The Paths We Take

By Jack McIntyre

There are three main paths we humans can follow in life: the one we want, the one that we believe God would want us to follow, and the one that the world expects us to follow. Each can bring its own varying amounts of happiness or failure. All three are susceptible to the misfortune that life brings down on you in a heartbeat. When I look to the future, I see a world with expectations of me that I can only assume are akin to the ones I know of today. Of course, no one truly knows what kind of place the world will be like during the cusp of our young-adulthood. Although speculation is often the crutch of those completely lacking knowledge of something they can’t know in the present, it is all I can do until the future finally knocks on my door. One thing I’ve learned (through books rather than experience) is that the radical thoughts of today often become the traditional policies of the next, ad infinitum. It’s more than likely that things will change, as change is the only true constant in society and life. Throughout the turmoil of the world today, I do have a glimpse of the expectations laid out for me.

Contemporary society expects and wishes for me to diffuse into it like ice does to warm water. It wants me to be financially secure, and a follower of the law. It doesn’t expect me to “make it big” or anything like that. Just survive and hopefully succeed. Finally, I retire and live out my days as the new generation replaces the old. Then I die, and the cycle is renewed. At that moment, the third path I spoke of truly comes into play as the great theological mystery is solved, but known only by me and me alone. Either my faith in God is rewarded, or it turns out to be of no consequence, and I become nothing more than a memory.

I’ve come to think of the way we experience the world around us as life giving us a completely untouched piece of wood, and for those who are more fortunate, the tools with which to carve it. It truly is the means to carve this wood that dictates your place in society and in life. Many carve a sculpture others have carved before, meeting but rarely exceeding the world’s expectations. Others carve something born in their own thoughts and imagination. Some of them do succeed, and often surpass those that took the safer route. However, the majority of the ones that go against society’s intrinsic wishes often reap the harvest of their naïveté, and end up forced along the safer path just to survive. I speak of the artists and philosophers, who are quickly losing their place in a world founded upon science and fact.

I’ve concluded (at least for me personally) that the ideal path you follow is not a single one of your deliberation, but rather one combining the aspects of all three. I want to follow the path of someone that has the humility to put their absolute faith in something greater than themselves, someone that meets and surpasses the world’s expectations of them, but also someone who carves something special enough to leave a mark on the world, if I can. I want to be successful and well off later in life, but I also want to be happy. I’m not stupid enough to believe I can change the world, as that has proved to be an errand of the chronically foolish. But if I do blaze my own trail through the woods of the society, then let those who wish to follow in my wake do so. In the end, I want to meet and surpass the expectations of the world, those of myself included. Everyone may start out at different places in life, yet we all have the tools to carve our own destinies. All we have to do is start.