The Routes We Take
I kept looking around, trying to see if the path continued much further. I stopped for a moment and backtracked a few steps to see if I had missed a turn. The branches and bushes hung in my face and my foot hit a big root – ouch. This trail up Mount Doug was one I hadn’t taken before. I usually traverse a route on the other side of the mountain that is more clearly marked. But I continued walking (up what seemed more like an old riverbed than a path) and went back to thinking about my upcoming week. The errands I had to run and the tasks on my to-do list.
Thinking about the week ahead and the tasks I want to accomplish is a normal weekend activity for me. I have always been a planner. I love setting goals and ticking boxes. But a recent interaction with one of my oldest friends had me thinking about whether this makes me boring.
I have been friends with this pal since we were 11, and she has always been one of those people who takes on every new challenge with a “heck, YES!” and is always the first to suggest a completely random activity. She is truly one of the most fun and exciting people I have ever had the privilege to meet. After chatting with her about her upcoming graduation and hearing her carefree, positive attitude about her future, I started to feel envious. Why is it that she can face life with this attitude? And I struggle to gather the gusto to leave the comfort of my house on a Friday night?
And now listen, we are all at different stages of life. And we all enjoy different activities. I get it. But what had me thinking so much after our conversation was the fact that at one point in my life, I really thought I was also a carefree, adventurous soul. I thought I would be teaching English abroad after graduation and embracing new cultures across the globe. So when I made the switch to working towards a career in photography and media, I felt anxious that I was taking a more conventional or “safe” route. I worried that I wasn’t embracing adventure and instead was “settling”.
Settling is a real fear of mine, as it is for so many of us, and when I made the decision to choose a different path after graduation I felt that fear hit me hard. “Is staying close to home and working a 9-5 job while saving for a house too conventional a choice for my life?” was the constant thought in my head. I have thought this about lots of my choices. “Is starting a blog too predictable? Is moving in with my high school boyfriend too cliche?” But these thoughts are not about what I want for myself, it is always about how other people around me will perceive these choices.
I firmly believe that we all make choices every day that determine how we live our lives. And of course, we do not all have the exact same choices each day, or even in our lives. But each of us make little decisions every day that determine how we live. What we eat each day, who we talk to, what we say. And as hard as it is, I don’t want to make any of my decisions based on what people may or may not think about them. I want to make my decisions based on what I think and the direction that brings me the most happiness. Of course, I love discussing pros and cons with loved ones and those I trust have my best interest at heart, but that isn’t the same thing as feeling anxious that the general population will view a decision I make in one way or another.
And a big reason I need to stop stressing about whether my choices are “fun” enough, is that I LOVE my life. I love the relationships I have, the goals I have accomplished, my job, and my new home. This is not to brag, and is definitely not to say that I don’t have things I aim to improve, it is just to point out that the only time you should worry if the decisions you make for your life are “good enough” is when YOU are unhappy with some part of your life.
If you feel unhappy with your career, your health, or your relationships, then by golly go make a change! Challenge yourself! Start making some different decisions! But if your stress about the path you have chosen is based around your fear of being judged by others and not about YOUR experience in your own life, then let go of that and embrace this awesome life you are so blessed to have.
Okay, let’s bring it all back here. I am walking up this crazy path, and I finally break through the brush and see the view (which was actually just a lot of fog – thank you West Coast November) and looking back, that path was a great analogy for the routes we take in our lives. Everyone has their own. My dear friend inspires me all the time to try new things and be more adventurous, and perhaps some of my organizational habits have rubbed off on her, but we get our joy in different ways and that is okay. So stop worrying about what other people think of your life, and don’t be afraid to stay in your lane and rock your own route to the top.