“Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.” – Antiono Machado
In English, this line from a Spanish poem can be translated into “traveller, there is no path, the path must be forged as you walked.”
Sometimes, some cultures (e.g. Singaporean culture) make it seem like there is a path that everyone should follow. The rough plan is this: go to school, work hard to get good results, go to the university, graduate from the university and get a good job, work hard at the job, get married, have kids, grow old, have grandchildren (maybe great-grandchildren) and finally leave the world.
But the truth is there is no path and the illusion of the path can be dangerous. People who do not follow this path may feel that they are less than people who do. People may feel that they fail to be on the right path and therefore they fail in life. But there is no such red carpet path for people to walk. We are the sum of the circumstances that are thrown upon us and choices that we have made when faced with the circumstances. There is no guidebook to tell you what to do in every instance; you have to go by your own instinct. Sometimes we are given a good circumstance but we make a bad choice. Sometimes we are given a bad circumstance but we make a good choice. We cannot change or control our circumstances but we have control over our choices. We can choose what we want to prioritize (e.g. family, friends, career, health) and we can choose our outlook in life.
I am an optimistic person, sometimes unrealistically optimistic. There is this famous question of whether a glass is half empty or half full. When I see that glass of water, I tell myself, “At least there is water inside and it is not empty.” I think that is my coping strategy when I face a situation that I don’t want to be in. I will imagine a scenario when things are worse than the way things are right now and try to convince myself that things are not that bad. By doing so, it gives me the hope and the courage to continue to forge ahead in this forest with no path.
Winston Churchill once said, “It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see.” Focus on the current step and the next immediate step and don’t look ahead for the path because there is no path. And the absence of a path may instill unnecessary fear in your heart. Walk and keep on walking.