“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

In the grand, often perplexing parade of life, where each of us is both a spectator and a performer, I’ve come upon an enlightening truth: the certainty we often hold onto, like a parade route map, is more like a suggestion than a strict guideline. It’s like confidently marching to the beat of the band, only to realize the music is an improvisation, and the route is more of a meandering path than a straight line.

I once believed life was a neatly outlined path—you start at Point A, stride confidently towards Point B, armed with your ‘Life’s Instruction Manual’, and presto, you arrive at Enlightenment, population: you. But then, during my ‘Personal Existential Crisis™’ (a term that makes it sound more like an adventure than a period of intense confusion), I realized life isn’t a series of well-marked steps but more like an improvisational dance.

During this turbulent time, where my worldview did somersaults and landed upside down, I learned something vital: not having all the answers is not just okay—it’s the essence of our journey. It’s akin to realizing that the recipe you’ve been following might just be one of many ways to cook a dish. You start to experiment, to taste as you go, sometimes ending up with a gourmet meal, other times with something barely edible—but always uniquely yours.

This realization dawned on me slowly, like understanding that the ‘one true path’ we often seek is more of a myth, like the Loch Ness Monster or finding a perfectly ripe avocado at the supermarket. Everyone around us, every person on this vibrant planet, is trying to make sense of the big questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Do penguins have favorite icebergs? We’re all on different paths, seeking fulfillment and happiness, and let’s be honest, sometimes those paths are as unpredictable as a butterfly’s flight path.

You see, when we observe others choosing a different road, it’s easy to think our ‘route’ or ‘recipe’ is the only way. But what I’ve come to appreciate is the beauty of diversity in our journeys. It’s like a global potluck where every culture, every family, every person brings a different dish. Sure, some choices might be unconventional (like peanut butter and bacon sandwiches), but each adds to the richness of the experience.

Instead of judgment and condemnation, I’ve tried to approach others with empathy and curiosity. It’s like being a traveler in a foreign land, where every interaction is an opportunity to learn, to expand beyond your usual ‘recipe’. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with everyone’s choices—after all, some life choices are the equivalent of barbeque sauce on pizza—but we can start by trying to understand their version of the ‘recipe’.

It’s about realizing that while we may not all be marching in the same procession or to the same rhythm, we’re all part of this grand, colorful spectacle, trying to make sense of our roles and steps. We’re each striving to create a melody that resonates with our individual journey, even if we occasionally miss a beat or step out of line.

And that, my friends, is not just okay—it’s beautifully, profoundly, and perfectly human.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.