Your Own Path
There are few things more important than simply being yourself. Doing what makes you happy and following your own path isn’t just staying true to yourself, it’s also important to society and the world as a whole.
Every ant in an anthill plays their part. They’re all individuals, but they all contribute their own piece to the greater collective. Most are foragers out looking for food, and they each spread out on different paths going different directions, because the goal is to maximize the chance of finding food for the colony. By travelling places others haven’t been, each individual ant takes a risk and may not benefit from it themselves, but the possibility of the colony of discovering something useful dramatically increases.
Once an ant finds a food source, they’ll lay down a scent trail and will continue travelling the same path for a while, revisiting and gathering. They’ve found what they want; they like doing it and benefit from it. Others will follow and may benefit for a while, and that’s okay too. But nothing new is gained and eventually that food source will run out. So, it’s crucial and ultimately inevitable that new things are tried for the sake of the individual as well as the group.
And when I say “benefit” in this metaphor, I don’t necessarily mean something tangible like money for instance. (Although, that can be an added bonus.) I mean benefit more in terms of happiness and pleasure… because that’s the whole goal of life anyway, right? Life has a definite beginning and a definite end, and ideally the middle should be as enjoyable as possible. Minimizing suffering and finding contentment is the best way to maximize happiness.
Everyone has an impact on society and the world whether they realize it or not. Some individual people have huge impacts, but these are extremely rare. Most people contribute as part of groups or teams through the company they work for or the school they attend. But even people who are isolated by choice or circumstance still have some impact, no matter how small. Big impacts and small impacts are still impacts, and even the tiniest contributions matter greatly. Every penny and every vote counts.
Hard work, responsibility, discipline, and direction are essential for life – you have to eat somehow! But your path doesn’t always have to have a “point.” A reason or tangible result isn’t a requirement. Wondering around aimlessly, playing pretend, and using your imagination are crucial aspects of a fulfilling life. Some things should be taken seriously, but when all is said and done, nothing ultimately matters. So, choose what you find important wisely.
Some ants will follow other ants’ paths for a while, and that’s okay… because trying things others have tried is a good way to learn and discover things we may also enjoy and be good at. But we are each naturally unique, and just as no two people’s fingerprints are the same, their paths shouldn’t be either. The popular path isn’t necessarily the right path. Simply because others are doing it doesn’t mean everyone should. Taking a path others have traveled, then veering off to someone else’s path for a while is completely natural, but eventually everyone should settle on their own personal path.
Finding something you enjoy is the key to happiness! And it doesn’t matter what it is or how much others like it, the only thing that matters is that you like it! And more importantly, that you continue doing it because you find enjoyment doing it, not because you “should” because it makes money, or it’s popular, or because society says so. You find that you like something weird or different? Great! Who cares?! You’ve found a path less-traveled. If it makes you happy, it doesn’t matter what it is. (As long as it doesn’t hurt others.)
Some people find pleasure in pushing themselves to the limits and striving for perfection, which is completely fine as long as that’s what they want. Discovering limits and boundaries is crucial to learning and understanding, and honing and perfecting a skill or art is virtuous and rewarding on many levels. But perfection is only necessary if that’s the goal. You don’t have to be perfect or the best at something in order to enjoy it. I love writing, for example, but I realize most of the things I write aren’t very good! I find so much pleasure in making music, but the music I make mostly objectively bad! But I continue to do these things for the simple fact that I like doing them, regardless of their quality.
By staying true to yourself and pursuing what makes you happy, you not only contribute to society and push humanity forward, you will also personally live the happiest life possible.
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” –John Steinbeck, ‘East of Eden’