the trouble with following your own path

Coping with self-doubt when we make unconventional life choices

the trouble with following your own path
Photo by Lili Popper on Unsplash

The biggest trouble with following your own path is brutal self-doubt, I find. This has been coming up for me in a couple of ways off late.

Firstly, as unbelievable as it sounds, several summer camps are already open and up for registration. So parents are scrambling, trying to book their children into camps where their little ones' friends are going.

I've been caught up in this frenzy too for the last couple of days. Until D came, patiently heard all the suggestions I was making, and simply said that he didn't care to go to any summer camp this year!


Eventually he agreed to consider signing up for half-day sports camps at least, so he'd get some physical activity seeing as KrA and I are unable to provide that kind of physical workout.

But only for four weeks. Of the more than 3 months of summer holidays he'll have. 🤷🏽‍♀️

"I don't like being away from home for the full day," he says.

At times like these, I feel so so blessed that our home and work life is set up the way it is. With KrA being able to work from home, and me having the ability to be flexible with my schedule, it's really a blessing and a privilege that we're able to accommodate D's need for free-play time to pursue his interests outside the formal structures of school and camps.

Yet, there's always that nagging doubt in my head. "Are we doing enough for D?" "Is he doing enough?" "Shouldn't he be pursuing more activities?" "Are we setting him up for success in later life?" "Are we squandering opportunities we ought to be pursuing now to give him an edge as he grows up?"

This has sadly become the dilemma of our times. There's this insane pressure to enrol our children in as many activities as possible.

It's also to do with the fact that most households have two working parents, very likely both of them working outside the home, and with two or more children to plan for. There's no really option for them but to enrol their children in as many camps as possible before it's all sold out.

But ... and this is the reason I consciously chose to be a stay-at-home mom all those years ago ... a rushed lifestyle filled to the brim with activities and constant travelling is not what we want for D. Nor for ourselves.

Last term, we made deliberate choices to keep extra-curricular activities to a minimum, so we ended up having our Sundays free. We also didn't take up social invitations to meet anyone on Sundays. And that one day of rest, without any agenda on the plate, ended up being quite rejuvenating for all of us.

This term, however, even Saturdays and Sundays have some activities scheduled (because some of the seasonal activities we were looking for D to pursue were sold out, leaving us with only Sundays as an alternative).

The constant showing up to events/lessons has been taking its toll on us. So we're determined to not repeat this mistake after March break.

Sadly, that FOMO tends to rear its head over and over again. Especially when we parents get together at dismissal or at birthday parties and talk about the endless number of things everyone is doing — from lessons and games to vacations.

It's hard to not feel that we ought to be doing all those things too.

As always, I turn to Dr. Shefali for her wisdom on this. In one of her videos, she addresses the question that every parent has — what if their child has an untapped potential to excel in a particular field but is never exposed to it in the first place?

In all her wisdom, Dr. Shefali assures us (and I paraphrase) that

Mozart would have found a way to become Mozart no matter what.

The wisdom of this is so simple.

If on the one hand we feel our child may be destined for great things, then we can also trust on the other hand that his life will unfold accordingly, ushering him/her towards and/or bringing those experiences to him/her that would enable the child to express their full potential.

But, more importantly, perhaps the greatest gift we can give our children is in accepting the vastly ordinary nature of our lives and to be at ease and at peace with that, rather than propelling them in pursuit of greatness, which is almost always an ego trip that we parents are riding and has very little to do with our children's talents and joy anyway.

The other thing that got me thinking about the trouble with staying on our path is a conversation KrA and I had on our morning walk today.

I love my morning walks with KrA. Even though when we fight I threaten him that I'll stop walking with him, I cherish these moments with him too much to ever give it up as long as we both are able and healthy enough to keep going on these long walks. It's also the time when we're able to converse without being distracted by screens or D or by plans to be made and things to be done.

Anyhoo, KrA's company announced a round of lay-offs today. Fortunately, his job was not impacted in this round. But in the nearly 3 years that KrA has been with the firm, it has announced as many or more layoffs.

We were mulling over this hire-and-fire culture in North America. KrA pointed out how companies, which began to see massive growth during the pandemic, hired a lot of staff to rake in as much profit and market share as they could.

And when growth plateaued or declined, they resorted to layoffs. Obviously, human beings have become disposable commodities here.

The conversation then led to the wisdom of hiring sprees during short-term booms, knowing well that they'd lead to layoffs in a downturn. Isn't it wiser then to adopt an approach of steady growth?

And we realized that even if a lone company in North America decided to pursue the wiser, more sustainable path, they'd be under severe pressure to follow the trend, especially when not doing so means leaving a lot of money on the table in the short term.

KrA cited the case of Nintendo whose senior management took pay cuts in a downturn instead of resorting to lay-offs. Their rationale being that job uncertainty doesn't create a conducive environment for workers to be creative and do their best work.

Apparently, this is the culture in Japan. How's that for leadership and setting examples and upholding employee morale during difficult times?

If a single company in North America were to adopt this attitude, they'd be bucking the trend here. Imagine all the investors screaming at the CEO for not getting them their money's worth!

The freedom to follow our own path brings with it tremendous challenges and causes us to doubt ourselves at every turn.

Especially when we don't see the kind of results others are getting, especially in the short run.

It's as if we have to run on this wild, mad belief that the choices we make are the best for us in the long run, even if there's no evidence to back that up in the short term.

Requires some suspension of belief, innit?

Yet, all it takes is one look at D and the simplicity and strength of his convictions, the kindness and generosity of his heart, and his tenacity in pursuits that matter to him ... and I remain convinced that staying true to ourselves, who we are and what we value, might perhaps be the most difficult thing we do in our lifetimes. But therein lie the most opportunities for our personal and spiritual growth.

I've made unconventional choices when it comes to career and parenting. Heck, even when it came to marriage. I married KrA at a time when marrying out of caste/state was frowned upon.

In hindsight, these were some of the best decisions I made.

Even if I let go of any future outcomes or long-term results, I find that my best days are the ones spent aligned with my values, tending to what matters the most to us.

Now if only I can remember this whenever I am beset with doubt on this journey of life.

This quote by Brianne Wiest is what I'd like to keep in my heart as I forge ahead with this newfound wisdom as a writer and a parent and a partner.

Sometimes you get what you want. Other times, you get a lesson in patience, timing, alignment, empathy, compassion, faith, perseverance, resilience, humility, trust, meaning, awareness, resistance, purpose, clarity, grief, beauty, and life. Either way, you win.