Have you ever felt a need to take an action that goes against mainstream reasoning and rationality? I recently left my job and I don’t have a firm plan of action for what’s next, which my logical/conditioned side feels is completely irrational and irresponsible. The only plan I have is to let life flow and live in this moment, without worrying about money and how I will support myself. I want to experiment with a new framework for living where I work on things that I am interested in and passionate about. To be honest, the only reason I’ve taken this action is entirely based on a gut feeling that I’m on the right path, there is no data or logical explanation I could give to anyone to justify my actions.
I suppose my mindset may change if I can’t afford food or shelter, but I rather experience this scarcity firsthand so I can formulate my own opinion on a framework for living life, as opposed to taking the opinion of others as the truth. I’ve realized that I’ve confined most of my actions til now by the world of logic, data, social norms, and rules without questioning the very foundation of these pillars. After taking a closer look, I realize that these pillars are in constant flux and vary depending on culture and generation. Therefore, it isn’t wrong to try to live life differently than what convention tells us, for not only is “convention” subjective, it takes the “unconventional” to have true progress in the world.
Some of the people who followed the unconventional path are the ones that produced the greatest change in the world from Gandhi to Steve Jobs. Despite adversity, these people lived in accordance with their truth regardless of financial return or judgment of others. I can only imagine the incredible courage it took for people like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, who could have had comfortable lives, to give up everything including their freedom for what they believed in. I’m sure their family and friends must have thought they were crazy and idiotic to question the authority and norms of the time, for during their lives the framework of racism and segregation was prevalent and accepted.
I think it is natural for family, friends, and society to guide people towards a conventional path as the outcome is known (whether that outcome is to be desired is another question), and people want what they think is best for their loved ones. I do believe there is wisdom in the norms we’ve created, but blindly following a path that doesn’t feel right misses the point of life. To really come up with an opinion on how to live I believe it is important to experience the highs and lows of life firsthand.
As a 1st Generation American I am so grateful for my parents and all my relatives for the sacrifices they made in their lives to make sure I lived a life of relative abundance. The framework for the way they perceive life was molded by the circumstances they came from. By not following what they and others think is right does not mean that I’m not appreciative of their sacrifices and advice, at the same time I’ve realized it is futile to simply go through the motions of life without really living in alignment with my beliefs. I fortunately haven’t had to feel the pangs of scarcity, and perhaps I have to feel this to fully appreciate the viewpoints of others, since living by what others and our society dictates feels inauthentic.
All of this boils down to the existential question about what is the point of existence? Everyone is living in accordance with what they believe the point of life is and usually revolves around their personal definitions of success, happiness, and love. I think it is important for each person to really look at their own life and come up with their mantra for living. Is the point of life to create a string of achievements and success, to tread the water so carefully so that you avoid the depths of failure, sadness, loneliness, and loss? Sometimes it is important to jump headfirst into the unknown and drown, despite what everyone around you says, because that is the only way to truly learn and grow as an individual.
It took me about a decade of reflection to realize that the times I felt most alive are the times when I jumped into the unknown, the times when I hit rock bottom, the times when I was sad & lonely, for these were the times that gave me the opportunity to really grow, to accomplish what I thought was the impossible, to re-prioritize/reflect, and to really connect with the people that I love. I’ve learned an incredible amount from adversity and the unknown, and I wouldn’t trade those moments for the world.
I’m not advocating to maniacally pursue sadness and failure, but I do think we need to stop structuring our lives to avoid these things from happening, since it is not only impossible to do this, but these seemingly “negative” experiences provide the greatest opportunities to live a fulfilled life. There is nothing wrong with wisely embracing vulnerability and fear to develop and grow. The only way to truly appreciate happiness is to experience profound sadness, and the only way to truly appreciate success is to experience incredible failure. The positive and negative emotions are not mutually exclusive events, and I think we are missing the point if the goal is to maximize only the positive emotions without embracing and accepting the other side of the equation.