To Follow Your Heart, or Societal Norms?


It’s so easy to let fear dictate the choices we make in our lives: fear of failure, of loss, or fear of being different. This past week, I reached a pivotal point where I was stirring over a decision that would determine my attitude towards they way I want to live my life: 

Do I follow the path that is ‘easier’ but much less satisfying, or do I take the path that elicits excitement from my soul but will test me with more challenges?

Contemplating what felt like a moment I would remember forever, the words of Jennifer Lee echoed in my mind:

Pencil drawing of Don Quixote

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

Before I continue on, let me first explain my situation. This past June I agreed to teach English part time in Spain. While teaching isn’t something that I am overly passionate about, the opportunity to experience a new culture and practice my Spanish was wildly enticing. It also seemed like the more ‘acceptable’ option, seeing that so many of my friends have settled down into full-time jobs in one location. I thought that maybe my vagabond days should be tamed so that I could fit in better with the standards of society and those around me. 

After all, this past year for me has been so different than anything any of my friends have done. I visited an orphanage in India, lived with the locals in the Daintree Rainforest, went bungee jumping in New Zealand, and became a freediving instructor in Thailand. It was spectacular, but one of the recurring questions I received was, “When will you be done?” Well, I thought, maybe Spain should be my ending point.

Many aspects of working in Spain shifted as COVID has begun to make its global rounds again. I started to question not only what would happen if the city were to shut down, but whether this is something I really wanted to do. Life is short, and every moment is valuable. I would love to experience the beauty and culture of Spain, but is teaching English something I’m really passionate about? As Jennifer Lee might ask, “Does it set your soul on fire, Sophie?” 

After leaving Koh Tao, I realized I need to be by the water, in the water. I need the salt air and calm beneath the surface, the peace I find amongst the particles of water that compress my lungs and quiet my mind. I want to share this love of the ocean with others. I want to write and tell stories and make connections. I realized that I won’t be able to get these things while teaching in Spain. 

Girl diving close to coral
Freediving in Koh Tao

It will be more difficult, and certainly less conventional, but I decided to choose a different path and revoke the job offer. Sure, it won’t be as easy or secure, but I am willing to sacrifice those comforts in order to pursue a life filled with passion and love and adventure. During the past few days I realized that many of us spend our lives doing the things we think we should be doing without second guessing them. This might lead us to success, maybe monetarily or materially, but does it give us satisfaction?

I can tell you that I would be more financially settled with a stable job living in one location instead of traveling as I have, but a part of me would be slowly withering away like a plant without sun. It has been difficult to make this decision, and I would be lying if I said the road ahead does not make me slightly nervous, but I know that this moment will be one I remember forever and will (hopefully) not regret. 

Did I take the ‘easy’ way out, or the one that calls to the deepest part of my soul where passion and adventure abound, where I am fearless in the pursuit of what sets my soul on fire? And when it is your turn to answer, what will you do?

Please, I beg, choose passionately.

More to explorer

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