For most, if not all, of my life, I have felt like I’ve been on a journey that many others do not get to experience. I have been on the “road less travelled”, and it has not been until recently that I’ve begun to fully understand what that has meant for me. Being more individualistic by nature has meant not having a lot of people around to share in my journey, at least not beyond a superficial level. It definitely got lonely at times, but when I was younger it didn’t bother me as much as some would expect. But in recent years, those times have made me feel like I failed at being a successful person. But after years of self-reflection and some much-needed maturing, I’ve come to accept it as just another integral party of my ever-evolving story.
So, what “road” have I been on, and why does it lean more on the lonelier side? To be honest, I’m not sure if I can definitively define what this path is. In my head, I believed that the major factor has been me doing the unexpected, especially for a person like me. As a teenager, I never set my sights on having the same uniform experiences that many others had. I strived to be different because to me, it meant that I wasn’t just settling for something mundane. Taking changes and doing the unexpected was like a thrill ride for me, and I wanted to achieve that kind of “high” as much as I could. Even at such a young age, I was thinking about legacy. And I wanted my legacy to be one that people would remember for its uniqueness.
But here is the thing: when you’re a teen, you seem to be primarily judged by how you stack up against your peers. In the wild world of high school, popularity and going along with the “trends” presented to you is what determines your place in a complicated hierarchy. At least, that’s what it seemed like from my perspective. My own experience in high school was marked by me flying under the radar. Most people didn’t know who I was, and it didn’t help my case that my name is not the easiest one to pronounce. During my first two years of high school I did try to make an effort to boost my popularity, but something just didn’t click. By the time my sophomore year ended, I decided that I no longer wanted to take part in this complicated game. In fact, I applied for a program that kept me out of school 99% of the time.
I set out to do my own thing and construct a path that I could be proud of.
There was a lot of self-discovery on this path. I reflected a lot on my life and what I wanted to make of it. A lot of this was done through my writing—my creative expression of choice that helped me to make sense of a somewhat crazy world. During this time I also sought help from above by exploring my spiritual side. I turned to a Higher Power for guidance on how I could make my life worthwhile. I believed that if I followed something that was greater than me, I could find a way to the path I was searching for.
During this time I was very pleased with my choice of lifestyle. I firmly believed that I was doing what I was supposed to do. Despite the obvious lack of big social life, I was happy. Me not having a ton of friends didn’t both me as much as I thought it would. Sure, it got lonely at times and I wished that I could hang out with more people, but I had other things to occupy my time. Even back then I knew that I did not want to be completely surrounded by others who I could only have a surface-level relationship with. I wanted something deep, even if I could only have it with a select few. I can’t say that I entirely loved myself during this time, but I did have deep admiration for my individuality.
Over the past couple of years I have been reflecting on this time specific time in my life,and trying to connect that person with who I am now. And unfortunately, I have not been looking back with kindness in my eyes. In fact, there has even been some detest for myself. For awhile I did not see my individuality as something to be celebrated. I saw it as me being a loser—the biggest loser ever. I hadn’t had many of the same experiences that others my age had had, causing me to feel inadequate and insecure. Parts of my early twenties were spent feeling like I had to make up for my apparent “failings” as a young adult. My mind was a mess, and in some ways I was miserable. I knew that I had to change my perspective. If I didn’t, I would go crazy (well, a little crazier than I already am).
As I’ve started to focus more on my recovery and changing the way that I see myself, I have thankfully begun to see my life in a new light. My “road less travelled phase” when I was younger was not evidence of me being a failure. Instead, it was a powerful example of how I was willing to go against the grain and stick to my true self. I now know (and I probably knew back then) that if I had tried to assimilated with everyone else, I would not have been happy. In fact, I think I would have been miserable because I had to fake it. And one of the things I have never wanted to do in life is fake my way through it. I have always wanted to just be me, even if the path I was on was not filled with a ton of other people. As long as I can find a select few who I can have a meaningful connect with, I will be just fine.
My journey is its own unique entity that does not have to follow anyone else’s rules or expectations. As a teen I celebrated my distinctive lifestyle. And even after some time of feeling disdain for that very thing, today I am happy and proud to celebrate it again.
I can’t wait to see where my journey takes me next. It’ll be a great adventure, and me an excited participant.
Photo by James Wheeler