There’s a confidence that comes with blazing trails. Knowing that you can set off into the woods with nothing but your wits and ambitions, with a damn good chance of not just surviving, but thriving. Carving a trail from one place to another, one way of living to another.
The path you shape will be there for future travelers to discover and wonder over; to follow partway and popularize among their friends; to explore more fully, the sharp bits safely whittled down to stumps.
The path you sculpt will, if it’s interesting or useful or leads someplace amazing, eventually become a highway. A rail for high-speed bullet trains. Someplace we’ve all been and would go again.
But at first it’s just a tangle of trees and gnarled underbrush and thorns and rocks and possible danger. Before you, it was an unexplored jungle. You were the machete the cut through the vines. You were the cartographer who chiseled meaning from an otherwise nebulous nothingness.
There’s a confidence that comes from blazing trails because it’s so easy to fail. Whether you make it all the way through or have to backtrack, seeking a more traversable landscape, you tried. You hurled yourself against something unfriendly and difficult and dangerous, and survived to tell the tale.
And you’ll do so again. You know this. That’s what will keep your head up, no matter what comes next.
Update: April 14, 2017
Blazing trails in this way tends to harden you. Not in the same way as becoming a survivalist out in the woods, but in a way that allows you to take a mental gut punch and survive. In a way that allows you to notice opportunities in the same way that survivalist might notice edible berries or signs of danger. You don’t really notice these changes as their happening, but one day you wake up and realize that you’re a different person, shaped in part by your experiences, both negative and positive, blazing those trails.