“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway” (Tolkien, The Hobbit).
Indeed, The Hobbit, contains mostly misadventures and discomfort, which is what makes it so entertaining.
I call this philosophy “One for the biography”. This is quote comes from my sister, who, when my brother had to bike home from his football game because he had no car, told him that this would go into his biography when he made it as a football player. It is the idea that living an interesting life means doing whatever it takes to succeed, and putting up with the resulting discomfort. It’s the idea that a great life cannot be lived in safety.
I hope you will excuse me as I mix movie and book, but in The Hobbit movie, Gandalf tells Bilbo that the quest will do him good—he’s become too soft. He loves his doilies and his mother’s dishes, and dinner twice a day too much. He needs the fire of adventure to be relit. He needs to be pushed out of the Shire, and out of his comfort zone.
Boy, does he ever get pushed out of it! And what a biography it makes.
I have never fought trolls, nor battled spiders, nor kept company with wizards and dwarves. But if I think back, it is the hard times, the risks and the misadventures that stand out.
Things that will be included in my biography include:
Basically learning to drive when, at 18, I was thrown into the role of delivery driver. They didn’t know, and I didn’t say, that I’d only had my license for three or four months. So I cut my teeth on driving in a huge white van. I careened up and down the winding, slippery road to Pine Falls, squished myself into alleys behind stores, and made blind lane-changes on Bishop Grandin Boulevard. My youth and inexperience finally caught up with me when, at an ordinary intersection, I failed to look both ways and was struck as I crossed. But, the company still let me continue driving.
A stint in network marketing–contacting, showing presentations, driving all over, meeting new people. I’ve never known such fear or embarrassment, but I’ve never learned so much as I did in that company. There’s no way I’d be pursuing my dream as I writer if I hadn’t learned what it takes to succeed, and I learned it in that company. I learned how to talk to people. I learned how to have posture. I learned that I didn’t have to be ordinary. I am still a student of their leadership development system.
Things that will not be included: Days I watched TV all evening, played games on my phone (a grown person, playing games, on a phone, by themselves!), spent hours on Facebook and YouTube, or slept in.
These are “soon told about, and not much to listen to.”
Rather, it will be the risks, the frights, the sacrifices, and the time sweated away in pursuit of a dream—and, of course the failures that are sure to happen. It will be the time and effort expended in the service of friends and family. It will be that which was given to those who could not reciprocate.
And, I’d like to think that the lean times, the bad times, the foibles and the fun times will make the story all the more interesting. They’re “one for the biography.”
But, as a word of caution, when Bilbo returned to the Shire he was “held by all the hobbits of the neighbourhood to be ‘queer’.” (Tolkien, The Hobbit). It is likely that having a long resume of adventures will give you the same sort of reputation among your neighbours. Don’t worry about that. Just call them boring.