The Offbeat Path: Advice Needed

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    Brittney Contreras

    So, I’m about to graduate from high school in the next few months. By now, everyone I know is either accepted into college or going into the labor work force. While my academics suffered due to some detrimental personal issues that I’m only now recovering from, I’m still known to be somewhat of an “intellect” amongst friends and family, and therefore attending a university was the expected path for me. However, it’s now well beyond most college deadlines, and I’ve yet to apply to any. You see, my plan is to apply to Universities in the UK next year (which is ambitious because of my average grades) and spend half of this year, when I should already be in college, working to save up money so I can spend the other half backpacking South East Asia. Of course, the people I’ve told find this absolutely senseless. Even I feel riddled with guilt for not going straight to college despite constantly voicing my love for knowledge. My family and myself aren’t exactly financially stable either, so that furthers the absurdity of my plans.

    You might wonder why I’m doing this if I recognize the impracticality of it all? Well, some might call it a premature mid-life crisis. I have absolutely no idea what I want to pursue in college. I’m passionate about so many things, so I don’t see how people can choose just one to focus their lives on. I also am terribly afraid of the prescribed path of life that goes, “Go to college and major in something reasonable -> Get a well paying job -> ignore any hatred for the job by buying useless things -> Settle down with someone -> get a house together -> have kids -> work till retirement -> die”. Pretty much every real-life version of this is the equivalent of a horror story to me. That’s not the life I want to live. I want to see the world, soak up foreign cultures and new knowledge, experience the beautiful eccentricities of life, and all of the things people think you must be a dreamer to believe in.

    So, I guess what I’m ultimately asking from all of this is: Do it seem like I’m being unrealistic or making a mistake? Does anyone have personal experiences with finding their way at such an early stage in life? I’m barely turning 18, and suspect that I might have idealistic views about the world. It’d be nice to have insight from anyone who has ever felt this similar fear of admission into the “rat race” and uncertainty of their goals.

    Robert Indries

    Hello Cassiopeia and welcome to the community!

    I know the exact same feeling! I find it amazing how some people can just “follow the heard” and ignore their passions and curiosities.

    I have been blessed to travel between continents at the age of 19. My opinion? It was an amazing experience!

    Do you know what the best part was? I was payed for it! And I’m sure you can do the same!

    Basically, I went for a 3 month internship in the middle of Asia, just slightly North of Mongolia. I found the job through AIESEC’s platform.

    If you never heard of them, they are an international non-profit with the goal of helping young people (like you and me) to “discover themselves” both personally and professionally.

    My personal suggestion is to look into either AIESEC or something similar, so that you can travel to wherever you want AND make money for your studies at the same time!

    If you would like more details or think that I could help with anything else, feel free to send me a question at

    I really hope this helps and that you find a way to achieve your goals!

    Creating a better tomorrow,

    P.S.: Unrealistic? Would you rather live a life of regret? Mistake? I think it would be a mistake to NOT follow your dreams! 🙂


    Hi Cassiopeialight,

    I simply have to reply to you. I started off thinking years ago about all this sort of thing and at first used to think too that, “maybe I’m just being an idealist”, etc. Several years later, being older and wiser haha, I realise the truth of those feelings I was having. The more you come to realise it, the more you see how backwards almost everyone has it. The thing is it’s so deeply ingrained in people, the ‘this is how you live life’ idea, that you are actually feeling guilty even though you’re the one who is ACTUALLY seeing clearly, who has seen the light, it’s really crazy when you really start to see the truth of this. People think and tell you that you have it backwards, and yet something tells you that something is deeply wrong with all this, so of course you can often end up feeling guilty, I certainly have done at times. However, I’m realising how ludicrous it is to feel that way now. Honouring your own truth is I believe the most important thing you can do in life. When you do this however, you will naturally face resistance from people still immersed in the illusion. I now realise that it’s like we all wear tainted glasses and we see everything in the world not as it is but only as it appears through these glasses. To such people your plans will naturally appear senseless according to their view of the world and unfortunately you cannot remove their glasses for them, they can only do it themselves, and most people unfortunately will never remove them their entire lives. All they have is their narrow view of the way things are supposed to be and anything that doesn’t conform is deemed wrong or stupid. Really, you are blessed, you have seen through it, this allows you to live a life of freedom, a life which will allow you much more happiness, fulfillment, growth, health, wealth (in all respects), so long as you “march to your own drum” and do not allow other’s opinions and doubts to lead your way. This is so essential.

