The Pathless Path: Why You Don't Have To Follow The Textbook Life Script

Embrace Your Rocky Road That Will Lead To A Life True To Yourself

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This week’s piece is a 7-min read.

I want to share three stories of my life:

The First Story

Ten years ago, two weeks after graduating from high school, at 19, I decided not to go to university right after the summer break.

I was about to pursue a Transportation Engineer degree to land a career in aviation - my greatest passion.

But right after graduation, I realized it wasn’t the path I wanted to take.

I wanted to pursue a career in aviation from a business approach instead of becoming an engineer.

I wanted to do a gap year, explore opportunities, work and choose the proper university degree.

My father was furious.

“You are going to completely fuck up your life now,” - he said.

I didn’t listen to him. Gladly.

As he didn’t give me any valuable life lessons or advice in my teenage years, I didn’t care about his opinion.

I had a solid determination to follow my own path.

The Second Story

In April 2017, I was living in London and doing two bachelor's at the same time - in London and Budapest.

My life was quite miserable.

At 22, I was struggling with a "quarter-life crisis."

I realized that I didn't want to continue the university in London, despite its high prestige, the teaching quality, and the fantastic group of friends I had there.

I wanted to drop out and leave London to start my career in aviation.

A few weeks later, I had a breakup. It was a tough one that kinda broke me.

But it just embraced me to move forward.

After a month of intensive exams at both universities in the two cities, dealing with the breakup and with my mental health, I broke the news to my family:

I would be leaving London while seeking an entry-level job somewhere in aviation and travel.

My family did an intervention for me.

Something like the guys did in How I Met Your Mother.

Source: CBS

Although it was tougher.

My brother insisted that if I was dropping out, I must go and work on a cruise ship for a year to earn a lot of money.

My father was….well…furious again.

Overall, the intervention's message was that I was making a huge fucking mistake that they wouldn't let me do. And that I was fucking up my life again.

I didn't listen to them.

Two months later, I started my new job at a travel tech company in Czechia.

It was a dream job for me at that time.

I was doing exciting business while traveling to places like China, Dubai, and South Africa.

The Third Story

In March 2019, I made an impulsive decision to quit my job.

With the extensive business trips, living in Czechia, and visiting Budapest every other week, I felt like I was “everywhere & nowhere.”

It gave me a lot of mental struggle, and I was eager to change that.

I wanted a solid base and to move back to Budapest.

I shared my struggles honestly with my boss and requested to shift me to a remote work setup from Budapest.

Many were already working remotely, so it wasn’t without precedent.

He said no.

His reasons: it would break the team dynamics and create a precedent.

I told him it put me in a difficult position and that I was considering resigning.

He got shocked.

He asked for a week to figure out something with HR.

It wasn’t enough for me anymore.

I was furious and ready to leave the job.

And while my boss and HR offered me a remote setup that could’ve worked, I already decided to quit.

I moved back to Budapest and started working for an early-stage startup.

It didn’t work out, I didn’t find myself in the job, and my days were miserable.

So after two months, I quit.

And I went broke.

I spent the best months in summer and fall without an income and got into massive debt.

When I started working again, I had to start “cleaning up the debris” of those 4-5 months without a fixed income, and it took me quite a while.

Please Welcome The Pathless Path

Why the hell are you telling me these stories?

Because they are just three examples from a life path that’s a bit more complicated with more intersections, course changes, and rocky roads.

And such a life path is called the Pathless Path.

I recently read Paul Millerd’s book with the same title, in which he defines this notion as follows:

„The pathless path is an alternative to the default path. It is an embrace of uncertainty and discomfort. It’s a call to adventure in a world that tells us to conform. For me, it’s also a gentle reminder to laugh when things feel out of control and trusting that an uncertain future is not a problem to be solved.”

Paul Millerd - The Pathless Path

A default path is quite straightforward.

Going to university. Graduating with good grades. Landing an internship. Moving up on the career ladder. Falling in love. Getting married. Buying a house. Having kids.

In this order, mostly.

Obviously, finding love & having a family is on my radar.

But not as part of a default path.

