I am a firm believer in the idea that most of us (you, dear reader, and myself), living in a “free” world, have the opportunity to make more choices than we can possibly fathom. And yet, we are made to believe that our path is more or less cleared for us, and all we need to choose are the little details: everything has already been set out for you, and of course the meaning of life is to buy a house, 2 cars, and 2.1 children. And spend the rest of your life paying off the debts you really are supposed to have.
Every single day is the first day of the rest of my life. And every single day, I am faced with a gazillion of choices: most of them are fairly simple, others are more of a challenge. I learned from Gretchen Rubin that happiness is not a goal or a purpose – happiness is in the journey, in the way we get there. So in every choice I make, of course I think about the ultimate purpose of that choice, but I also try to imagine the road that will lead me there.
This week, my friend and “neighbour” left us, in search of her own road. The search will lead her to a yoga retreat center in India first – probably the best place to go if you’ve got questions, and you know the answer is within you. It has made me reflect a bit – on friendship, on travelling and working in exotic places, but most of all on fate and choices and crossroads in life. I secretly hope she’s coming back soon – but if she’s not, I just hope our paths will cross again some time in the future.
Some time ago, I read the poem “The road not taken” by Robert Frost; it was imbedded in a “ZenPencils” cartoon by Gavin Aung Than. I have been following ZenPencils for ages, but this one really got to me… What the poem tells us, is that there are always other roads, alternate realities. What the cartoon shows us, is that both roads can be just as beautiful, both realities just as fulfilling. Maybe the road we’d like to travel isn’t as easy for one person as it is for somebody else; everyone has his handicaps and talents, and we have to find the best way to put both to work. But the choice is ours – and once we’ve made it, it’s no use looking back and wondering “what if”. No use regretting what we’ve made of our lives so far – if I’m not happy with it I can either complain, or choose to change it. And I’m the only one who can make the change.
Another inspiration was the commencement speech given by Jim Carey (here’s the link – you might want to skip the first 10 minutes). There was that little phrase: “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love”. The tiny voice in my head probably told me that a thousand times, but it took mister Carey for me to realise how silly it was to live the life you think will keep everybody else happy. Somehow along the way, I made the choice to “pursue challenges as something beneficial, so I could deal with them in the most productive way”. Some people might see those challenges as huge obstacles and choose to avoid them at all costs – so far, I have learned that every new challenge has made my life better.
So here I am, pursuing my dream of living off the grid in our own self-sustaining little farm. Reading and learning all I can so I can put it into practice (the sooner the better). Not even time will tell if I’ve made the right choice; it can only tell me wether I’m happy with the choice I’ve made (so far so good).
If there is one thing we can learn from “The road not taken”, is that there is no one true and correct road in life. We just make choices, and those choices will lead us somewhere. Would we have had a better life if we had chosen the other road? We will never know. Until some kind of space-time machine can help us explore alternate realities or see the future, of course.
This post was first published on November 1st, 2015. My friend did come back, but left again soon after; she now lives in the Netherlands where she teaches Yoga and English - click here for her page.
Question for you, dear reader...
Have you ever been in a situation where you really had to make a choice between what you wanted to do in life, and what others wanted you to do? What did you choose?