If there’s one thing that I’ve come to learn in my twenty years of living, it is that having an understanding of who you are and what you want out of life are two of the most important things.
This is something that I never really found myself thinking about all that much when I was younger, but as I aged I began to put more value into myself, my values and my aspirations. Judging from my own personal experiences, I theorize that people start do this once they find something that they have a real passion for, and it’s not dependent on the nature of their passion.
It can be constructing bridges, landscaping, photography, essentially anything so long as whatever it is invokes a strong feeling from inside you. For me that was writing. It was when I started to take my first novel seriously that I experienced a shift in my mentality. It’s completely impossible to describe exactly what it was about the writing that changed me, but I can say that it struck me in a certain way, and I think this is the same for everyone once they find that “thing” that clicks with them.
However, it was only after I became more aware of this change that I was able to benefit from it. I started to learn more about myself each time I wrote and it didn’t necessarily have to be the novel. It could also be writing in my journal, a discussion board for a class, a persuasive essay and even these articles that I write for The Triangle. Although I will say that the novel is where I learned the most about myself. The characters were direct extensions of myself, and while each one was not 100 percent me, they all possessed elements of who I was as a person, many of which I didn’t even know I had. But that’s not to say that the experience was only positive, because being more aware of the change also opened me up to some of the problems that came with it.
I started to realize more and more that the thing I enjoyed doing the most was not the most attractive thing in the eyes of many people. Going to an institute of higher education that is known for its business and engineering programs naturally discouraged me, as the arts are somewhat overlooked, but that I could ignore as the English program here is excellent in my opinion. What I couldn’t overlook was the doubt from some of my peers and many of the people that I’ve encountered in the past two years.
This was an eerie feeling that I experienced initially. It’s human nature to want to be liked and accepted by other people, and this is something that I was taught at a very young age and I always wanted both from everyone. The people who liked me but still disapproved of my passion were especially troubling to me, because I didn’t know if I wanted to remain friends with them when they didn’t support something that was an integral part of who I was.
There were several times when I had extreme lapses in confidence in myself and I questioned if what I was devoting so much of my time and energy to was really worth it. I was unsure of which I valued more. Dedicating myself to the most enjoyable thing I had ever experienced or gaining the full approval of others and pursuing a career in something that would “earn me a living” in the words of some.
Of course, there were those who did support what I did, but aside from my family and some good friends, nobody ever really seemed to understand why I chose novel writing as a career when the age we live in is dominated by movies, television, platforms like YouTube and the juggernaut that is social media.
At the time I had never really taken the future into consideration or the fact that for many, creative writing, in its most basic form, was becoming a dying art. All I really knew was that I wanted to write stories on paper, the economic aspect never quite crossed my mind as a significant factor, and certainly not one that would keep me from writing novels. But the more people brought it up, the more I began to doubt my chosen career path and the potential success it could have. The “Starving artist” concept started to set in.
I would have potentially given up on novel writing and changed my major from English to something else. But I was saved by a hard reality check by one of my English professors during a lecture. He said that those who read, write and study literature tend to experience the widest range of human emotion, and this reminded me of why I loved to write. It wasn’t just a desire to tell stories and build new fantastical worlds. That may have been the what ignited my desire, but it’s not what kept me going. What kept me going was discovering more about myself and the world around me through my writing. I may never become rich or wealthy from a materialistic standpoint, but that’s okay because it was never about that for me, nor should that be the reason for anyone’s passion. If I’m lucky, through my writing I will become rich and wealthy in other aspects of life that are more important to me as an individual.
A controlled life is not worth living when you can live a life of exploration and discovery. What you choose to pursue doesn’t have to determine what you’re capable of, and regardless of what you choose to pursue, there will always be naysayers. Don’t let them change who you are and what you want to do. But also don’t completely cut off their voices. There are people who will tell you that you can’t do this or you can’t do that because they don’t want to see you succeed, but there are also people who will tell you the same thing in goodwill, it just may not seem like they have good intentions from your perspective. It’s these people whose words you want to take into consideration. But don’t hate the ones that do want to see you fail. Understand that they serve a purpose in helping you grow to learn more about yourself and they’re just another form of adversity that life throws at us.
The way I see it, if something is easy then it’s probably not worth seeing through to the end, the same applies to life. It’s never easy, but perseverance is our greatest friend regardless of what obstacle we’re facing, and pursuing one’s dreams requires the greatest form of persistence that we as human beings are capable of. It’s something that we’re all capable of, it just requires a never giving up mentality, and an understanding of who you were, who you are and who you want to be. Think of Socrates when he said to “Know thyself” and that “An unexamined life is not worth living.”