Experience the Unknown

I’m sure I’ve written on this before, but hopefully it bears repeating: it’s good to get outside your box now and then and try something new. True, we writers with our super-sized imaginations are often able to extrapolate from what experiences we already have to picture situations and people we’ve never been through ourselves, but there is a limit. Some things may be beyond our ability to imagine, and a little real-life experience can open up amazing new vistas to our view.

But let’s face it, some experiences we have to be dragged through, kicking and screaming. I’m an introvert and something of a home-body. I don’t go out much, and that’s perfectly fine with me. But fortunately for me, I have kids. They get me into all sorts of new situations I would never have chosen for myself.

For example, I dislike driving long distances. I don’t care much for big cities. I don’t like crowds. I’m not fond of living in a hotel. And I don’t have much good to say about California. So of course my two boys would both qualify for the Pokémon World Championships in San Francisco this year.

And so we went. Their job was to play their game and do as well as they could. My job was to get them there and back safely, well-fed and reasonably rested (school started for one son the next day).  They were there to have as much fun as possible. I was there to worry about everything so they didn’t have to.

I surprised myself. I still won’t claim the driving was fun, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. And though it wasn’t fun at the time, we’ll probably remember for years how we took a wrong turn and spent an hour driving 30 of the curviest, most gut-wrenching miles of road I’ve ever had the misfortune to burn fuel on just to get back on track.

I met interesting people, and I actually approached them to start up a conversation. I met a policeman who was assigned to protect a hotel full of Pokémon players. I met several hotel workers with interesting perspectives and personalities. I experienced one of the best places to people-watch in the world: Market Street. We passed more people from more varied circumstances just walking from our hotel to the hotel where the competition was held than I’ve seen in years.

I’m also probably on Caltrans Most Wanted list, but that’s another story we’ll just leave untold.

I stood with one of my sons on a wind-blasted cliff below an abandoned fortress watching as a massive cargo container ship churned its way under the Golden Gate Bridge with what seemed like only a few dozen feet to spare. I stayed in an old building renovated into a semi-posh hotel overlooking the grid of wiring for electric busses, a massive new building going up across the street, and facing a black wall covered in street art. The stairways were narrow and the elevator seemed designed for freight. And it was cool.

I drove through parts of the city that made me hope my boys weren’t paying too much attention and wouldn’t be asking me awkward questions. I experienced a ten mile stretch of road that forbade left turns the entire length of it. I spent time in a part of town populated by charming (and undoubtedly expensive) old houses that presented only a garage door and a steep, narrow stairway to the street.

It was all new and exciting, shoved me completely out of my comfort zone, and left me exhausted most days. I loved it. I came home with a new degree of confidence. I had navigated a minivan from Salt Lake City to San Francisco, all over the narrow streets of the penninsula, and home again without serious difficulties (aside from the unintended side-trip that left me nearly car-sick).

And I never would have chosen to go through any of it on my own. It would have been my loss. Fortunately I’m willing to do for my kids things I’d never do for myself.

So my advice to us all is to be more open to new adventures. Be more quick to say yes to stepping out of your box now and then. Try something new and unexpected. Broaden your horizons. Test your limits. In short, add more experiences to your personal archive from which you write. Take time to learn more about the world, about life, about yourself.

Your writing will thank you.

Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom is a Utah transplant, works for a regional bank, and spends his lunch hours working on his latest novel. His wife, three kids, and four pets find him amusing and somewhat useful, so they keep him around.