In the past couple months, a lot has changed. One of the things is that I now get to watch from the outside the experiences of someone close to me as she prepares to go to Africa. The person I’m talking about is my wife. We have decided to go to Kenya, (together this time). We will be going to visit a little girl we have been sponsoring for two years now, and for once I will be going to Kenya for the sake of going to Kenya, and not just on route to somewhere more remote.
I’m excited for my wife, even if she isn’t yet excited for herself. I’m excited because I know some of what’s in store for her. We went yesterday to get her first immunizations for going overseas; not a terribly pleasant process. It was at this point, after the second needle, that the gravity of what was going on struck her and it became an emotional and difficult experience. The needle wasn’t the problem, it was the anxiety that this was real, that she was going WAY out of her comfort zone and going somewhere totally unfamiliar.
What is it that makes memories? What is it that makes life exciting and worth living? Let’s for now just touch on the trying new things part of the answer to that question. Why do so many of us have such fond and romantic memories of childhood? It’s because as a child, everything is new, and consequently everything is exciting. Furthermore, we have only the memories going backward, without the anxiety of not knowing the future. Our memories have been expurgated of most or all of the bad things, because the bad things rarely ended up being as bad as we though they might be, but the good things usually ended up being at least as good as we expected.
Fast forward to adulthood, where most of us have gotten into a long pattern of doing the same thing day after day. Where we worry about the future, and even though in childhood our worst fears never came to fruition, we still worry about anything new. Consequently the excitement ends, and many of us never do anything new again. How boring a life does that make for us? Not only boring, but ineffectual. We make decisions out of fear, or we avoid a decision out of fear. The fact is that almost all the time, a decision based on fear is the wrong decision. Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” Though I consider Nietzsche’s philosophy to be a mixed bag, I believe he was right in this. We forget this as adults. We avoid pain and difficulty and consequently we avoid growth.
So in this I am proud of my wife. I know how difficult this is for her because she is not an adventurous woman by any stretch of the imagination. We talked about going to a number of places as part of our twentieth anniversary, and out of all of them she chose the most difficult. And even as she gets her shots so she can get on the road to becoming bulletproof, and she can’t yet look back and see that it was worth it, she has chosen growth over fear.