The Very, Very Lonely Path Of Knowledge And Self-Actualization


How does our pursuit of knowledge reflect our individualism, and why is this so important? What makes this path towards self-actualization so difficult and lonesome?

Education Doesn’t End After School

One assumption I often see people implicitly make is that school is the only form of education. Friends and family constantly say to me ad nauseam, “Steven, you are so smart – are you sure you don’t want to go to graduate school and continue your education?”

This annoys me so much because I consider myself a person who absolutely loves knowledge and never sees an endpoint to my studies. I go to the library twice a week, constantly flipping through new books or reading cover-to-cover the ones I find most interesting. My interests range from psychology to economics to politics to philosophy, so how can anyone possibly tell me that I need to continue my education?

I feel I am an autodidactic at heart. The time I spend studying on my own I find infinitely more valuable than the time I spend in a classroom. When you study on your own you get to choose the curriculum, focus on subjects that most interest you, and go at your own pace.

Yet at the same time this method of learning is seen by our culture as inherently bizarre and even wasteful: Where is your degree? How do you expect to find a job? What are you doing with your life?

To Love To Know And To Do What You Love

I didn’t get a degree in Psychology because I thought it was where the money was at; no, I took it with the intent to learn about the subject. But people don’t understand this. They don’t trust themselves enough to do what they love. Instead, they would rather follow a predetermined path, as long as it provides security. The individual spirit thus begins to break down.

I am now unemployed, and part of that is simply my apathy towards looking for a job, but I feel just as competent as anyone else coming out of college (if not more). Why? Because I trust my passions, I trust my self-determination, and embrace that individual spirit. Besides, I am only 21, the world is in my hands, and now is not the time to forfeit to the chains of modern society. I have bigger ideas in mind, perhaps larger than most, and that is what makes this path lonely but rewarding. I love to know and I owe it to myself to do what I love:

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
– Ayn Rand

All Knowledge Is Self-Knowledge

When we learn more about our world – whether its astrophysics or behavioral economics – we build a greater understanding of ourselves. Our pursuits reflect our values and interests, so I don’t deny that when I do what I love, I am also separating myself from the whims that others would like to impose on me. In this sense, following our dreams is a lonely path. No one can do this for you, you must be the hero of your world.

United By This Loneliness

I wanted to share these quick thoughts with you in case you were feeling the same way. Doing what others tell you is easy, pursuing what you love is the hardest. There will be doubt. There will be loneliness. There will be signs of weakness and temptations to quit. But knowing that others share that struggle and knowing that it can be overcome is a power that connects us all. The world depends on our self-actualization.

P.S. – Great conversations on this article going on at Evolver. Feel free to join in!

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