, or stand hunched over. You can't lean your back on anything unless you want to break or flip the tent.
2. Being alone inside a tent in the rain is great for about 30 minutes. Then it's not. Very much not.
I'll get back on track now. If I was given those two options I mentioned above, comfy couch or walk in the rain, the couch would have won every time. But I would have missed out on the incredible rain in Balboa experience. It probably sounds stupid, and I can't explain it in words, but the whole walking around in the rain thing was to me something I'll never forget. The words that kept popping up in my head as I walked aimlessly around the dreary park were something like " oh dear God, this is like magic". And to me, in that moment, it was.
I think about how many of these potentially magical opportunities I have probably missed in the past because the "couch" option won each time. (In case you're slow like me and don't understand metaphors, the "couch" is a metaphor for any other option in life that is easier, more convenient or more comfortable... I know, I'm getting deep and complicated here) I would have never left my comfy house to go walk balboa alone in the rain if it wasn't for the tent. The walk in the rain option wasn't comfy, it was wet, I had flip-flops on and no jacket. I had to drive in the rain with idiotic So-Cal drivers that don't know that roads get wet in the rain. But, having gone and chose the less comfortable option, the one that meant effort and cost time, meant I had a truly incredible and original experience.
For sure, simply choosing the less comfy option won't always guarantee a amazing moment, it may turn out to be the wrong decision and just suck, but I feel like maybe it's worth the risk. My rain walk was so worth it. Typically the most epic adventures and most inspiring stories take place during unusual circumstances, or when someone chooses an option that was less popular, or cost them something more then another easier option. The adventures, the pioneers, the explorers, those who lived a life differently are often, or even usually the ones who have different kinds of stories. Stories that seem more significant, stories that inspire others, and stories I've long wished to have had myself.
Maybe my Balboa rain walk isn't "exactly" the same as John Muir's moments in Yosemite, or Hugh Glass' experience along the Missouri river, but whatever, it was amazing in my mind. The idea here for me is that maybe, if I choose the 'riskier' option, or the less comfortable route more often, maybe my stories will get more significant, or I'll have more moments in life that are incredible and un-forgettable. I mean the last season of Mad Men was pretty significant, but, I think maybe there's more out there, more rainy days, more parks to explore. We'll see, I hope so.
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