A debut memoir documents a year of new adventures.
Naval officer and physician Uniszkiewicz had always led a risk-averse life, getting by with tried-and-true methods for success and avoiding situations that might result in unpleasantness—even if they might alternatively lead to reward. “It finally occurred to me that maybe—just maybe—I needed to break out of my comfort zone,” the author writes. Encouraged by his more daring wife, the cautious doctor embarked on a year of new undertakings that would break him of his timidity. These activities ran the gamut from the fairly unexciting (running a 5K hung over on New Year’s Day) to the self-improving (learning to prepare a four-course meal) to the terrifying (hang gliding) to the truly boundary-pushing (staying at a nudist resort). That last one was actually an accident: “I was the only one embarrassed by the whole situation,” the author recalls. “Where do I look? Do I make eye contact? Do I respectfully avert my eyes?” With each new episode, Uniszkiewicz found his layers of inhibition slowly falling away, making him susceptible to the lessons that life had to offer. His main question was just how different a person would he be at the end of the year—assuming he managed to get through it in one piece? The author, a practiced storyteller, recounts his escapades in a cheerful, self-deprecating prose that manages to highlight each semivoluntary step forward. His natural abhorrence of new endeavors means that no item on his list goes off as smoothly as it would for a normal participant, leading to moments of wonderful awkwardness. While Uniszkiewicz doesn’t plunge into anything too crazy, he manages to wring more humor out of many situations (fishing, meditation) than a reader would expect. More important, his revelations, axiomatic as they might ultimately be, feel legitimately novel and earned. The difference between knowing you should do something and actually accomplishing it is vast, as the author proves again and again. As for whether he will continue taking on new challenges, he can claim at least one more: writing a book.
A charming and amusing account of one man’s fresh experiences.