I’m sitting alone in my truck, parked in a strip mall. Ten minutes to start time. Eight years of a career in my rearview mirror; nine bucks an hour staring through my windshield. My graduate degree wedged into the tire tread below like a roadkill turd. Finally, I reach over and tear open my new standard-issue uniform: a green apron and black ball cap. Today is my first shift at the neighborhood Starbucks. Tomorrow morning I’ll be giving a lecture at a local university on the fundamentals of biology in an intro level adjunct course I picked up; most of my new co-workers could be in that class. My name is Wes (scribbled onto my new name tag); I’m thirty-six years old, and I’m in the biggest misadventure of my life so far: the loss of adult innocence that comes with career transition and the arduous task of eeking out a modest middle class existence. “Thank you for choosing Starbucks, what can I get started for you today?”
First world problems, right? I hear you. I’d probably roll my eyes too if I were listening to this from someone else. Don’t get me wrong, even in the midst of this maelstrom, I’m aware that I’m a blessed man. I married a helluva woman, and I’m a father of two beautiful little firecrackers. I’m thankful for the adjunct gig, even if the pay is crap, and I’m tremendously grateful to my store manager at Starbucks, (in the last year he’s been the only gatekeeper to sit across from me and see potential). But everyone’s struggle is personally relative, and ours is no different. Despite my wife working, we’re consistently in the red each month, and the war chest of our savings account is slowly bleeding out. We live in a modest brick ranch built in the 60’s; both of our vehicles are at least ten years old; we try really hard to spend less than $200/week on groceries. Lots of other folks have it worse, but the reality is that if something doesn’t give soon, then we may very well be one of them.
How the hell did we get here? I’ve got a Master’s degree and a fairly strong resume (or so I believe, anyway). How are we this close to implementing more drastic measures?
My wife and I have a quote on the wall of our living room from C.S. Lewis that says, “Let us go on and take the adventure that shall fall to us.” I read it every night (while we sit on a dilapidated couch watching Netflix). About fourteen months ago I saw the writing on a different wall, so to speak: the wall of my current industry and my own heart. Until then I’d spent eight years in the religious arm of the nonprofit sector. They were good years, mostly, but I could no longer ignore the disparity between the longings of my heart and the necessities of the job. I knew I had to get out, and I was (and still am!) scared as hell. Now, a year later, we’re still clawing tooth and nail to land on our feet, to make ends meet.
At some point in the last year I looked over at that Lewis quote on our wall and began to find it just slightly lacking. Maybe you can guess how. It makes more sense for me to read it as “the [mis]adventure that shall fall to us.”
Dictionaries define a misadventure with heavy words or themes. For me, the definition is essentially any endeavor with great risk, high stakes, and an outcome left of center. I don’t know about you, but that’s basically life in general for me: best-laid plans, sideways traction, course corrections, unmet expectations, and the good journey of finding joy in the mess of it all!
In the midst of this current misadventure, I began to look to back on my life and notice a curious theme. I generally pride myself on leading a shockingly familiar and uneventful life; I seek it out, actually. And yet, despite my best efforts, my life has been anything but thus far. This isn’t my first rodeo navigating the treacherous ride of finding employment. But aside from that, I’ve amassed a small volume of crazy tales, including (but sadly not at all limited to) harrowing encounters with bears, sharks, barracudas, runaway yachts, fire marshals, domestic terrorists, hurricanes, and dozens more, (whether real or imagined). I don’t bring these stories up as trump cards at dinner tables or happy hours; they’re so woven into the fabric of my life that I suspect I’ve accepted them as somewhat ordinary.
And the truth is that they are, to a degree. We’ve all got a tale of misadventure: the job you didn’t get; the school you weren’t accepted into; the relationship that failed; the poopy diaper that didn’t (NEVER DOES) cooperate. Big stuff, little stuff, and everything in between. Granted, they are often chapters in our lives that we ourselves would never write, but looking back over the “pages” can be enlightening. Believe it or not, there’s something about a misadventure that usually offers a unique learning experience. That’s not a bad thing; in fact, I find it to be the opposite. I don’t suppose life would be very interesting if everything were entirely predictable, nor do I believe that any of us would be pushed to experience any kind of growth without a degree of uncertainty and chaos. I, for one, wouldn’t have this peculiar collection of stories.
Which brings me back to the topic and the purpose of what you’re listening to. I’ve corralled these stories into a collection called The Little Book of Misadventures. The completion of the project is still in the works (more on that in a second), but I wrote it ultimately for two reasons. First, as a means of looking back and making sense of my life thus far (or trying to, at least). Second, to look into the mirror of my MacBook screen and document all the things I’ve had to tell myself and mostly learn the hard way about life. Essentially, I’ve paired the humor of my stories with some general advice that maybe you’ll find helpful. If nothing else, you’ll be reassured that you’re not the only one who’s far from having it all together.
As for the final product, my plan is to release it in stages, the first of which is what you’re experiencing now. If it’s ok with you, I’d like to send you a newsletter I’m calling The Monthly Misadventure. Each month you’ll receive a new short story from my collection, and you can experience it in two forms: visual and audio. I’ve teamed up with my good buddy Landon Tucker to bring his wonderful eye for illustration to the narrative. In addition, I’ll be reading and producing the story into a sort of mini-podcast, maybe 7-10 minutes long. These Monthly Misadventures won’t contain the greater context of life advice that the finished manuscript will feature, but if nothing else you can think of them as a monthly reprieve from the mundane.
And speaking of manuscript, the second stage of the release will involve finding the right home for the project by way of agent and publishing company. Maybe that part will never happen; maybe it will. After all, I’m trying to keep a handle on my expectations these days. But if it does, then you’ll be a part of the ground floor, I’d be honored to take the journey with you.
For now, I hope you enjoy these newsletters, and at the very least I hope it brings a smile in the midst of your own misadventure. If we’ve overstepped in including you in these letters, then please feel free to unsubscribe at any time. No worries whatsoever!
You can check out more at bookofmisadventures.com. Thanks for listening, and stay tuned for your first Monthly Misadventure!
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