“When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment; I told them they didn’t understand life.” ~ John Lennon
At 33 I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.
The funny part is, some of the best people I know don’t know either.
Through school we are trained to find a career path based on the small choices we are presented from the narrowed options called subjects. Math, science, biology, chemistry, physics and a few others, are all favorites to building a career that by 17 we must already be sure of.
How are we expected to know what we want to do for the rest of our lives when we haven’t experienced all that we can be? We’re told that the magic of life lies in living every day as if it is our last and yet we are expected at a young age know what we want to do for the next 50 years.
With every rising sun comes new opportunities for learning and growth.
Typically, we finish high school, go to university, begin working, buy a house, get married and teach our children to follow the same cycle. Yet somehow those desires, the ones that truly light our hearts from the day we are born, are forgotten through years of school indoctrination and narrowed education.
In this journey, there is an array of options for us to explore—places we could be visiting or languages we could be speaking.
Years of globetrotting adventures have made me realize how amazing our world is to explore and how little time we have to do it. This realization was boosted even further upon returning from a solo vision quest trip in the Tyrolean Alps a few summers ago. There, for the first time in my life, I began to actively listen to my own thoughts.
Giving myself the time to truly dive deep into the core of my existence, I found myself questioning why our dreams were something we typically hoped for, instead of actually living. Through piecing back the moments of complete happiness I had experienced over the years, I realized that it was not in an office surrounded by concrete walls, but in fact in the wild, where I felt mostly at home.
This new state of consciousness opened my eyes to the amount of expectations other people have for our lives. It made me aware of the fact that the life I wanted to live, the path I wanted to walk down, may not necessarily be what I was “supposed” to be doing or where I was “supposed” to be going. Somehow, being okay with this became one of the biggest challenges I had ever faced.
Where do I choose to live my life? Right here. When do I choose to do it? Right now.
Seeking to be true to myself, I opened up to the idea that I didn’t want to “live up to” anything. Above all I just wanted to live. To wake up to each new rising sun and realize that we have just been given a new opportunity to be alive.
Mentored by my inner wisdom and guided by my heart, I gave space for my dreams to unfold into a reality within which I wanted to live. Over the years, I have always twirled with the idea of moving into a car, connecting to nature and living a simple life on the road. Endless dreams of parking by a beautiful crag, sleeping under the stars and moving freely with the wind made my entire being glow with excitement. It’s a lifestyle I have always embraced but never had the courage to pursue. Today I see it differently.
I don’t want to live my life for tomorrow, for that day may never come—or be stuck in yesterday and miss out on everything that is taking place right here, right now. To me, life is about living it and loving it, falling down and at times taking a break. More importantly it entails breaking away from everything that holds us down (beginning with ourselves), as well as from all the fears that lock up our truest desires.
Through years of experiencing lessons on heartbreak and hardships, I understood that allowing myself to feel sadness and letting those tears flow felt as good as laughing. For feelings are one of the most beautiful traits human beings have and being in touch with them is what makes us into the warriors we seek to become. Don’t ever fear crying, for it is one of the most beautiful responses we can have and one that breaks us open from the entrapment of our own minds.
Allowing ourselves to cry as much as we laugh helps bring clarity to the life we truly want to live.
Stepping away from the list of priorities we unconsciously sign up for allowed me to redefine myself and take a load of societal expectations off from my shoulders. Ideas engrained in our minds from childhood took a backseat to experiences lived by me, taught by life, and those moments now defined me.
Appreciating every day for what it was and letting go of what it should be has paved a road to happiness. Dancing in the rain made me now celebrate days with no sun. Realizing that who we are is not based on who we think we should become opens up a window of opportunity that allows our true self to find its journey once again. Not being afraid to let go of expectations and embrace that there is no set compass for the life we live, made me shed layers of old beliefs and learn to navigate myself guided by the sun, the moon and the stars.
When I realized that life is a lottery and we gamble with every choice we make, I transmuted the fear of not knowing which way to turn that gave me anxiety at night.
I was once told that we are all spirits coming into this world to have a human Earth experience. Therefore it is up to us to design what this journey will look like. No one has life figured out and how we choose to walk our own path every day matters.
So I decided to walk with meaning and in style.
This meant paving my own road with heightened awareness, being grateful for the magnificence of the world we get to live in. Anxiety can trigger a vast amount of unknown feelings at our core, consequently making us uncomfortable about the choices we make. What I did, was transform these new emotions into opportunities that helped me break free.
We can do many things in life, but those that are guided by our hearts are the ones that turn out to be the best.
We are trained to pay for school to get a job, then we get a job so that we can pay back all that those years in school cost us. I did this over and over until I realized one of the main reasons I was going to school was not to get a degree, but to connect with the wonderful people in my programs—learning firsthand about their lives, their places of origin and making plans with them for new adventures.
So, regardless of having four different academic degrees and a never-ending to-do list for life, I plan on following through with my own self and live out of a car. There is so much magic unfolding in every moment that, despite falling multiple times on this life journey, I have learned it is when we get back up that we truly come alive. And the more we love the life we live, and the decisions we make, the less we need everyone else to understand and accept our decisions.
Take a step back and breathe.
Look into the depths of your own heart to find that thin line between expectation and your true desire. It takes time for us to find the essence of our being and the purpose we came into this earth for. Believe it is there—underneath the layers is the spark that lights up your true essence.
In living this way, following our own unique path, we become mindful of the moments in which we exist.
So for all those days where you feel lost, not knowing where it is you should be heading, just think—perhaps you might be lost, but maybe you are lost in the right direction.
Author: Carolina Arcila
Image: Benjamin Combs // Unsplash
Editors: Sarah Kolkka; Ashleigh Hitchcock