Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Thrill of Discovery

I just finished reading The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. Finally. It only took me several years to pick it up. And holy cow am I glad that I did! I spent the first quarter of the book just reading a few chapters at a time before slipping into sleep. But then a couple of days ago, I had the chance to read for a solid 90 minutes or so and it was over. I was completely, totally and utterly sucked in and the chance of return was nil. It’s a good thing that my husband was home because I went AWOL into this book and didn’t come up for air until after midnight.

Every time I pick up one of these books – the kind that suck you in and become an obsession – I’m reminded of why I love these escapist stories. Of course I admire the years of research that go into writing such an amazing tale and the author’s craft of writing is also a thrill. But ultimately what sucks me in the most is the fleeting chance to pretend I’m someone else for 400 pages. Whether that be a brilliant symbologist in search of the Holy Grail, an artist with an amazing ability to paint an alternate reality, Christ’s bodyguard or so many others it’s the chance to live through another character’s eyes, to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Ten years ago my path was laid out before me, ripe for the taking. I was going to be a constitutional scholar after getting a PhD in Political Philosophy and a JD in Constitutional Law. I had great dreams of bringing the glory of the constitution back, renewing its relevance to everyday life. I had dreams of being an expert in something that mattered. Not realizing that has haunted me for years now. Falling by accident into an 8-year long career of nonprofit fundraising and grant writing made me an expert in that field and has been alternately rewarding and failure-ridden.

But there is still a part of me that longs to be an expert in something that is valued and thought of highly. Perhaps that is my ulterior motive for writing. Because, especially while writing on a blog, there is no counterpoint. I get to be the one and only expert on whatever topic I’m babbling on about at any given time.

I think mostly though what really reels me in is the adventure of it all. Not that I’m hungering to be chased by the police or assassins, but the thrill of discovery through thought and detection totally gets my blood pumping. I’m such a research nerd at heart. That’s why grant writing was so attractive to me, it’s just writing research papers that you get paid for.

The other side of the coin however, and it’s the same question I asked of all my academic friends wondering when I was going to go back to my passions after I was the first of them to have children – why isn’t being a mom worthy enough to satisfy that need? Isn’t being an expert in my children more worthwhile in the long run than pulling down a paycheck I only sort of care about?

After all, everyday truly is an adventure full of my thrill at their discoveries.

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