It’s a common enough occurrence. It happens to me just about every day as I drive off to work. It’s a long drive to work. Every day, I’m looking at about an hour round trip. Every day, I hop in my car and embark on the drive south. Every day, it’s the same. I look out the windows, and I see the endless acres of farmer’s fields along each side of the highway. I dip through a valley where the radio reception is terrible, and my car fills with nothing but static. I pass by massive power transformers, set up along the highway to help send electricity to the hungry masses. I pass even more farmland. Before long, I being spotting the signs of industrialization on the horizon. The turnoff into the town of Drayton Valley soon comes up, and that’s when I hear the voice.
“Just keep going.”
I’ve been hearing this voice for a long time, now. It first began appearing in high school, when I faced a similarly dreary bus ride every morning. As my school appeared, there would be a soft whispering, as though pleading for the bus to keep going. But of course, it wouldn’t, and soon I would find myself facing another day at school. The origin of that voice, though, has always troubled me. It appears at times when my life has become somewhat routine and somewhat mundane. Why should the voice come, then? I mean, isn’t this what we all aspire to in our lives? We all want to reach a point where we have the security of a routine. We’ve been raised to believe that getting up in the morning, going to a 9 to 5 job, and then coming home in the evening is the pinnacle of human evolution. A nice, safe, secure, routine. This is what we’re supposed to want. This is what I’m supposed to want. Why, then, is there this voice, pleading with me to continue down the road?
When I arrive at the questions to which I have no answers, I tend to turn to my heroes. Yes, this may seem like a childish way of dealing with things, but it works. All I have to do is look around at my wall of fame, and the small plastic effigies of my heroes surround me. There’s Luke Skywalker, the young farm boy destined to become a Jedi Knight. There’s Ash Ketchem, the young boy who left home at the tender age of 10 to realize his dreams. There’s archeologist Daniel Jackson, who was swept to a distant planet to become savior of a long-forgotten race. There’s the captains Kirk and Picard, who went to the distant reaches of the galaxy in search of new life and new civilizations. There is Batman, and his precursor, the Shadow. These are figures who stalked the night in search of justice. And let us not forget Lara Croft, who turned her back on the life of a socialite for one of high adventure. That is the one quality that all these figures share: adventure.
Why do we live in a society where we create heroes that embody the exact opposite of what we strive for? None of these characters have the 9 to 5 jobs that we are all taught to believe is the ultimate goal. They lead lives where they are lead by their heart. They constantly go where the wind takes them, in search of some higher goal or purpose. Where’s the time to worry about financial security when you are hanging on the edge of the final frontier, or coming face to face with some booby trap in a long lost tomb? If these are our heroes, then what are we?
Some where in our quest for the financial security and relative safety of a normal life, we forget the need for adventure. Since we can’t get to the farthest reaches of the globe to find long-lost artifacts and gateways to other worlds, we invent people who can do it for us. Feeling trapped in your cubical? Play Tomb Raider. Someone cut you off on your way home? Read the latest issue of Batman. We want adventure, but the dream we’ve been told to pursue excludes it. So we’ve invented fictional people to do it for us. But, there eventually comes a time when it’s not enough.
That’s where the voice comes in. Sure, people like to point at all the video games and movies and TV shows and say that it drives us to do crazy things, but it doesn’t. It’s a desire that’s deep-rooted in all of us. We get our adventure vicariously, but soon we crave the real thing. That’s when people start acting all goofy. They go to West Edmonton Mall and pay their $75 to go bungee jumping. They head to the south seas where they can go swimming with sharks. They apply to be on the next season of Survivor. All these people have those little voices in their heads, saying, “Just keep going.”
But what about me? I don’t have the money to head to the south seas, and Survivor doesn’t take Canadians. It’s true, that I do crave some form of adventure in my life, but as to what form it should take is unknown. If there is one thing I’ve always known, it’s that when it looks like the craving will be satisfied, sheer panic sets in. There was one day in high school when the bus driver wasn’t really paying attention to her work and just about missed the turn to Seba Beach. The dread that set in was overwhelming. Therein lies my problem. Yes, I crave it, but I never seem to have the courage to go through with it. I’ve gained the security that all my heroes lack, and while the lack of it allows them to go on all sorts of high adventures, I’m too afraid to risk losing it. I’ve fulfilled the dream that society has beaten into me, and now I don’t dare do anything else.
But the call to adventure remains. As much as my grown-up responsibilities are in play, the voice can never be silenced. Until the day that I have the courage to keep going, I will have to continue to be one of the mass market consumers, living through the televised adventures of my heroes. The voice keeps calling, but I continue to ignore it. I pull into Drayton Valley, past the Boston Pizza. It just celebrated it’s one year anniversary. I usually have to stop for the red light next to the Petro-Canada. The light turns green, and I pull into the parking lot of the deadest mall in the world. I lock my car, and head toward the mall. Responsible. Secure. Safe. I just keep going…to work.