From the moment a baby is born, almost everyone is in awe of this bundle of potentiality. What will this child be like? Who will he/she grow up to be? What choices will he/she make?
It is almost instantly hardwired into us that we each have a specific purpose for being on this earth. It’s almost as if there’s a specific destiny carved out for every one of us, and it is our sole responsibility to find out what we are to do with our lives.
We only have one life to live, so we must make it count.
Grownups – me included – loves to ask children, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’
I think, in a way, it inspires us to see how certain and sure children are of themselves when they respond with a straightforward answer, such as: ‘I want to be a policeman,’ or ‘I want to become a singer.’
What I Wanted to Be | Where I Was
Although I grew up with a strict mother, both my parents still gave me the space to dream. My mom implemented stern rules and values that we had to live by, but neither she nor my father told us what we should become when we ‘grew up.’
For that, I am grateful.
My life was ahead, the road wide open before me. It looked easy, as if there’s a step-by-step system already set before me, a guidance chart already laid out for me.
Yes, the road ahead was a mystery.
But it wasn’t supposed to be a difficult one to discover, explore and figure out.
What I wanted to become changed all the time. First, I wanted to be a writer. Then, a teacher. After reading a couple of missionary books, I wanted to be a missionary. After that, I wanted to become a professional ballerina, Then, I simply wanted to be famous. After that, I wanted to be a writer again. Full circle completed.
Then it would start all over again.
What I Turned Out To Be | Where I Was Going
After I finished school, I wanted to study creative writing. But the universities here in South Africa didn’t offer it as an undergraduate degree, only as a master’s degree. So I thought maybe I should study journalism, but by then I was already writing for magazines and newspapers. I showed my resume to the admissions officer at the university, and she told me honestly, ‘A journalism degree won’t get you any further than where you are now.’
Everyone – and I mean every single person I knew – ended up going to university. It was the road most travelled, the most familiar and the most predictable.
So I ended up doing a gap year. Then I won Miss Deaf South Africa, and that’s when my writing career exploded: writing columns in various magazines and newspapers, as well as a couple of published books.
I also became a motivational speaker, and I wanted to be a television presenter, as well as an actress.
The motivational talks and writing went exceptionally well, but the acting and presenting doors just wouldn’t open up for me. It’s almost as if there was a roadblock every time I wanted to change my direction a little bit.
It was frustrating like hell.
Some people take the short road, others take the long road. Some make U-turns and start all over again. For the first time, I felt lost on the road to nowhere. I felt that just the writing and motivational talks was not enough to sustain me financially, and it wasn’t. I wanted to go higher, reach new heights, take new roads.
Some of us plan our lives to the smallest detail, while others just let life happen to them. Some are go-with-the-flow types, while others are control freaks.
I often wonder about those control freaks.
When they get what they want, and they usually do, are they satisfied? Are they content with having achieved their goals? Do they wish they could start over again? Or did they feel it was too late? Were they too scared to take the road less travelled?
Often, by achieving the goals we set out to do, it can give us a sense of purpose fulfilled. But what if it’s a false feeling, a misguided attempt at making us content but we’re not so?
Life is not that simple.
Contentment and fulfilment is a life-long pursuit.
I can remember a time when my father was highly frustrated with his career as a pastor. We had moved back to Worcester, and my parents started a new church called ‘The Gathering.’ It started well, but eventually we closed the church.
Amid that crisis, I printed out an article I had found online titled ‘Why I Hope I Never Arrive’, and I gave it to my father.
It was a brilliant article. It stated clearly that despite our misguided attempts to ‘fulfill’ our life’s purposes, there is never a complete end of the line, in this road that we are travelling. The writer also said that we should hope to ‘never arrive,’ because we must constantly grow, expand and change.
My father kept that article in his folder, and I would often catch him reading that article over and over again through the years.
There is never an end to the road.
There’s always new ventures to explore, discover and adapt to.
What I Am Right Now | Where I Am
Getting lost on this road to nowhere has its benefits and perks. You start to see life differently, and you rethink the choices you’ve made. You ask yourself, ‘Do I still really want this?’ or ‘What could I have done differently?’
I know that I cannot be the only one that gets lost on this road in life.
Getting lost means you become aware that life is precious and time is running out. It makes you aware of other roads you can take, hopefully better roads.
You end up doing things you never thought you would. You meet interesting people, visit different places, and end up a completely diverse person.
Maybe, just maybe, the road that I am on right now, is where I am supposed to be.
I took the road less travelled, and now I am lost.
Well, not exactly lost, because I have goals that I want to meet this year. Essays, vlogs, interviews, short stories, books, etc., that I want to film and write. I am privileged that I have the time and means to do all these things this year.
At the age of 18, I almost went to university. At the age of 23, I almost did once again.
Next year, in 2021, I want to go to university. It’s very strange, but for the first time in a long time, I am certain that this is what I must do.
Maybe, when I go to university, I will get back on track. University is a road most often travelled. My father once drove through Stellenbosch University and said, ‘Sheep. That’s what these people are. They are forming a line, following the crowd, taking the predictable road’
But maybe that is what I need now.
The familiar, predictable, well-travelled and well-trodden road.
But maybe, just maybe, by taking the road most travelled, I might find my path again, find myself and discover what I’m meant to do with my life.
I end off this essay with this classic poem by Robert Frost: