There’s a worn and weathered wooden ladder in front of you. A dusty spiral staircase made of iron to your right. You can’t explore one option before choosing the next. Neither is the wrong choice. Unless, maybe, it is. Neither will send you on any different a path than you’re already heading. Unless, maybe, it will. There is little skill involved. Just choices, chance, the ability to keep moving forward.
I like metaphors, analogies, allegories, so I choose the ladder simply because it’s headed toward the sky and that, to me, feels hopeful. I’m in no mood to go down. I have no idea where that dusty spiral staircase leads, but I’ve been there before; I’ve been down. I’m tired of “down” in all its various incarnations.
I reach my right hand out to grab the right side of the ladder that appears, from all physical inspections, to be incapable of holding my frame as I attempt to climb it into the sky, up, up, up to where I believe something, or someone, is waiting for me. I lift my left leg onto the first rung, and slowly, steadily, begin to climb.
The ladder creaks under my weight but holds firm, strong, and does not waiver as I refuse to waiver, still concentrating on taking one step at a time, pulling myself up, up, up, until I reach the last rung of the ladder. I hoist myself forward a few final inches, to stand straight, both of my feet planted firmly on the last rung, my hands lightly resting on the splintered tops of the ladder as I crane my head to the right and the left, silently canvassing my new landscape.
In front of me I see a slender red canoe with two wooden oars, one painted green and one painted orange, lapping lazily in a sliver of blue water shimmering gently underneath a crescent moonlight. To the right rests a ruddy-colored path through woods both dark and deep; I can see a faint light from somewhere in the forest, and smell the strong scent of lilacs nearby. I can’t entirely tell what’s to my left, but it appears to be a hill laden with wildflowers of various shapes and lengths, and the drop beyond the apex of slope appears steep, though I think I can just make out a narrow gravel trail leading down the hill into the world beyond.
A few minutes to rest and I know it’s time for me to make another decision. I pause briefly before purposefully striding forward, feeling assured even in my uncertainty.
Now, it’s your turn.
Do you take your chances in the multi-colored canoe, rowing yourself along the shore, or into open water, or simply letting the waves carry you where they will?
Do you hike along the gravel trail that looks dark and uncertain, murky with hope?
Perhaps you choose to walk the wooded path, the one smelling of lilacs and challenges meant to stretch your arms and your toes, and take you to far-away places you were always too busy to dream into existence?
Or, do you climb the nearest tree and see how far you can see, maybe for miles, mentally mapping the surely uncertain terrain before you trod your tired feet in any direction?
You see, none of these is the wrong, or right, answer. Not in this type of story, anyway.
The answer, I think, is to move forward, perpetually. The answer, I think, is to refuse to allow the terrain to shift underneath your feet before you set out on your way, before you begin consciously trekking toward the unrealized adventures you can see swirling, dancing in tufts of fog miles and still miles ahead of where you currently stand, eyes staring down at muddy boots, willing yourself to take that first step.
So, go ahead, choose you own adventure.
I’ll be over here, choosing mine.