I spent most of my pre-20 years on autopilot. I had goals and ambitions, but many of them weren’t really mine––they were adopted from parents, teachers and peers. I was working towards getting an engineering degree so I could get a job, and I fit right in with every other kid in school who had a different version of the same ambition.

But everything changed abruptly after my third semester at college. That year I made a decision that I stand by with more conviction each year that goes by.

It wasn’t an explicit decision. It was more of an implicit commitment to myself that struck me as a wave of clarity. I saw that my body was going through life making choices, but my own heart and mind were somewhere else. This life of mine wasn’t mine at all, it was given to me by teachers, peers, and culture at large, and I adopted it without scrutiny. There was something else inside me that I had ignored all these years, and it wasn’t willing to be ignored for one more day.

I vowed to choose how to live my own life. I didn’t know what this meant exactly, but it was this crystal clear feeling deep inside me, more real than anything I had experienced before.

Each day I learn more about this commitment. It’s challenging. At times it can be lonely. I often feel I don’t fit in with most people. I forego stability for growth. I forego income for experience. I make a lot of mistakes. I move around a lot. I say yes too much sometimes. I cause myself a lot of stress. But I’m not willing to do it any other way. I’ve gotten so used to living this way that now it feels completely normal to me.

It’s a constant struggle getting the knobs of stability and uncertainty in my life tuned & balanced in a way that works for me. I am a person who craves uncertainty & likes to push the edge. That doesn’t mean I feel “comfortable” when I’m on the edge. It means that I feel uncomfortable when things are too stable.

I live in tune with myself, or at least I try to do so every day. You could say I dance to the beat of my own drum. Knowing that, and knowing that I chose that, makes it all worth it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I made this decision, I didn’t exactly realize how it would unfold over the next few years of my life. I’ve come to learn many decisions are like this. They are leaps of faith. It’s the decisions we make that define who we are more than anything else.

Photo of me by Dalton Johnson (https://www.daltonjohnsonmedia.com).

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