It hit me a few days ago, while looking through recent posts, drafts, and randomly jotted ideas, that a great deal of what’s been on my mind has subconsciously been revolving around the idea of direction. Titles talked of ships lost at sea, of searching for clues, and of living in the void – the paradox of knowing what I want, yet having no map nor compass to tell me where I am going. [Sidenote: I am in love with this tattoo, but my wrists are far too small!] As was pointed out several times toward the end of 2010, last year was one of finding myself. Scratch that, creating myself. Taking steps to take an image embedded on the walls of my mind to a living, breathing girl who finally gets to call the shots. Eliminating the deadweight and breaking through those self-contructed ceilings. My life is accompanied by an ongoing list of goals, of things to strive for, because I believe in continual growth and continual experience, and that the only life worth living is one dictated by no other but yourself. But until now, those goals have paved the way to a vague and hazy destination. I’ve had no direction. I’ve aimed for the sky and hoped for the best without giving second thought as to what constellation I want to land in. I think there’s a lot to be said for living in the present moment. But I don’t think it hurts to have a bit of a plan.
I was talking to a friend recently about how our younger selves envisioned our grown-up lives. We joked about how we thought we’d have husbands, children, degrees, and own our own homes by the time we hit 25. When we were younger, it seemed like the only option. The road was paved straight and smooth, and marked clearly along the way. My parents did it by 22; 25 would be easy! So what happened? I think life happened; the very thing that occurs when what you are told as a child that what you should be doing with your life doesn’t line up with what you want from life. Of course, I wanted an education, a career, a relationship, and the proverbial white picket fence. I still do. But I think, as with so many things, lessons only sink in the way they were supposed to when they come from within. I’ve learned in life that one must forge their own path of their own devising, being allowed to stray and get lost and learn things along the way. One can be told to do this and not to do that, but none of it’s going to mean anything if it isn’t intrinsic. The realisation has come lately that what I am doing in my day-to-day existence does not necessarily line up with what I want to be able to say I did with my life. And if nothing else, discrepancy has to be the fuel for change.
In my early twenties, my problem was that I had no idea what I wanted. I didn’t know what the path looked like or if what I was being told to do was what I really should be doing. I remember struggling, at seventeen, to figure out what I wanted to do in University. I was always drawn to English and Psychology, even advertising, but I was told I’d never get a job in any of those fields, and that people “spend years paying lots of money and getting into lots of debt to get degrees they never end up using.” Still under my parents’ roof and rule, I tossed the ideas aside, and continued with my application for University with no idea what I was working towards. As long as it wasn’t what people had told me I couldn’t possibly pursue, I figured simply being inside an academic institution for nine or ten hours a day was enough to say I was on the right path.
But then life happened. I moved out, spent money on furniture, broke up with my then-boyfriend, got kicked out of our apartment, and had to go crawling back home. Except my parents had downsized when I’d moved out, and there wasn’t any room at the inn. I spent three weeks on a sofa in the basement surrounded by laundry and boxes, all the while hunting for my own place. But I couldn’t get my own place without making more money. And I couldn’t make more money while I was still in school. So then began the chapter of adult independence. I had to work to live, and I didn’t have the money to pay for schooling, rent AND food. So I very reluctantly eliminated the non-immediately-essential.
The years since were full of life lessons, and I wouldn’t change my twenties for the world. Yes, they may have been full of heartache and moments darker than I’d ever dare share, but they also taught me who I wanted to be. The Universe will always provide hints as to what path you should be on. If you aren’t listening, it’ll just try harder until something catastrophic zaps you with a lightning bolt and literally throws you back on track. If you are listening, you’ll be led to where you’re meant to be. Lately, I cannot seem to shake the feeling that in fifty years and I look back on my life, I’ll be filled with regret if I never took the risk of following my passions. There’s a fire in my heart waiting to shine brightly and every day I choose to spend updating someone else’s spreadsheets is another day I haven’t followed my dreams. I know what those dreams are now, and they involve great risk. Throwing everything that’s comfortable and routine up into the air and taking a big giant leap into unfamiliar territory. They involve following a rocky path without streetlights or signposts along the way, with no guarantee of a destination; no guarantee that at the end of it all, the dreams will come true. But I suppose that’s where having faith in the Universe comes in. And you know what? It hasn’t let me down once.
The near future may be shaping up to be wildly different than I’d thought just eight or nine weeks ago, when the clock struck midnight that cold, bright New Year’s Eve. The path may be as unclear as the Marauder’s Map to a Muggle. But sometimes, I think you just have to take a leap, follow that star, and trust your instincts as your guide… knowing that whatever happens, you’ll end up at the right destination. I wish I could talk about it in more detail, but for fear of jinxing things, I’m going to have to wait until it’s real… but for now, I’ve decided to stop playing it safe, and take action. To stop wishing and start doing. To forge my own path, having faith that it truly will be the right one for me. Let Project: Rest of my Life commence… now. 🙂