The path of life is quite simple and straightforward. You set goals, plan out your steps to fulfill these, and put in the hard work until your dreams are no longer just dreams - they are finally part of your reality.
Or at least, this is what we hope life to be.
Yet as we trudge further on the path of our existence, we discover that our journey is not set in stone, nor brick, nor cement. Life is not a clear and linear pavement we can walk on continuously and freely, only stopping once we have achieved our goals. No matter how disciplined we are, how seamless our plans appear, or how fool-proof our strategies for success may be, life will find ways to throw us off our track. And as much as we want to deny it, we don’t always have control over these instances.
This is one of the biggest lessons Zara Carbonell encountered in her 20s and has graciously shared in her book, Lost You, Found Me. Like many of us, she believed that the only way to realize her aspirations was to plan accordingly and be diligent enough to stick with it.
This was evident in one of her big missions to be crowned as the winner in her first beauty pageant. To ensure her victory, Carbonell prepared a master plan detailing all the steps she must take. She accomplished these things one by one and gradually checked them off her list as the night of the coronation grew nearer.
Eventually, the moment of truth finally came, and she was crowned as a runner-up.
But almost winning left her feeling more devastated than she would have been if she didn't place at all. It was as if all her time and effort went to waste, especially when the crown was only an arm’s length away from her.
Not only were her career goals tried during the first decade of her adulthood. Her relationships and personal life were put to the test as well. Carbonell had to let go of her longtime sweetheart in hopes of finding herself and blooming into the woman she envisions to be. She was certain that he was the one, and for a time, she believed they would end up with each other. But the future they planned together and the promises they had made to one another became just as they were - promises.
To be faced with the unpredictability of life can be discouraging, heart-breaking even. Planning out a roadmap to our dreams now seems futile, knowing that the roads lead us to almost anywhere but the destination we desire. Working hard to reach our goals is already pointless if all our efforts won’t bring forth the results we expect.
And yet, these undeniable facets of life could not make Zara Carbonell give up on herself. The shattered dreams she had, the hurdles she leapt through, and the heartbreaks she endured only served to burst open a spring of hope within her. Carbonell’s journey taught her priceless lessons and enlightened her with a new perspective on living in this turbulence called life:
I took “letting go” seriously and finally understood that it was the only way life could begin to happen—to let go and take things as they were, to learn how to make decisions when situations appeared, instead of planning decisions before they had to be made.
Perhaps having a plan makes us feel secure about our future. Maybe it provides us a sense of assurance of what’s ahead. But the secret is not to direct the path of life according to our whims. Rather, we must learn to adapt to life, to be in harmony with it, and to be at peace with whatever it brings us.
This isn’t an easy feat, as Carbonell had chronicled in her illuminating passages. It can be frightening to charge head on with no preparations for the challenges we’ll soon encounter. It can be frustrating when life gives us one roadblock after the other. But perhaps we can approach life in a different way, in a much more welcoming manner, and still emerge triumphant.
And it was through embracing where life was leading her that transformed Carbonell into the purveyor of hope she is today. She took on every opportunity, every restart that life presented to her. She did things she never thought she would do, and had the time of her life taking these risks. She accepted the trials, rejections, and the backlash thrown at her and gained the courage to stand back up every time.
This does not mean she changed herself or stopped staying true to who she was to accommodate the wily twists and turns of life. Far from it, she allowed life to shape and mold her into the person she has to become:
Whatever life turns me into, I’ll be brave enough to let it happen
Indeed, letting go and letting life will make us grow into the person we’re intended to be. It’s high time that we abandon scrutinizing every little step to take for tomorrow. It’s time to seek out life’s adventure and discover the unexpected things it has to offer. It’s time to explore, be lost, and find our way down the ever-winding path of life.