I once saw a bumper sticker that seemed to be a random yet meaningful statement about living a cautious and circumspect life. It said quite eloquently “Never meddle in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.” I am not certain of the origin of this sentiment except maybe to capitalize on the fantasy tale fad that was popular at the time. Later, I became aware of J.R.R. Tolkien and his fables as represented in the movies. I wanted to read The Hobbit so that I could pick up on the many themes that were embedded in this story through my own imagination. I recall the above-referenced quote by heart partly because of the similarity to the amusing bumper sticker, but also because I was needing to make some important decisions about the direction of my life.

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By nature, I am a detailed oriented person who tries to think ahead to the obvious pitfalls that may lie ahead. Forewarned is forearmed. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I have at times become ensnarled in my own analysis of the path that lies ahead and all of the things that can go wrong. Over the years, my cautiousness has caused people to say things to me like, “Stop thinking about it and just do it.” I can envision others making quick decisions that are good decisions. Somehow, though, “quick” and “good” are oxymoronic in my own way of seeing the world.

This brings me to the topic of “dragons”. I have spent much of my life dodging them. There is the dragon named Procrastination. I understand that many people encounter him and his cronies, Lateness, Anxiety, and Failure. As I face this new chapter in my life, I recognize the damage that can be done by waiting too long to start.

Another dragon that I have encountered over time is Discouragement. This dragon is related to Procrastination. I”m not sure if he came first or after but I know that I have allowed him to come in dangerously close when I am feeling overwhelmed or inadequate.

There are many others but there is one that is different from the others. He is a gentle looking reptile with a pleasant smile and alluring personality. His name is Overconfidence. Overconfidence and Discouragement are never far away from each other. I have learned that I must be careful when I feel too good about my abilities. As they say, “Pride goeth before a fall”.

The take way lesson in the Tolkien quote for me is this. Dragons are not an anomaly. One cannot really avoid them. However, I do not have to surrender to them. Instead, it is the job of this adventurer to go forth into the world without fear but with a plan. That plan can include staying away from dragons whenever possible but it also requires a carefully organized quiver of arrows to protect myself from dragon attacks when avoidance simply is not possible.

I have recognized that my plans to go to college plunge me directly into the lair of my old familiar dragons and many that I have not yet met but can imagine in the most catastrophic ways. My quiver is adequate but needs a bit of organization. Perhaps the greatest lesson for me as I move into this next phase of my life is to not dawdle in the places where dragons abound. I may not be able to avoid them but I certainly do not need to stand still while they surround me. With that then, I find that I am learning add the dragons into my plans without opening the gate for them to have easy access.