We live in a world where it is socially acceptable to grow up, go to a good school, and get a good corporate career in a big city—one with a corporate card, paid time off, promotions, raises, all the bells and whistles. From the moment we are born, we are groomed for this. Our social circles point the way, painting the path of least resistance as the one that leads us into the rat race so many of us are familiar with. And while some people are truly enlightened and fulfilled by this, so many are not. Because by nature we are all different people with different desires, passions, values, and interests, creating us unique.
So if we are all unique, why are we all pointed in the same direction? And more importantly, why do we follow?
As humans, we are born with fears. Fears that stem from the caveman era, where everything from social rejection, failure, and even wild success meant death. When you stand out from the norm, you put yourself in a dangerous position, and years later the world may have changed but the fears still lie deep within us. We have an evolutionarily created fear of straying from the norm.
So, what happens to the people who recognize this fear?
They know this path is wrong, so they look for the next most socially acceptable thing. Oftentimes that new ‘path’ is one created out of rebellion. When someone doesn’t fit the norm, they go wild. They need a new direction, a new path. And what is that new path, or other norm, for our generation? It’s the backpacking, van life, Instagram-worthy traveling extravaganza painted through rose-colored glasses on everyone’s Pinterest board, saved Instagram posts, and TikTok montages.
The idea of quitting everything to go run away and travel is the low-key idolized form of self-expression. But the problem with this is that it isn’t always true self-expression. It’s the half-assed copout way of saying, “This isn’t for me, but I’m not sure what is, so I’m just going to choose the next most socially acceptable thing to do. The thing the rebels are doing. Rather than taking a second to find myself now and follow that. The thing that is truly scary because it’s only inherent to me.”
So often people choose this seemingly adventure-laced path with the reasoning that they need to “find themselves.” The thing is, you don’t need to go anywhere to find yourself. You are already there. “Finding yourself” is a matter of taking a step back, removing things from your life that you are certain are not you, and taking a few deep breaths to let that newly created space marinate before letting things that you actually align with enter your life.
You don’t need to add a backpack, a van, or a couple dozen passport stamps to your name in order to figure out who you are and what you actually want. You need to separate yourself and sit still in the solitude, the silence, and the discomfort. This is how you allow yourself to start to listen. Rather than sitting there and running to the other drawn out extreme that gives the illusion of choice and freedom, listen to yourself and figure out what actually will make you free. Odds are it will be very different than one of the paths you’ve seen from the people that have gone before you because you are not them.
Once you figure out who you truly are and what you truly want, then go grab the backpack or the van, because the time when you know yourself is the time when the adventure will mean the most.