The Unconventional Path: Its okay to stumble onto a direction
Have you ever felt like you’re drifting through life, with no real direction of where to go or what to do with yourself? I know I certainly have, in fact, I often feel like that on a daily basis, but rather than really addressing the issue, I push it to the back of my mind and just keep muddling through, hoping for the best, hoping that one day, everything will turn out okay, and maybe I’ll find my true calling. I’ve always been so envious of people who know exactly what they want in life, to have a clear direction, and a path to follow. I sometimes compare it to my own life, and think, “Jesus, there isn’t even a dirt track, where am I supposed to go - left, right, or straight ahead? Who knows, cos I sure don’t!” Am I worried about the unknown, and the clear lack of direction? The simple answer is yes. I am worried and scared, I get anxious from time to time, sometimes very anxious, but then my alter ego kicks in, and I start to ask myself, who ever really knows where their life is heading? What does it mean for me, or for anyone who doesn’t have a clear path to follow? Why is it even important to have a path?
After all, there are always two-sides to a coin, and when I start to feel anxious about my off-beat track, I shake my head and flip the coin and think about the alternative route. The side of me that believes that life is all about the unknown and the surprises. Who needs a plan, and in any case, who determines this “plan”? Life would be awfully boring if you always knew what would happen. What would be the point of living if there is no spontaneity, no random adventure that unexpectedly pops out of the blue? Some of my happiest experiences, and consequently best memories occurred through unexpected surprises like, one time when I was hiking through Taiwan’s beautiful Hualien national park, and I had unexpectedly stumbled across a natural hot spring. It was such a lovely surprise, not only because I was tired, but it was also the first natural hot spring I had ever seen, so it was a pretty special moment, and of course, it couldn’t have come at a better time as I’m pretty sure I smelt terrible from all the humidity and sweat. It couldn’t have been a better way to end a long hike, and to me, it seemed almost serendipitous. This is just one of the many times when life unexpectedly threw me a curveball, and when I think back to all the spontaneous surprises in my life, it really makes me so thankful that I packed up my bag, all those years ago and left my home country to start on a journey that has yet to finish.
So coming back to one of my earlier questions, who determines your path? Is there a right path for everyone? Or should we all just conform to the typical life that society expects from us? For as long as I can remember, I have never wanted to live a conventional life, I have never been one of those people who wanted a 9am-5pm office job, neither have I ever wanted to get married or have kids. People always said that I would change my mind when I got older, and now that I am in my thirties, I am still yet to feel broody or want to tie the knot. The party would be cool I guess, but then again, do I really want to spend thousands of pounds on one big party? I think not…it’s a bit too extravagant for me, and if you know me, I am anything but extravagant. In fact, I would rather take that money and backpack for a month or two, or however long I can make the money stretch.
But...back to the point about the ”great unknown” aka, life and the future. If you read around the topic of life and finding the “right direction”, you will come across a recurring problem that many people have, which is overthinking. It’s something that we all do, whether it is done consciously or not, but it can be so damaging to yourself and to your dreams. Do you often lie awake at night, feeling anxious about your future, asking yourself all sorts of questions? Personally, I know that I have spent countless nights tossing and turning, going through every scenario, entertaining all sorts of ideas trying to figure out where or how I will end up in the future. And what I’ve come to realise is that all this overthinking, all this pointless over analysing has got me nowhere. I am no closer to figuring things out, and instead of doing something productive, it has led to total inaction, nada. The reality is that no-one can predict the future, and despite how much time you spend mulling things over, you still won’t know what the future holds. You can think and predict all you want, but it won’t change anything. Too often, people spend so much time thinking about the future, then they think about the past, but what they forget to do is to think about the now, and the present. Your past choices have led you to this point, but it is this moment in life now, the choices that you make now that will lead to your future. So what is the key to your future? It is your present, it is now, it is this exact moment in time when you are reading this. So rather than thinking about the past or the future, think about what you can change in the present.
This brings us to the question of how? How do you focus on the present? Well...a good place to start would be to try something new. We all have thoughts about where we want to be in life, or what we would like our future to be like, so think about what actions you can take towards that “ideal” future goal. Speaking from personal experience, while I am quite happy with my life, in that I am comfortable with who I am as a person and of the life experiences I have lived through, there are certain aspects of my life that I am less satisfied with, that being my professional career, or lack of. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m getting older, or that I have come to realise that if I don’t make constructive steps now, I will never have the future I want and I will always remain stagnant, and stuck in a rut.
Since January 2020, I made the conscious decision to try new things and to learn new skills, so I started looking for different internships where I could test the waters, to find my strengths, weaknesses and areas to pursue. The truth is, I have never really challenged myself nor thought about what I really wanted for my career. I jumped from job to job, place to place, never quite feeling satisfied, yet I also lacked the motivation and drive to change anything. Fast-forward ten years down the line, and surprise surprise, I find myself in exactly the same position, only I’m ten years older.
Since I started to embark down my new path, I have never felt more focused because I feel like I finally have some form of direction. Breaking through my bad habits of over analysing and being stagnant took its time, I admit I have been feeling like this for years, but it is only recently that I was finally able to break free and cautiously start the upward climb, so to speak. I know my climb isn’t always easy, and I’ve made mistakes along the way, and I’m certain that more will follow, but this starts a new journey that I am excited to see where it leads.
The Buddha teaches us that, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” I’ve started on my journey, now I invite you to start yours!