The spring of 2011 found me graduated from one of the world’s top universities with a well-paying job at a respected company awaiting me - the first stop on a charter bus route to a stable and promising career. Friends congratulated me and I, in turn, came to convince myself that this was the right path. After all, it was well paved and clearly signposted – work hard, learn as much as I can for a few years, then reassess my options a little further down the road. Practical, logical – a methodical approach to life, a route that would undoubtedly please my parents.
Perhaps unsurprisingly however, I found this troubling. 23, barely past 20, it said. Barely past 20 – my heart whispered, forcibly, almost with a sense of urgency. Are the twenties not an age of dreams? An age of brazen romanticism coupled with idealistic vitality? An age where growth takes astronomical proportions, and where youthful courage can just as easily be interpreted as outright stupidity, even insanity? Are they not an age where possibilities are infinite, where ideas are perpetually explosive and where the curious soul hungers for more than it is prepared to handle?
Yet half a year in a cubicle instead saw me demotivated, frustrated over a growing complacency with scraping along the border of satisfactory, and ultimately, depressed. If anything my tormented mind served to underscore the blatant misalignment of my actions with that of my ambitions, and dreams.
Life is short, and the only moment is now. You are who you choose to be – a chalkboard for others to etch out their expectations and ideals on or a tapestry woven of your own imagination, continuously unfurling itself across the sky. For me, travel had always been the experience in life that I found the most liberalising – each destination a challenge to step beyond the borders of familiarity and comfort; a dare to unabashedly embrace the multifaceted phenomenon we call life. And frankly, the road is an unbearably exhilarating place. So I decided to travel. I resigned from my job, sold all of my belongings and wrote a letter home asking my parents to forgive my recklessness and promising them that I would return home soon.
It was a distressing decision with distressing implications. What if I can’t find a job after I stop traveling? What if this is bad for my career? What if I run out of money? What if I get sick? What if I never see my friends again? What if,… what if this isn’t the right decision after all?
In the impenetrable uncertainty, I sought solace in the words of pioneers before me:
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
A flame was kindled and it illuminated, if but momentarily, the night.
After all, how do you hope to contribute to the lives of people around the world, if you never take the time to understand how they live? How do you hope to bring about social change, without seeing the societies you hope to change? How do you hope to inspire others, without first finding your own inspiration? How do you fulfill the promise of a dream, other than by going out and chasing it?