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Setting up kayak

By Johnie Gall

When I start complaining to someone, sometimes it feels like I can’t stop. The break lines are cut. I’m careening down a road of negativity and all I can do is hope the airbag isn’t faulty. Cut scene to yesterday afternoon. It had been a day. All I wanted to was to nurse my wounds with a bottle of cheap wine and television static. My bones were tired. But when I looked at my phone, a text message on the screen presented an alternative: “Want to go kayaking?”

Packing up kayaks

The thought of loading my kayaks into the back of my car and driving to the lake felt physically heavy. The lighting would be terrible for taking pictures. I wouldn’t have time to eat dinner and my stomach was already a symphony. My answer was reflexively a “no.” Then I had another thought:

Go anyway.

Putting kayak in water

Kayak relaxing in a hammock

When we would start complaining as kids, my dad would ask us: “Do you want to have a good time or do you want to have a bad time?” It’s a simple question, but it’s always felt profound to me, this idea that I could reframe reality. That having a good time was about deciding to, and that when things went badly, I didn’t have to go with them.

Kayaking in the evening

Adventures rarely go as planned, but how you deal with their challenges probably says more about you than your circumstances. I’ve found the best adventure partners are the ones who make the effort to keep everyone’s spirits up when things go wrong. 

Lake kayaking

Sometimes that’s being the one who puts the kayaks in the car, grabs a few beers, and meets you at the lake, even when all she wants is to watch “Futurama” reruns for the next four hours.

Kayaking at sunset

Kayak break at sunset

Complaining is contagious, so I’m trying not to drive down that road anymore. I want to be the one at the wheel when people buckle up, grab the “oh shit” handle, and get ready for a weird and wild ride. Because life sucks sometimes, but not most of the time, and hitting the gas and going anyway is a whole lot better than complaining about it.

Kayak takeout