The way forward

Sometimes I consider whether I’m going to do anything important with my life, or if I’m destined to be just another soulless wretch drawing closer to death every day wondering what could have been. Then I remember I don’t believe in destiny.

It’s hard not to think that way sometimes, though. Every day, closer to nothing. Every day is one less day to make something of myself. Time is ticking.

Importance is subjective, of course. None of us is its arbiter; to some, I’ve already done important things with my life. Things my parents, my grandparents, their parents didn’t dare to dream of. Things no one would expect of someone my age. To others, I’m no one special. I’m one of billions of people stumbling my way through life with varying degrees of success, always looking for something bigger, something better.

To myself, I’m not good enough. I’m not focused enough. I’m wasting my youth. What happened to the idealistic dreams of my adolescence? What happened to changing the world, to making a difference? To seeing and trying and experiencing everything this vast, unknowable world has to offer?

I promised myself I wouldn’t let myself become content. I think of the response to that dreaded question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“Happy.”

Happiness isn’t contentment, for me. Happiness is excitement. Happiness is passion. Happiness is love. My happiness is the peace that comes with knowing I’m the person who sets the path I take through this life, even if sometimes that path is blocked or broken or runs in circles and drops me back at its start. The path is mine.

Sometimes I’m complacent. I look at the path I’m on and am surprised to find it no longer holds the same beauty I saw in it in an earlier time. The colors have dulled; the scents blend together. I find myself resenting the twists and turns and dreading the next switchback instead of hurtling around the corner at full speed, unsure of what comes next but excited to find out.

When that happens, all I can do is take a running leap and hope I’m flying in the right direction. Hope my wings don’t disappear and leave me spinning toward the ground at full speed with nothing to save me except the possibility I’ll wake up a moment before I hit the rocky bottom and realize it was all a dream.

And yet.

I feel at peace. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I know the way forward.

Except I don’t.

I know the way forward isn’t the way I’ve been going, though. And maybe that’s enough. Maybe “the way forward” doesn’t always mean leaving the dock with the course charted out before me. Maybe sometimes it’s enough to wade into the ocean knowing the tide won’t pull me under.

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