Think back as far as you can remember.
Go on, I’ll wait. Alright, are you there? Is it at some specific memory? Is it a state of mind, or a place in your life? Is it very specific or is it hazy? Do you feel it more than you see it? Do you think it more than you feel it?
Now comes the hard part.
Take one step closer to now, but only one. Find the next memory after the oldest one. Got it? Now find the next. Continue on until you see the timeline of your life unfold until present day. You’re now traveling down memory lane, that road we often travel down when nostalgia strikes.
When you get to the first crossroads in your life, I want you to stop. Don’t just ask yourself which directions you could’ve chosen as someone who already knows the outcome of one of them… ask yourself what your options were at the time, to you, as you saw them. Ask yourself what would’ve happened if you would’ve taken another path.
When you do this, do you feel things like regret or satisfaction? Are you happy with the choices you’ve made? Are you unhappy with the outcomes?
As we travel through life, we often face crossroads that we negotiate with little thought, because the social world around us has deemed that one road must always be the one we choose. For example, when you were in your teens you likely got a job, or started driving. You likely kissed your first kiss, experienced social stress at school, or discovered yourself in leaps and bounds. You likely fostered the first seeds of who you truly are, and became shaped by these seeds and your environment. You added details to your mold, and prepared (or attempted to prepare) to define yourself.
Or maybe you didn’t do any of this. Maybe your life completely different.
But no matter what your life was, did you make those choices yourself, or did society make them for you? Did you explore yourself because you wanted to — define yourself how you wanted to? Or did you do what the world asked you to do? Did you become who the world told you to be?
Growing up, I always heard some interesting phrases. “You can be anything you want to be” was one of my favorites. It’s true, you can. But such a simple phrase is deceptive, because it omits the most critical requirement. Perhaps you can be anything that you want to be … but can you want to be anything?
If you wanted to throw High School to the wind and be a writer, could you? If you wanted to be an artist that awed the world, could you? If you wanted to do nothing at all, could you?
If I had gone to my school guidance counselor and said “I want to write a blog, travel the world, and free my spirit.” she would have laughed at me. When she realized I was serious, she’d truncate her mockery with advice. “You’ll need to go to college in order to learn how to write professionally, you’ll need a job that pays you well enough to travel, and you’ll need to study what freeing your spirit means before you can know what to go do.” she’d say.
Sure, I could do the things I wanted. But I couldn’t want to do them how I wanted to, because that path wasn’t approved by life’s management.
Well, I’m 31 years old, I’ve been to 15 countries, maintain this blog (such that it is), and it took me freeing my spirit before I could ever study what that meant.
But I followed the path that everyone told me I needed to, before I did all that. And it held me back from being who I wanted to be. College taught me more about the restriction massive debt can have on your life than it did about writing or pursuing my dreams. The more I stuck with the system they told me was right, the more I’ve struggled to be free. I have to keep a job to pay off debt that funded a life I never wanted. Following society’s path was like wearing a lead boot in a marathon — except that everyone was proud that I was doing it and all I could think the entire time was “Why would anyone do this?”
So, tell me. What’s YOUR Direction? Not the one that is prescribed for you, but the one that you’d truly love to take. As you step back through your personal timeline, look at the choices you’ve made and ask yourself: Did I make these choices because I wanted to, or because I was told, forced, pressured, or coerced into making them?
No matter what your answer is, you should know that it’s never too late to look towards the distant horizon you’ve been longing for and to step towards it. Be responsible with your decisions — clean up the mess that you’d otherwise leave behind — then go for it. Commit yourself to it and orient your goals towards your own happiness. Arm yourself with your passions, and know that one day you’ll breath the air of a life you’d never thought possible but that you’ve finally achieved. Take your victories where you can get them and don’t give up.
I’ll leave this post with one final thought. In the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, we learn about our personal legends. We all have something beautiful and amazing that we are meant for and the unfortunate truth is that we don’t all find it. But the universe speaks in omens and in gestures, always trying to guide you towards your personal legend. So the next time the world speaks to you — when a situation that pushes you in a direction, when an unlikely outcome asks you to rethink something in your life, or when you read a blog post that resonates with you, consider that it may just be the universe sending you a nudge towards what you’re truly meant for.
Remember that if you are truly in love with life and how you live it, you’ll be a beacon of real and true inspiration for others. You could make lasting, impacting, and brilliant contributions to the world in ways you may not even be able to comprehend now simply because of your love for the life you’re leading, for the harmony of the energies around you and within you, and for the employment of your brilliant and creative mind as you live.
Believe in yourself and the very act of doing so will instruct the rest of the world to follow suit. You can do it. I believe in you.