Living in the hyper-individualist society that we do, it's easy to forget our obligation to those around us. Often in the West, we are taught to prioritize ourselves in the unhealthiest ways, to 'grind' as hard as we can to achieve wealth and status. We are taught, between the lines, that our first responsibility is to create a 'perfected' version of ourselves to such an extreme that it is alright to forsake our relationships with others to accomplish it. From day one, it is embedded in us that it is our individual selves against the world. Like many others, I'd like to challenge this notion. Because what is the purpose of wealth and status if not to share it with the ones you love and who love you the most?
What is the meaning of life itself if not companionship, community, and love?
I want to disclaim, of course, that this is by no means attacking the notion of having personal external goals. Career success, physique aspirations, and other tangible objectives can absolutely be noble in pursuit and attainment. What I would like to say, is that none of those external goals will fulfill you the way that genuine human connection can - and that those goals should not be completed by abandoning your healthy relationships and support systems. And if you are thinking, "who actually does that?" this introduction is not for you.
To put it simply, life is a series of circumstances, situations, and experiences that we get reluctantly swept into (and sometimes, foolishly, sweep ourselves into). It's just one adventure after the next, for better or worse. That sounds gloomy, but it is what makes life so beautiful - the human ability to feel a vast range of emotions within an hour and find charm in the worst circumstances. A little over a year ago, my aunt passed. Through a blur of tears, I remember thinking about how beautiful the flowers people had sent were and how vibrantly green the grass of the cemetery was. And amidst all of the despair, I remember looking around and seeing my friends.
When I think back to all of the times in my life when it felt like the roof would cave in, that I had nothing left, that I didn't know if I would be strong enough to move forward and continue on, I remember what exactly it was that pushed me forward. It was always my friends, my people. Those who almost daily not only told me that they would be there for me but showed up when I needed them the most. Would I have survived my hardships alone? Yes. Would I prefer to do it alone? Never. I am infinitely grateful for the community I have created for myself - the network of friends that have become family and mentors that help guide me when things seem too chaotic to untangle. Through the gentle counsel of my loved ones, I have come to realize that there is no nobility in solitary living. There is no wisdom or bravery in taking on hardship or challenges alone when I don't need to. Every time I forsook my loved ones to be (my distorted idea of) independent, it seemed almost like I was just adding gasoline to already growing flames. There was no more profound message beneath suffering in silence, only suffering.
And I think most of us can agree that attempting to handle problems alone feels infinitely more difficult to manage than with support. It's part of why people seek romantic partnerships, to have someone always there to walk through the flames alongside. It's why people invest so strongly in their loved ones in general. It is to feel heard and be seen, to hear and to see.
Part of the purpose of life, I have come to learn, is within the attempt to know someone else, to recognize yourself in another person deeply. Connection is everything we have in this world. It's the mirror that holds itself up to us in the face of conflict with another person. It makes us think twice before buying from a brand that uses slave labor, and it's what makes us recoil at the thought of abused animals or children. Connection with all living beings is the deeper understanding that we are all somehow joined by our humanity. And in that, understanding that one of our primary purposes is to know and be known. To know my friends and their joys and fears, and draw parallels to how they reflect my own. To walk alongside them through the difficult times and the blissful times. I recognize now that it is in the attempt to know others that I now know myself.
We are all just walking each other home. Life, at its core, is that simple. I am walking, hand in hand, side by side, sometimes a little bit ahead or a little bit behind, with the people around me. Some of those people may walk too quickly for me to keep up, and some may move too slowly. That is when I thank them for walking me as far as they could and continue on without them, as they will continue on without me. If the journey of life is a path we walk, then the purpose of our travel buddies is to help us navigate the storms on the road and to make the journey as funny, exciting, and comfortable as possible. If life is a journey, then the whole point of friendship, companionship, and mentorship is to just be with each other. If I am walking you home, is my purpose not to try my best to protect, guide, and love you throughout that journey? We are all walking each other and ourselves home. And the least we can do is do our best to make that journey as beautiful, warm, and light as possible.
So many of us are falling into a spiritual trap of sorts and being wholly sucked into the hyper-consumerist and individualist mentality of the West. Some of us are actively fighting the true nature of our being, which yearns for deep and genuine connection above all else. As you age and the world around you changes, your values begin to change. When you're nearing your final days, when all you want is your family and friends surrounding you, will you have planted those seeds? Will you have spent time cultivating and nourishing your relationships with those around you? Will you have walked your loved ones down their path and done your best to create joy in your (and others') journey?
The message I am trying desperately to convey here is that we need one another. We need love, and we need companionship. We need forgiveness, and we need grace. We need to be open to giving our hearts away and open to the risk of being hurt. And in that same breath, we need to do everything possible in our power to avoid hurting those around us. We need to use the path to grasp the importance of being tender with each other. The journey of life is not easy. Take a moment and reflect on all those who have walked you in the past and all those who continue to walk you home. Think about the connections you have made, the empathy and love you have nourished in the lives of those you care about. And remember that at the end of the day, despite all of the problems and chaos around us, we are all just walking each other home, and we are all just trying to be better companions one day at a time.
Dedicated to my travel companions, you know who you are.
Aleena serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Dreamer By Night Magazine, and as a lifelong writer, she is grateful that her work and passion intersect. Aleena is an avid reader and loves trying new things, including painting badly and losing at chess to her husband. She also thanks you for taking the time to check out Dreamer By Night, and hopes you enjoyed it!