“Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.”
I think Eldridge hit the nail on the head. Most men in, general, especially in the military and first responder realm, have an inherent need to push their limits and the limits of their friends. We do that through adventure and battle, whether that battle is with the starter on your 1992 Chevy S-10 (RIP, #neverforget) or in an actual fight.
As a teenager and young adult that tendency created a semi-idiotic personal philosophy in me: If something was going to provide a good story at the end then it was worth doing. It was a risk vs. reward kind of life; a fine balance between permanent injury, a criminal record and coming away slightly bruised, looking over your shoulder, but with a great story for you or your friends to tell.
By my calculations, as a male, from the time you’re about 3 years old until late in the autumn of your life you’re inadvertently trying to kill yourself. Not in some kind of suicidal way, but in a natural selection way. You’re searching for Eldridge’s adventures and battles. Think about it. Before the age of three you’re basically just surviving. It’s around then that anyone with kids will tell you if you take your eye off them for a moment they’ll surely get into something that will probably maim them. Just the other day my seven year old son was climbing a tree and fell out. He thought it was fun so he did it again, only this time fell out on purpose.
Think about learning to ride a bike. You learned. Then you found out you can jump that bike. Before you knew it there was a giant hole in the yard to build a ramp. Eventually the ramps get larger and now you’re upping the stakes by jumping the hole. I’m sure you can think back to all the ridiculous things you’ve done growing up and insert your own example. Like going to the beach during a hurricane and finding a piece of nail riddled ply wood to “surf” on.
I’ve always sought adventure and secretly hoped for some hardship along the way. If you go on a hike in the woods and you see some nice stuff, that’s pretty cool. You can bore your friends and family with a slide show of blurry rocks and trees. But what if you broke your ankle and then had to crawl three miles to get help? That’s a badass story and one worth telling! There is something romantic about it. Now, I’m not wandering aimlessly through the woods looking to break myself. On the contrary, I generally go into the woods prepared and with great respect. I do wander through the woods hoping to stumble into some sort of adventure though, much like I do in life. It’s one of the main reasons I joined the Army during a time of war. I wasn’t looking to get killed, but I definitely wanted to experience some stuff. The Army partially quenched my thirst for adventure and definitely satisfied the longing for a real battle.
Once I separated from the military I was still seeking adventure and searching for the next battle. It was too expensive to get into race car driving and I wasn’t skilled enough to get into professional fighting so, like a lot of guys, I became a cop.
I think a certain amount of struggle is important, almost required. As I’m writing this I’m stuck in the woods huddled under my poncho, during a cold, tenacious rain storm, hoping the buck of a life time shows up. I could pack up shop and head back to camp and drink a couple beers. But who’s gonna wanna hear that story? Instead I’ll wait it out and maybe something amazing will happen that’ll be worth talking about. Even if it doesn’t, at least I can say I stuck it out when most others wouldn’t have and when I get back to camp and my buddies are warm and dry and I’m soaking wet, there’ll be something worthwhile to talk about. You see the struggle often leads to an adventure and vise versa. It enriches our lives with amazing memories and prepares us for when something terrible actually happens.
In today’s society it feels like we are pushed to live this neat little life that fits into some sort of box. It seems so vanilla. It’s especially hard to live that regular kind of life once you exit the military even if you cross over into the first responder field.
We have an innate desire to explore, not sit glued to our phones making sure we get our social media fix. I’m not saying you gotta climb Everest, but you might wanna consider a 5k or spend the night in the woods alone. With the exploration of your limits, you’ll tend to find yourself in some sort of personal battle. Whether it’s swapping a motor into a Jeep or in the middle of a car chase with an armed robbery culprit, you’re thrusting yourself into some kind of adventure. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Life is more about the journey, then the destination,” which is totally contradictory to today’s bubble wrapped life, even for the average Joe.
You’ve only got one life to live so you might as well live it. Get outside, go find your adventure. Take on an arduous task. Do something hard that most others aren’t willing to do. Learn something new, even if you don’t have anyone to teach you. Go create your own epic stories and Die Living.
Mike Peugh is a husband and father of 2 boys. He has been a police officer for over 10 years in South Florida and is currently billeted as a SWAT operator and a Street Crimes Detective. He served in the Army as a Combat Engineer from 2003-2009 with 2 combat Deployments to Iraq.