There’s a phrase I always thought applied to me: “Not all who wander are lost.”
I thought this applied to me because I am a wanderer — most certainly figuratively but also literally. But I recently realized that while I have indeed been wandering in life for most of my adult years, I have in fact been very, very lost and aimless.
When I was 18, I met a boy who had an appreciation for life that I had never experienced before then. I later found out that his past and his health contributed to his deep desire to live a full life, but on our first real date (second one, if you count the first time we went to the dining hall, just us, and he swiped his meal card for me) I didn’t know that yet. I just knew that he was a driven person with big dreams and a purposeful demeanor. Anyone could tell this after having just one conversation with him.
It was on this date that he asked me, “What’s your passion?” I repeated the question because I was caught off guard and, honestly, I didn’t have an answer at that moment.
“Yeah, what drives you in life? What inspires you? I’m not talking about, like, a hobby you enjoy doing sometimes. I’m talking about your passion.”
I either didn’t know it at the time or I was in denial, but I liked him. So subconsciously, I knew I had to give him an answer because if I didn’t, I would be passionless person, which not only put me at risk of disappointing him immensely, but also went against the perception I had always had of myself: a person of deep passion. But for someone who for nearly all of the first 18 years of her life thought of herself as someone with such deep passion, I fumbled around for words.
I eventually told him what inspires me in life and what drives me, though I felt these were small compared to his own passion and ambition. Thankfully, he didn’t leave the date disappointed with me. For the next several years, he pushed me to explore those passions more and made me stronger in so many ways. It’s been even more years since we’ve parted ways and lost touch, and in those years, I have admittedly fallen off of my passion path and wandered quite a bit (and not in that purposeful-wandering way). What amazes me though is that here we are 9 years since that night, and I am still fumbling to own my own passions. I know they are there, but I’m not sure why I let them slide around over the years. I guess a lack of self-confidence, honestly. But more amazing is that 9 years ago, this bright-eyed boy told me exactly what he wanted to do with his life and the dreams he had, and he’s now become a man who has done and achieved exactly what he set out to do.
Even though we haven’t spoken in more than half that time, I find myself learning of his accomplishments and his fulfilled dreams and feeling so proud of him. It makes me think that if I ran into him now, would he say the same about my life? Maybe, to some degree. Most of what I told him back then I didn’t end up doing — some partially because my passions and calling have shifted and some partially because of my fears and lack of confidence. While the former reason can’t be helped, as we are evolving creatures, the latter is in my control. I don’t want that to continue to be a reason for why I continue to aimlessly wander, hoping to bump into my passionate path. If I wander, I want to wander intentionally. If I am seeking a path, I want to actually search and enjoy the search. He fulfilled the words he said to me 9 years ago because he owned his passion and let it steer him. I know it was a really, really hard road for him during that time, but he didn’t let fear or distractions hinder his ownership of his journey. Similarly, I am working on owning my own path, albeit it winding, and though I haven’t figured out what my passions translate to in real life right now, I want to at least wander with intention and inspiration.