Today I wish to impart some advice that I wish was imparted onto me. It was something I wish someone told me, but for some reason no one did.
It is never too late for you to completely reinvent who you are. You can, in fact, change the path in life that you are on. Doing so carries no shame or guilt. You can make the choice, at any point, to push the big red button that reads “Abort Mission” on it. Now, why would I give this advice? I will start by using the lens of fiction, and then the lens of my own experience as an example.
In one of my favorite games of all time, “Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions”, the first chapter of the game deals with a conflict in a medieval fantasy world over control of the throne. But, the first chapter deals with the protagonist’s personal struggle when his views of the world are challenged.
The Pillars of That Life
During the first chapter, Ramza Beoulve is a cadet of the Order of the Northern Sky. He fights alongside his friend, Delita, a commoner. The preliminary conflict involves a band of rebels known as the Corpse Brigade. The Corpse Brigade wishes to overthrow the aristocracy and the nobility.
In the background, Ramza’s brother, Dycedarg is pulling the strings. He manipulates Gustav Margriff into staging the kidnapping of Marquis Elmdore de Limberry. Argath Thadalfus, a squire who serves under Elmdore, vows to find him. After rescuing Elmdore and clearing out a den of brigands, Ramza’s party returns to find out that the Corpse Brigade had attempted to kill Dycedarg and ran off with Delita’s sister, Tietra.
In a furor, Delita vows to find Tietra. He is interrupted by Argath, believing that Dycedarg wouldn’t risk soldiers’ lives for a common girl. After a heated confrontation, Ramza severs all ties with Argath. He drops a hint about the location of the Corpse Brigade’s fortress. When Ramza and Delita make their way to the Mandalia Plains, Delita bemoans his commoner status despite Ramza’s attempts to cheer him up. Delita’s sense of hopelessness grows further when they confront the leader of the Corpse Brigade, Wiegraf Folles. At Fovoham Windflats, Wiegraf reveals Dycedarg’s deception along with the conflict between Larg and Goltana over control of Ivalice’s throne.
Delita tries to find Tietra, but she has been taken to the Corpse Brigade’s fortress in Ziekden. Despite Dycedarg’s earlier promise not to attack the fortress, Ramza’s brother Zalbaag launches an assault on the fortress. The knight that instigated the kidnapping, Gragoroth, has stocked the fortress with gunpowder. After a tense standoff, Zalbaag orders his new knight Argath to attack with his crossbow. Argath fires at Tietra, killing her. He then wounds Gragoroth with a crossbow bolt.
After killing Argath, Delita and Ramza find Tietra’s body. Ramza offers his condolences, but they are cut short when Gragoroth detonates the gunpowder. Delita appears to die in the conflagration and Ramza is left alone to wander through the snow. His entire life has been turned upside, he has been deceived by his closest allies and lost the only people whom he really could trust.
In his despair he decides to discard his previous life, encapsulated in the following quote:
I had lived the only life I had ever known. But when the pillars of that life came crashing down, I did not stand and watch them fall. I turned and walked away.
Hitting the Reset Button
While it may be fictitious, it certainly has real-world applications. My experience is a key example of this.
I did not start off as a journalist. I had wide-eyed ambitions of going into animation. But, as I mentioned before, this track did not turn out well. In my rush to attain my goals, I neglected to ask the question: “What if it isn’t for me?”
Indeed, I had believed so rigidly that this was my destiny for me. This attitude was encouraged, saying that if you love to do something you won’t give up when things get tough.
While good in its intentions, it was damaging in its execution. I had sunk a large amount of time and money into pursuing this goal. How was I going to let it go? It was only when I started to realize the implications of what I was doing that I needed to get out.
Pursuing that goal was not just wasted time and money, but it was also detrimental to my mental health. I could have been much happier had I just questioned myself in advance and gave my goals careful reflection.
But I’m not here to beat myself up over it because, in the end, I did switch goals. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do when I saw one of my friends working in journalism. I was already good at writing and since she could do it, I figured I could too.
While she eventually left that field, it turned out to be an excellent fit for me. It also made me much happier and more fulfilled as a person.
There’s a broader observation that I’d like to make from this. We tend to hold on to many things longer than we should because we’ve previously invested in them. We will sit at a movie we hate because we paid good money for the ticket, we remain in a relationship that isn’t working because of the good times in the past, we keep old clothing that we haven’t worn for years because we just need the opportunity to wear it once more.
These arguments can be easily dismantled. When you sit in a movie you hate, you have already paid for the ticket but now are wasting your time as well. When you try to carry on a relationship that isn’t working, you are expending both time and emotional energy on something that won’t bear out. Additionally, it makes the breakup that much more painful because of that investment. When you don’t throw out that old clothing, you no longer have room for new clothing.
This is known as the “sunk cost” fallacy. In reality, you are better serviced by walking out of that horrible movie, getting out of a toxic relationship as quickly as possible, and discarding your old clothing.
When I changed paths, I became a much happier person. All it took was a little reflection, and an understanding that staying on the path I was on would only lead to additional costs. I cut my losses and in the process,I gained many more things. To me, that is a much more rational and healthy option.