Dorthe Berntsen and David Rubin researched “life scripts” that they describe as “culturally shared expectations as to the order and timing of life events in a prototypical life course.”

Their results were shocking: most milestones (career progress, love, marriage, buying a property, etc.) occur before the age of 35.

And then what?

As Millerd puts it: “Much of the rest of our lives remains unscripted and when people face inevitable setbacks, they are left without instructions on how to think or feel.

There’s nothing wrong with the default path. Many feel comfortable and complete on that path.

Source: Chibird

Source: Chibird

Those people turn out to be happy and satisfied with their lives. And I love it!

The idea of the pathless path is for those “round pegs in the square holes” who don’t always feel to fit in the “prototypical life course.”

This unconventional life path includes a good amount of loss, pain, impatience, anxiety, and uncertainty.

You don’t have a clear route in front of you with the career steps from junior to partner (or whatever), which leads to the ultimate end of retirement.

You don’t even have a clear route in other life aspects.

It requires you to constantly destruct and reinvent yourself, abandon your self-delusions, and stop reconstituting your bullshit.

It also requires wonder that complements a certain discomfort on this rocky road and replaces worry about the uncertainties.

As Millerd says: “Wonder is the state of being open to the world, its beauty, and potential possibilities. With wonder, the need to cope becomes less important and the discomfort on the current path becomes more noticeable.”

He also brings in an equation:

Uncertain Discomfort + Wonder > Certain Discomfort

This road is not for everyone but is certainly one that brings more fulfillment, freedom, and autonomy after a handful of attempts to design a life true to ourselves.

You Are Not Alone With Your Pathless Path

I am turning 29 soon.

In the past weeks, I have had many great discussions about life expectations with people my age.

That we should be getting married soon.

Or buying a property.

Or at least to have it all figured out.

Sometimes I feel this unconscious pressure on myself, especially when seeing others my age in relationships or at different career levels.

But my conscious and wiser self always brings me back to my own reality.

We all live different life paths; one is not better (or worse) than the other.

One might’ve gotten married at the age of 25 but got divorced at 30.

The other one might’ve become a cool startup founder at 21 but ended up in jail at 34.

Just because you are not checking out every item from the “prototypical life course” doesn’t mean you are worse or behind.

If you feel you don’t belong to a traditional or dogmatic life journey, then embrace the change.

Explore the deep desires in you.

Photo by Ryan Brisco on Unsplash

Ask yourself these three questions what Millerd asked himself after the painful loss of his grandfather:

  • What was I living for?

  • What did I really want?

  • How did I want to look back on my life when it was my time to go?

Your answers will constantly evolve in your life.

I have been asking similar questions for 10 years since that brave decision to ditch my first choice of university.

And while I lost in certain battles on my journey, the honest answers never fail me on the great war that I call: life.

Máté - The Mindful Guerilla

💡 My Weekly Recommendations 💡

🔥 Stuff I Recommend You This Week 🔥

📹 Video: Akta is back on YouTube! She’s one of my favorite creators, and she returned from her hiatus with an eye-opening video called: you’re not lazy, unmotivated or unproductive. This video is the perfect complement to this week’s piece.

🗞️ Article: Alice Lemée wrote an awesome piece on how to recharge your creative battery when you feel you don’t have enough energy. Her article highlights the great difference between having time vs. having energy.

🐥 Tweet: I joined the Ship 30 For 30 Writing Cohort and have already met so many incredible writers. I’m also publishing daily on Twitter on human spaceflight, intentional living & travel. Check it out here.

👓 Newsletters I Read Every Week 👓

🪷 Overthoughts by Akta: Lately, Akta’s newsletter has been my go-to weekly source of notions on how to feel less overwhelmed in the world of constant noise, social pressures, and overthinking. The perfect complement to my newsletter.

💵 Young Money: Jack writes inspirational & insightful posts on finance, career, and life. I learned a lot from his work, which motivated me to start my newsletter.

🌍 International Intrigue: The best source to get quick & quality updates on recent global affairs. A 5-minute read delivered every weekday. Read this, rather than all those shitty clickbait articles on mainstream media.

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