Has anyone ever told you they felt like there was a weight on their shoulders at one point or another? That something was creating the illusion of a bearing a physical burden, and that before they could relax or not be anxious they had to make it so the weight was lifted? People I know talk about that kind of thing all the time. Usually its harmless, such as a project being due at work or an impending dentist appointment. Nobody likes the dentist. My dentist is a very kind person, but the profession doesn’t suit him. Too much poking and prodding and cutting and drilling. Makes me cringe just thinking about it. So you might see a way someone could justify feeling a weight on their shoulders leading up to an event as horrifying as a root canal. Which brings me to my point: today I woke up, got dressed and drove my little suburban car from my suburban home and went to work. Strangely enough, as I walked from my acres away parking spot toward the building, my knees began to ache. Before you ask, no, I don’t have knee problems. They aren’t falling apart, and I’m not going to go to the doctor or physical therapist. Rather, it felt like there was a weight on my legs, similar to that weight people describe as being attached to their shoulders. I started wondering why this was happening, as I didn’t have anything terrible or frightening ahead of me today. Not even this week. Then it hit me. I’m living in my early twenties, just beginning my tour of duty in the American workforce. If I work until the standard retirement age, that gives me between thirty and forty years to spend moving up the corporate ladder or stuck in a dead end job. Over those forty years, five days out of seven I will spend sitting in an office, staring at a computer screen. Eight hours per day of doing menial tasks and accomplishing nothing.
This is not what life should look like.
As Chuck Pahlaniuk wrote, “this is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time”. That weight on my legs, holding them down and bringing them stress, is a burden caused by the contrast between what my future should look like and what it will look like, if I keep going this direction. Each of us is only given one lifetime to spend on this earth, some shorter than others. Don’t we owe it to ourselves, the people we love, and the one who gave us life to live our lives as fully as possible? I don’t want to look back fifty years from now and say I wrote mortgages, that was my purpose. I don’t want you to look back and say I pressed a button in a factory, that was my purpose.
That is not your purpose.
Your purpose is to further yourself, to improve the world, to love yourself and others – all to the best of your ability. Your purpose is to see new things, explore the wonders of the world, and be awed by them. The world was created for us to explore, engage with and enjoy. This cannot be done from a 5x7 cubicle with Google Maps. Living life means getting dirty, getting lost, getting hurt and getting the chance to see, do and find things that you have never seen, done or found before.
Don’t read this as a PSA for the travel industry. It isn’t. The place to start is in your own home, then in your community, among the marginalized and outcast, slowly moving out into the rest of the world. No single location is better than any other. London, Ohio is no better or worse than London, England. More people have visited one than the other, but both have a place in the world and value to add to your being. It is impossible to know where you are going until you understand where you came from and where you are. You cannot know yourself completely without engaging and learning from the people around you.
To steal from Chuck again, you are not your job, you are not how much money you have in the bank, you are not the car you drive, you are not your clothes or your furniture. You are you, nothing more and nothing less. "I say may I never be content. I say deliver me from Swedish furniture. I say deliver me from clever art." Our lives are ending one day, one minute, one moment at a time. I owe it to myself to create the best version of me that is possible, free from materialism and social pressures. Willing and able to place myself among the marginalized, among the incomplete and insecure, finding truth and joy where the masses choose not to look. I am afraid that I will waste the opportunity I have been given. My focus should be on the outcasts, not the outlets. Doing so allows me to affect the world around me, as well as develop myself into the person I want to become.
Anything less is a tragedy.