Exploring the Unknown

So here’s the deal. When I said a while back that I wanted to be a paleontologist so I could study/be with dinosaurs, it was really a half-truth. That’s the kind of answer I’d give at a cocktail party to avoid derision.

What I really—but secretly—wanted to be as a grownup was a cryptozoological adventurer. That’s right. I wanted to don a fedora and travel to exotic locales, hunting for the Loch Ness monster, the Yeti, giant squid, and little green men. At 11, I even asked my aunt for a book about exploring legends and superstitions but was summarily disappointed when she got me a book about Ferdinand Magellan instead. Okay, so he was kind of a legend. But he wasn’t some evil prehistoric sea monster. That we know of.

In any case, I came face-to-screen with my childhood dreams this past Labor Day weekend. I felt a twinge of envy when I realized that what I wanted to be was what a guy named Josh Gates is doing on a show on the SciFi channel called “Destination Truth.” (I refuse to acknowledge the network’s recent name change to “SyFy,” which is so beyond stupid that my inner academic is offended.)

There was a “Destination Truth” marathon over the weekend, so I heartily wasted eight hours last Saturday on this compelling, funny, and sometimes creepy Bourdain-style travelogue.

I haven’t stopped thinking about the show since.

It’s not that I want to quit my cushy Federal job to go disprove the mythic Filipino ghoul called the “aswang.” (I heard stories growing up, but there’s no scientific anything to prove that such a creature exists.) But yet again, my envy seems to stem from seeing someone pursue a passion so wholeheartedly and foolhardily.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been lulled into a false sense of benign complacency. It’s like I’m a star player who’s voluntarily benched himself. My routine has gotten old: I get up, take the dog out, go to work, head back home, take the dog out, maybe go to the gym, and then settle in for an evening of network television before falling asleep at 11 p.m. The excitement of completing my doctorate, getting a puppy, and (potentially) buying a home dissipated quickly when I realized that what I’m currently doing is settling down.

And for a wannabe cryptozoological adventurer, settling down is kryptonite.

And that realization made my annoyingly self-aware brain experience some much-needed cognitive dissonance.

I don’t know what monster I’m chasing next, but I do know this: So far, the life milestones I’m pursuing aren’t lighting the fire that I thought they would. But seeing Gates chase after ghosts, sea monsters, and a giant man-bat sparked something in the 11-year old in me.

I think it’s time to put on the hunting gear and go exploring.

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