Pave Your Own Path: Why The System Nearly F*cked Up My Life

by Lyndsay Scott

I succumbed to the system, and as a result, I have been tortured my whole life.

This system is the relentless educational and professional process that conditions you to achieve, and once you achieve, you have to make sure you achieve some more.

Have you succumbed, too?

If you have, maybe that's why you feel lost in the woods.

But if I escaped, you can, too.

This account is not a way for me to boast or blow my own trumpet. It is simply the honest truth about my life to date.

I have always been a straight-A student, talented in all of the subjects society deems worthwhile, but I am also gifted in all the areas society writes off.

And at school, I came in at top of my year in everything I did.

By the time college came around, I originally chose to walk down a path where I could engage my passions.

But, by floundering in the deep waters, I gave in to external pressures and influences which went to the beat of  "Go to school for something decent, something solid on your CV and something where there's a job at the end of it."

So, that's what I did.

I dutifully climbed into the dark, narrow tunnel of my law degree, and I armed myself with renewed levels of conscientiousness to combat whatever was awaiting me.

Three years down the line, I realized not only had I survived, but I had won.

I strode forth on graduation day to acquire the rubber-stamp handed down by the institution, and the words, "First Class Honors," danced slowly into focus through the haze of validation.

I threw myself into my lie with such fervency that it did, for a time, become my reality.

If you were to see the glittering smile of the girl beaming out of my graduation photos, I'd have fooled you, too.

When I was offered an elite and highly-paid grad job in the corporate world, I understood that for my unwavering compliance, the system was rewarding me with capitalist success.

I had penetrated the professional impenetrable, a "privilege" only available to a select few.

I went through my late teens and early 20s with such a regimented pattern of achievement, but not once did I remember to live.

Looking back on this time of my life is surreal, like observing another person in another world through a dense fog.

In my mid-20s, I felt the first rumblings of a cataclysmic earthquake that would alter the course of my landscape forever.

Chris Guillebeau, author of "The Art of Non-Conformity," advocates a simple, yet powerful message: You don't have to live your life the way others expect.

You can set your own rules.

So, when I stopped remembering how it felt to see the world in color, I finally thought about who I really was and what I really wanted from life.

Once I realized I was the master of my own fate, I could see there was a big world out there filled with beauty and wonder.

And the time is now.

I wasn't going to spend my entire life miserably working on autopilot and only finally start living when I retired.

I wasn't going to continue to suppress my creative flair and only let it out when no one was watching.

I wasn't going to keep complying with the system that nearly succeeded in turning me into its perfect poster girl.

So, what began as a tiny spark of realization soon turned into a raging fire, and the system I had unquestioningly adhered to my whole life went up in flames.

And that's when I discovered I love writing — specifically travel writing.

With every letter, word and sentence, I plunge deep into the winding alleys of a far-off Arabic bazaar, the air perfumed with the sweet smell of frankincense and alive with the vibrations of the mystical call of the Adhan.

With each noun, adjective and verb, I again stand at the foot of the iron curtain, gazing up at Soviet architecture blasted with shockwaves of colorful graffiti.

And with each comma, full stop and apostrophe, I am transported back to the edge of the caldera on a Greek volcanic island, witnessing the magnificent glow of the late summer sun slip out of sight.

My head and heart have now joined to create a beautifully synchronized harmony, and by listening to my soul, I have spent my rebirth living in a flurry of color, wonder and fulfillment.

So, if you feel an inexplicable pull from your current path, trust your intuition, and listen to the longings of your beating heart.

Don't succumb to the system that denies you the opportunity for creativity, freedom and individuality.

By following the direction of your passions, you'll soon find your way.

Because, as Rumi discovered, "Only from the heart can you touch the sky."