Every journey comprises a distinct set of elements. Taking an interest. Choosing a destination. And, finally, planning ones route – perhaps painstakingly. Most people think the second part is the hardest – but that depends on what kind of journey you’re talking about.
As you grow older, chances are you’ll learn a few things on the way. The world, for instance, is not what you thought it would be growing up. If you’re fortunate, you slowly but steadily acquire a world view where our little blue dot offers equal cause for elation and desperation, with you playing a part on its stage for tipping the balance in favour of the former.
Life itself is a journey unlike any other, because unlike most other journeys, it’s a one-shot affair. You’ll face vast amounts of obstacles, detours and opportunities, and – given a global population of some 7 billion – plenty of choice in travelling companions.
Where it all begins
If we’re fortunate, we embark on the journey of life surrounded by family and loved ones whom help us make sense of it all, aiding us with at least the most basic of requirements. Perhaps we embark with far less. Or, as is the case for a disappointing number of children, nothing at all. This is the ‘desperation’ part.
Regardless of our initial circumstances, most of us make our way through the early stages of life in much the same way: we muddle through, and aim for a destination that has caught our interest – often for less than self-evident reasons. And over this, we ruminate thoroughly and extensively, whilst the age of information cushions our dreams and proffers seemingly infinite options.
But through our ruminations and failures, we grow and change. And at some point along the way which is impossible to predict, we suddenly reach a point where the veil is drawn back, and we are inflicted with the realization of why and how we got to where we are today.
Call it the forebear of wisdom.
The onset of insight
At this very point, chances are fairly high that another piece of insight dawns on us: rather than merely following the flock, the majority of us possess the utter and complete freedom to choose a drastically different path in life. All of the ties which string us to the rest of the world… can be severed.
It’s an uncomfortable truth.
Why? Because if you’re able to weather the brutality of it, you realize that you’re past the mundane question of where you want to go. Instead, you get to decide upon questions of import – such as whether you want to go at all – which is exhilarating and terrifying all at once.
From this point onwards, your own honesty becomes your nemesis; either you allow it to bear down on you with its maws wide open, or you try to ignore it. The former entails change, discomfort and progress. The latter involves safety, comfort and perceived progress in a life that isn’t truly of your own making.
Choosing the former require something that we all possess but oh so rarely apply in this day and age: courage. Rather evidently, it’s not the kind of courage you need for asking your boss for a raise. It’s the kind of courage you need to become an astronaut. Or quitting your job and joining Medecins Sans Frontiers.
The uncomfortable truth is that it lies within us all to do this if only we dig deep enough within ourselves. And, even if we find the courage we need, change doesn’t always end up well.
But sometimes, that’s a chance worth taking.