The Path Less Traveled needn’t begin with Prayer


Written by Elaine Zheng – Student Pages Features Editor

Potential is possibly the most frightening attribute one may possess. It imposes upon the individual a necessary duty to follow the fated path, and fosters a permanent sense of fear which cries a little louder each time it echoes across the gap between where the individual, inadequate, stands and where he is proclaimed complete.

This doesn’t have to be your reality.

Often, we find ourselves limited by our own beliefs concerning the choices within our reach and the extent of our capabilities- the slightest remark can cultivate a permanent perimeter around possibility.

It all begins with honesty and re-examining the assumptions behind who one is and ought to be. Our identity is often a reflection of what we believe others to perceive. When we are unable to live to up to this image, we feel a little less complete. Yet, when we try too hard to adhere to these ideals, we find ourselves exhausted as we depart further and further from the self, fearing that if the latter were to unchain itself from our contempt, if we stopped trying to be so complaisant and avoiding controversy, no one will love us for who we are.

We fear the change that will come if we were to reveal at last, the idiosyncrasies within our character that do not adhere to the norms imposed upon us, and the uncertainty that follows the possibilities that await us once we decide to let go of the identity forged in the name of acceptance. Yet, this comfort remains an illusion. You can feel it in your chest- a lingering sense of emptiness, the outcome of your neglect in accepting yourself. They call it depression- a loss of purpose, symptom of the soul shrivelling as you ignore again and again, its will to be.

We like to engage in avoidance through changes in appearance, through chronic displacement, as if external adjustments could severe the tension in our refusal to concede to the characteristics deemed offensive by the self. Only as you forgo distraction, which fosters estrangement, can you begin to hear the heart speak. Cater to its needs, independent from past convictions of what is normal and ought to be.

You see, we must begin by acknowledging who we are and what we desire before we can even be on our way. And to do so might require we throw out the assumptions around the obvious truths. Forget about generic definitions of success. What kind of life would feel purposeful to you?

We are the ones who hold ourselves back. Our thoughts and our fears, the same boundaries which keep us from harm, urge us to settle for our current condition against the threat of uncertainty. As we learn to become vulnerable to possibility, and step at last into the unknown, we will distinguish at last the buried costs of complaisance: beyond time and energy, it’s the death of the individual who had yet to know life.

Elaine Zheng
Author: Elaine Zheng

Philosophy student at ucl who owns too many notebooks with aspirations of honoring aesthetics to the grave. Wanders an unnatural amount for someone who can never find her way. Dislikes decisions and building an accessible personality within three lines.