    I think you are also very lucky because this is happening at just the right time. I’ve been through uni so I can speak now from experience and what I’ve seen which might help you. For me, I began the process of lifting myself out of delusion a few months in to my first year. I went to study chemistry. Looking back, it seemed like a good, sensible option at the time, I found chemistry fairly interesting. However, I know now that my heart wasn’t in it, even before I even got to uni. It’s not that there were other strong expectations for me to go, it was mostly from myself, but I just didn’t know any better at the time. As I’ve read time and time again, nobody teaches the most important stuff in life at school: how to live, how to be happy, the importance of following your heart, you just learn how be a good academic, which you realise, unless you want to be an academic is pretty useless, even for most jobs. Anyway, a few months into my first year and I just had to find answers, I didn’t even know what I was looking for at the time, all I knew was I HAD to find answers. I now know that I was looking for truth.

    Well, I struggled through 4 years of chemistry. I can’t tell you how much I suffered as a result. I’ve read how we essentially have 2 wills, our personal will and our higher will. Our personal will comes from the ego, it tells us what we should be doing. Our higher will comes from our higher self, the universe, God, however you want to describe it. You can go against your higher will, but when you do so you will suffer. It is said you can continue to do so (which gets harder and harder, more and more painful) but eventually the higher will will find a way to stop you. It’s like, hahaha, you think you are more powerful than the universe, we’ll see, and the universe will stop you somehow. It will even manifest physical illness if it must so that you are forced to listen. I’ve read about and listened to people where this has clearly happened, even if they didn’t understand the reason for it themselves, e.g. a past colleague who was unable to get out of his bed one morning. It was clear to me from how he had described his life up to that point what was happening and why. Anyway, back then, I remember at the start of the 3rd year I said to a close friend, “I don’t even want to be here anymore” (I was reluctant to leave though because of the money already invested), I then had 2 more gruelling years to go. The thing is at the uni I was at and doing that course, the workload is such that your heart MUST be in it, if it isn’t then you will find it extremely difficult to do well. I remember at the time, I felt so guilty because I felt I was just being lazy, I just couldn’t seem to get much work done. At school I had done very well so knew I was academically capable and a hard worker so I just felt lazy. I told myself I must do the work, but I now see how I was fighting myself so intensely, every ounce of me didn’t want to be doing this, but I was forcing myself to do it. So, it caused me immense pain.

    I now know that this is what happens when we follow the ‘shoulds’ of others or even of ourselves, rather than our hearts and what we really want. You see, so many people really make life a struggle and a large amount of the time it’s because they are doing this very thing. By following the should you become unhappy, don’t enjoy life, your health deteriorates, you shrink as a human being. Consequently, you become a minus, a negative impact on the world as a whole not just yourself. If you follow your truth, the opposite is true. Yes, this means not only is it good for you, you become a plus to the world so you actually make world better too! You are actually what the world needs!! Now do you see how back-to-front most of the world has it? How ludicrous it is?

    To those who are sleep walking you are having a premature mid-life crisis, in actuality you are awakening. As you continue this journey you will see again and again how much paradox there is. You need only look at 19 out of 20 faces on a train at rush hour to see how zoned-out and like a zombie most people are in the way they are living their lives. I highly recommend reading Emerson’s essay on self-reliance, he could see so much of what others failed to see, link here:

