On direction: are we ever actually going anywhere?

Where am I going? 

This is a question that that I am asked often, in many different forms. Questions commonly asked in small-talk with strangers, or new friends, invariably imply or lead to curiosity about one’s direction.  It generally begins with ‘what do you do?’. Personally, I prefer not to be judged with reference to my occupation. I believe we are in-and-of-ourselves valuable without being measured against an arbitrarily defined occupation ranking. Sometimes, I avoid the question by creatively answering some of many things that I do: I draw, I write, I laugh, I cook, I share, I eat, I love, I think, I meditate, I dance – I do all of the things that we find to be enjoyable. This response is met by varied reactions. Some people embrace the opportunity to avoid yet another (often) dull conversation about work, and go on to tell me some colourful stories about their life activities. Others are receptive at first, before their pre-conditioned need to box me into an occupation precedes them. Many folks look bewildered or confused; invariably laughing and then asking, ‘Come on. What do you really do?’.

‘Well, if you must know, I am a student’, I answer. I’ve been studying for a very long time. Although I am currently taking a break for various reasons, I’ve been in a state of perpetual student-hood for some time. So, I’ve had this conversation many, many times. Often, the conversation leads to an inquiry about why I am studying what I studied – and what kind of job position I intend to fill once I have finish. When I explain that at this point, I am not interested in any of the jobs commonly associated with my fields (law and international relations), I am then asked, ‘but what are you going to do?’

The truth is, I really do not know. Although a potential path leading to the future is becoming clearer to me, I don’t really see the point in conjuring a future ‘plan’, or direction when it is seemingly unnecessary. Conversations that follow a similar disposition to that noted above, reveal our tendency to focus on future direction rather than the present. Nonetheless I’ve had many candid discussions regarding direction with friends, and open-hearted strangers, which indicate that no-one actually seems to know where we are going. And of course not, the future is a fuzzy, nebulous concept that does not actually exist. In commonly perceived ideas of reality, the only moment that really exists is right now. Whilst predictions regarding the future may sometimes be accurate, I am almost certain that most people share the view that things change, the unexpected happens – the future is often unpredictable.

So why then, are we so obsessed with direction? The focus on something far into the future rips us away from our current experience: the experience of now. This obsession with direction creates fear of what is to come, it creates expectation, it creates hopes and desires. In and of themselves, perhaps these thoughts or feelings are not harmful. But, in my experience – and the experience of many others – this ongoing internal rhetorical pulls us away from enjoying our experience of the present. Furthermore, by the time that we actually reach the imaginary future that we’ve postulated inside our minds, it often takes a different form to that which we expected. It is important to note that the past and the future are but mere conjecture. The existing moment – that is, now – is all that there is. In that sense, we are not actually going anywhere; we are stuck in the present. Always. So, we may as well attempt to rid ourselves of future-focussed obsessions and instead enjoy it. Focus on flow, on connection, on embracing whatever exists right now.

Enjoy, in joy.

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