If I asked you to name some people who you think are courageous, who would you name? Most people say, firefighters, the police, navy seals, first responders. And of course they are, and I agree. But there’s a group of people we miss out. We don’t see them cos they aren’t wearing a uniform, and being courageous isn’t part of their job. I’m talking about the people who make life-altering decisions. We all know people who can’t say one positive thing about the things they have and will bitch, moan and complain about everything from their boss to their mother in laws weight, but have no gumption to make any change that can improve their circumstances or their life trajectory. Really? You think your life is over cos you’re stuck in a job you hate so you can afford to live in that big house so that people believe you are doing well in life?
Sam Harris talks about free will and how it is an illusion, and if I’m honest, I find it suffocatingly hard to rethink my own decisions in life and see if the reason I was making them was from own free will or was it something so deeply imprinted in me by the environment I grew up in. The reason for my blind ambition at the cost of everything else is something my family instilled in me, and it’s rooted so deep inside that I think less of myself if I fail at anything or rather I have been made to believe that this is the only way to find happiness. Through success and money.
But I digress. In the last few months, I have had the pleasure of coming across two individuals who have a completely different perspective on life. Their approach to life and the courage to make certain choices that go against conventional thinking is nothing short of admirable. The first, a man in his late 30’s, from the Netherlands, an IT consultant, who spent an hour and a half traveling to office from his home in Eindhoven. On getting divorced, he realized, he hated his job, the commute was killing him, and that if he found a cheaper smaller house, he could move closer to work and save money and time. Most people can’t downgrade cos what will people think right? After moving to a cheaper place, he realized he has enough money to live comfortably for a while and that he could live for longer with his savings if he moved to a 3rd world country and of course travel. Since he was not responsible for anyone, he could, in essence not work for a while. And so he decided to quit his job and travel the world till he ran out of money, upon which he would just get back to work for a while, and repeat the process. My jaw dropped when I heard his plan and how he had executed it, and he has been traveling for over two years now. I was simultaneously blown away, and a bit petrified, and asked him “How it was going?”, while what I really wanted to ask was “What did your friends and family think of this?”. Yes, I know, I’m ashamed of myself. But I think it’s a thought that most you would have had as well. The second, a Danish girl from Copenhagen who, after her last relationship ended, decided to quit her job, rent out her apartment and booked a one-way ticket to Nepal and is on a soul searching quest while traveling.
These people are remarkable. One’s who take control of their own lives and decide how they will live. These are some of the most courageous people. The ones who break the shackles that we put ourselves in when we enter school, which only really comes off when we retire.
“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
So here’s to these courageous people. The ones we never hear about. Who take life-altering decisions and don’t look back. Who put themselves first and do what makes them happy instead of what they think makes others happy. To the ones who stray off the beaten path and learn to make it on their own. The ones who leave the comfort and security of everything and everyone they know and move to a new place in the hopes of starting fresh. People may resent you and even look down on you. But that’s mainly because they secretly wish they had the courage you had.