The value of being on our way.
I can remember having wanted it, badly: whether it was becoming the brilliant researcher who cured cancer, the clever hacker whose start-up spread the nation, or the insightful writer who touched the hearts of millions — I wanted to be extraordinary.
Of course, it all started with the stressful school environment from hell, misleading me to have an unhealthy sense of self-value: you’re first thrown into a slow simmering pot with 50 other kindergartners, where Mad Minute and Four Square subtly breed competitiveness. Then, you’re eventually tossed into a pressure cooker with 1,000 other high schoolers, where your value is derived from how many AP level courses you’re taking compared to your friends. And finally, as a reward for surviving high school, you’re swiftly propelled into an unstable gas compressor with 50,000 other college students, where the competition for who can most quickly figure out the next ten years of their life is on.
All the meanwhile, we’re taught to idolize those who live fiercely, loudly, and fast, because after all, aren’t those the type of people who epitomize the American Dream? So, we all learn to choose our destination and hop on the fast track to reach it as quickly as possible, since we can’t really be successful until we get there. But when has life ever been about the endpoints, and when have our best moments ever been planned?
This hyper-efficient lifestyle has been even more enabled by the instantaneous world of technology we live in, with phones glued to our hands and the internet acting as our phantom limbs. After all, there’s not a second to be wasted. And I was blessed to have this lifestyle: to always have the resources, connections, and ambition at my fingertips —it was basically a guaranteed path to success laid out for me. But as I grew up in a rush to become someone, little did I know that I had also been spoiled with something else just as valuable: the opportunity and time to be lost; aimless; utterly confused.
Don’t get me wrong: would it be insanely awesome if I did groundbreaking research, started a revolutionary business, or wrote a mind-blowing novel? Hellz to the yes. In fact, I’m pretty lucky to be in the state of mind where I still believe I can change the world, and I would never want to give that up. But there’s also something special about not knowing where you’re going, or whether you’ll ever even get there. To be humbled by your own mediocrity, disillusioned by your own naivete, and questioned by your own mind — to be set back, shoved forwards, tugged at your sides off of the straight path again, and again. And when we realize the value in simply being on our way towards…what ever it may be, we’ll see that we are, and have always been, quite extraordinary.