“Isn’t being a decent human being enough?” a friend asked me, in one of those summer evenings when the day’s heat has given away to a nice chill. We were talking about a woman who went through a serious postnatal depression, and eventually turned her life around, starting performing an autobiographical play to raise awareness among women. I was arguing that her life is now filled with a sense of meaning and purpose that most of us never achieve.
Being a decent human being, working and raising a family is of course “enough”. Enough to be respected, to be contented. But don’t be surprised finding yourself one day wrestling with a nagging suspicion that you missed something. That there must be more to life. Is it your unfulfilled deeper self, unrevealed hidden talents or missed opportunities due to lack of courage? Whatever you call it and however you rationalize your way out of it, it might be hard to escape. So you can choose to have a comfortable living without much “self-fulfilment” nonsense, but be prepared to face anxiety later in life, when your quiet routine won’t cut it anymore for you.
What’s the alternative? Look for something more in life. Look for a way to make a unique impact on the world. Fulfillment through art, entrepreneurship, activism. Transcend your fear, take whatever you care about and use it to build something unique, to create something new. Instead of being practical, be courageous. Instead of hiding you passions in the safety of your dreams, get it out.
But here is the catch: this road to happiness isn’t a happy road. Trying to be somebody, trying to find meaning through your art will lead to suffering. Rejection, criticism, uncertainty, self-doubt and lack of financial security are the daily reality of most artists, entrepreneurs and activists.
So should you choose between a suffering today and an anxiety tomorrow?
Recently I organized a small protest. Friends asked whether I have become a political activist. No I haven’t. I just went to a protest. I just went to get out there what I felt strongly about.
Here is the thing: you don’t need to be a writer to write. You can start playing without worrying about becoming an accomplished musician. You can start a business, then close it, then start another one – all without having an MBA or ever deciding that you are a businessman.
You can add new layers of depth to the picture of your life using light strokes. You can find that there is indeed more to life without using daunting definitions and without envisioning some grand endgame. You’ll have to leave your comfort zone, but that doesn’t mean you’ll need to burn bridges or develop a new identity.
So go ahead and be a decent human being, working and raising a family. Just don’t leave creativity, passion and courage out of you life, just because you are “a family man” and not “an artist”. That is, unless you want to choose your anxiety.