    I lastly want to mention something that I read about what a young Zen monk said in a book I read. It echoes exactly what you said so well done to acknowledging that you are not sure what you want to study so aren’t just picking any old subject. By the way, I’d say that out of my entire year group at uni (about 120 people) it was clear that 2 were passionate about what they were doing and were exactly where they were supposed to be. Most of the rest had probably chosen chemistry mainly because of the job prospects, basically as a means to an end as far as I could tell, it’s really quite sad. And it’s amazing how much these two stood out from the crowd, yet very few question, why is this? Is something wrong here? Could I be like that too? Anyway, this monk said something to the effect of: many people do not yet know at such a young age what subject to study, which may dictate their career and ultimately their life direction. For many people uni may not even be right for them full stop. He instead went to live in a monastery for a few years, that’s what he wanted. Most people don’t really stop and question themselves as to what they really want. The world needs people who do what they really want! Be brave, be courageous, that is also what the world needs and what you need. Incidentally, I remember meeting a friend of a uni friend at a party years ago and asking him where he studied, he seemed pretty bright so it’s the natural assumption made I’m afraid. I was surprised to hear he wasn’t at uni but had decided to just get a job. Probably not by coincidence he seemed so free and easy, I really wanted to be like him I remember thinking, just in his manner and relaxed quality he had about him. The people I’ve met in life so far who aren’t following the run of the mill seem to usually possess an enviable carefree air about them, a joyousness and freedom that I want to be around and other people find attractive. Hmmm, I wonder why…?

    Go for it, do it, be brave! Also, read the essay.

    All the best,




    Firstly, Ben I would tell you that your story is exactly like mine… Gone through everything like you called a zombie.. Learnt a subject I liked not which I was passionate about as I have no clue still what is it that I am passionate about? I have always done which we are attuned to by our family and society..At 30, married without kids, I am still exploring what is the purpose of my life? What is it that I would love to do? I have worked in a research organisation, as I have completed MSc learnt music and am very good at it, learnt cooking and am very good in it too, have been a freelance writer.. And what not? But yet.. I have not found anything which I would give everything for.. I sometimes feel God gave me too many attributes so confusing me that what I want to do exactly? No idea.. Can anyone give me any sort of suggestion or advice? Pursuing or starting PhD is not my cup of tea I feel…really need help..


    Hi Kaven,

    I might be able to offer something helpful here. I’ve recently packed up my job. My heart was never in it from the start and I realised that it needs to be. The question is how do you find work that your heart is in? Well, you can’t work it out, I put lots of effort into doing that, but it’s fairly obvious at the end of the day, getting there through a logical process means you are making the decision from your head not your heart. I tested it out a few times and it didn’t work. Maybe on rare occasions someone will strike lucky with this approach, but I think generally not.

    The conclusion I’m coming to is that the answer (as with all things in life I’m sure) lies in learning to go with the flow. And what this means to me is learning to align yourself better with spirit, your higher self, God’s will. They say that all things that you want also want you, that’s the way the universe works. But for this to happen means learning to listen to the quiet, inner voice which directs you where to go. This is the voice of your heart. Even if it may not make sense to your mind, to learn to trust and follow it. And it’s a step by step process (as Henri says on his website Wake Up Cloud). He talks about just following the next small step, then the next, then the next. So in short, learn how to listen to the heart AND to follow what it says, which can be very difficult – even once you start hearing it, overcoming doubt and trusting it also takes time. Who knows, it may be some long, winding road that you are taken on before you get to THE WORK. But it may be that you have to experience/learn certain things before coming to that work, who can know.

    • This reply was modified 7 years, 2 months ago by AikiBen.
    • This reply was modified 7 years, 2 months ago by AikiBen.

    Hello Ben

    Thank u very much for your valuable advice and suggestions. Yes, you are right that I am being taken on a long winding road and my goal is too far it seems right now. But yes I am definitely going to try your suggestion of looking within. You know sometimes I try this method but it becomes overwhelming and the currents of my thoughts make it impossible to continue further. I am emotionally very sensitive and some turmoils in day to day life affect me enormously making it further impossible for me to connect with my inner self. I have a very bad habit of self-sympathy and find situations where I have been a victim at the hands of my loved ones. I go on and on sympathising myself and crying for long periods of time. All these make me very emotionally drained and I am unable to detach myself from these. I become too vulnerable making my thought process vague and confusing which is also partly a reason for myself not being able to follow my heart in many circumstances. I have always been emotionally blackmailed by everyone starting from my parents, sisters, and now husband. I don’t confide my feelings to anyone and this also prevents me to look within.

    I know I have poured too much to be digested. But that makes me who I am. Could you suggest anything for me, some routine or steps or methods that could make me emotionally less vulnerable and sensitive?


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