• Dr. Thom

Choosing Your Own Path Versus The One Laid Out For You

Updated: Apr 16


The designed path people are supposed to walk goes one way, but yet the people go their own way.  It's not that the people are lazy or disrespectful to the original park designs, they just decide to make their own way.  In the design world, they call these "desire paths."


My paved career path was supposed to be an English teacher.  I paved that path when I was a senior in high school because most of the adults I truly admired at the time were teachers.  I just knew I wanted to do that, and the proverbial paving of that path (telling everyone I wanted to be a teacher, reading up on it, and eventually picking a good college of Education) was all in the interest of getting me to that future as quickly as possible.


Fast forward to Junior year in college, when I was rejected from the teaching college program because I was unknowingly short a couple credit hours:  the path was not so certain.  The embarrassment and frustration of running headlong into a barrier I should have seen coming yielded many late nights spent with big questions I hadn't yet met.  I talked with mentors, asked them how they made big decisions, and thought deeply about what path I wanted to walk.  Paving be damned.


I found a direction in higher education and educational psychology and I started off across the grass, making the path as I went. 


We are all like this.  Maybe you've paved your path, or maybe someone else has paved it for you.  Either way, we always choose which path we walk.  Next time you are walking in the park, make note of all the desire paths around you.  They are evidence of the wondrous power of human choice.


But here's the thing with choosing your path: when you choose, you become responsible for where you end up. When we follow the path laid out by others, it is easy and ultimately comforting to be able to blame them for their poor designs. That's why most people, despite all their rhetoric about wanting freedom and autonomy, simply stay on the paved path.

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