We live in a world of physical certainties and boundaries, with minds often prone on tackling, understanding, or contorting ambiguities. Nature, bodily senses, and events are measurable with the concept of time, yet we find ourselves drawn to emotion, passion, desires. Or, in other words, the intangible. Fundamentally, these things are ethereal and figments of the mind, yet we are obliged to them despite being physical creatures. Sometimes, this gift of imagining the immaterial is our strongest attribute, allowing us as a society to dominate challenges of the scientific, artistic, philosophical, and all the studies between and beyond. Other times, the double-edge sword cuts on the wrong side, causing great mental pain through delusions, emotional crises, or existential breakdowns, all but caging potential to the limitations of a simple mood swing.
At times it seems truly excusable, and definitely understandable, for people to be torn apart by this. Breakdowns, sobbing, and dark moments are often the consequences for being unable to organize our internal state amidst the chaos of living. It doesn’t always have to be dramatic, it could just be a difficult day at work after little sleep that makes us look at ourselves and see not a splendid creation, but a wreck, a disaster of missed opportunities and flawed characteristics. We see the daunting task of achieving our biggest dreams and goals, and then take a sideways glance at our life and see how it falls short of all these things.
We scratch our heads and wonder what to make of it. What to do with this chaos.
There are two types of people born of this chaos.
The first goes about unconsciously, under the obligations and pressures of their respective society. Motivated by current fashion trends, money, and the common ideas of what success looks like, they may not even be cognizant of their potential, must less interested in pursuing it. They often ignore intuition, callings, and emotions which suggest that the life they are living is not full, or not true to the fulfillment that a neglected part of them longs for. They go on vacations, not to discover the innermost cogs of themselves and the world, but because its both socially acceptable and a sign of success to allocate time away from a grueling 9 to 5. They do not often remind themselves that it’s important to periodically ask ourselves the hardest questions:
“What do I really wish to do with my life?”
“Am I happy with who I am? If not, why? What would I change about myself if I could snap my fingers and make the change? Or even better, what parts of myself should I better accept instead of ignore?”
“If I died tomorrow, would I look back on my dreams or passions and suddenly feel I should have taken them more seriously?”
“Would I regret not following them?”
“Do I have regrets? If so, why? What should I do so that I will not regret my current lifestyle and choices? Or even better, what pasts should I embrace as a fundamental part of my journey, instead of belittling them to the word ‘regrets’?”
Not only will they not put much time into these questions, they will avoid addressing them entirely. Instead, they’ll fill in downtime with popular television series and social outings on Fridays and Saturdays, and recover from the hangover on Sundays. Wake up, go to work for the next week, and continue ignoring these questions.
Rinse and repeat.
Although this stereotype of an unconscious individual is admittedly scathing and perhaps unrealistic, by imagining the epitome, we can begin to draw from it the polar opposite.
Cue the alternative, (far more preferable), individual. Centerstage!
This is someone who decides that questions are preferable to assumed answers, even if one question leads to dozens more. They may accept a journey by realizing that what they wish for does not correlate to common success paths or expectations within society. Often, they analyze themselves, their place in the world, and they conclude that life is too short to be handled carelessly. It is too short to waste energy on things besides what is most important to them. They understand that the best way to respect and value this gift of existing is to pursue the ideal version of themselves, and hammer away at their potential to sculpt a truly magnificent person.
Not only will they take time out of their schedules to face the harder questions, they’ll actively chase the actions that such questions inspire.
These are the artists, engineers, innovators, the book-devourers, the philosophers, the challengers, the rule-breakers, the impassioned. These are the ones driven to improvement because they want to craft an individual they can be truly proud of. They often battle with complacency, bad habits, and time-wasting just like anyone else, but the difference between the first individual and this one is that this one actually does something about it, or at the very least, they are deeply bothered by it.
They turn off the telly, close the millions of tabs on the internet browser, and zone in on the project they have procrastinated on.
But even with the ideal opposite of the first example, it’s evident that they might not achieve economic success or a sustaining happiness in the pursuit of their passions. Happiness is a struggle to even the most independently successful. Nevertheless, and without a doubt, they have already succeeded in a much more profound sense just by taking action in the first place. They’ve taken up their armor, sword and shield, and joined the fray of the battle for their highest self.
They will emerge bloody as hell, and the battle will never go as expected, containing more defeats than victories. Regardless, they can rest assured, for they have done their duty to themselves, all by just having showed up to the challenge. If that is not worth feeling fulfilled, then what is?
They have made up their minds to enjoy life in the truest sense—by unapologetically being themselves. They make the most of their time by defying laziness, lackluster lifestyles, and the odd tendency in all of us to ignore our potential. Whatever creations that are manifested throughout their quest for actualization are surely gifts to this world, and should be appreciated by others for what they are—examples, and wells of inspiration for the rest of us to pursue our truest selves.
Of course, life is so seldom black-and-white as this. But, with the two archetypes fully illustrated, I now point the question towards you: where will you fall on the spectrum between them? Or even better, where are you now ... are you comfortable there?