How Curiosity Changed My Life

by Anthony Danko

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.” –Albert Einstein

Sometimes I wonder where I’d be had it not been for curiosity.

Alive and thriving? Maybe stagnant, merely surviving?

All I really know is that curiosity renewed my passion and enthusiasm for living.

Coming off of one of my most successful school years to date (2009-10), I was riding on riding on an amazing emotional high. In less than one year my life had changed from a path of minimum wage jobs and debt, to one of promise and prosperity.

I accomplished nearly everything I set out to do that year. Paid a semester’s worth of debt off to get back into school – pulled my GPA up 2 whole points, made Dean’s List in the fall and spring – and incorporated a steady routine of exercise and reading.

Energy levels were through the roof. It felt as if I was on top of world.

But then I learned a valuable lesson: success is not final.

Spending that summer back home in Virginia was great.

Not often did I get to see my childhood friends. On top of that I had what seemed like unlimited amounts of free time and resources.

So I took some time to relax and reflect on my progress that year, and honestly, just live it up –  and there’s nothing wrong in doing this, but getting away from the core of a successful routine can be problematic.

What’s worse is spending too much time in a debilitating environment of deception. It doesn’t take long for the advantages of a purely hedonistic lifestyle to catch up with you, consequently becoming disadvantages.

Instead of sprinting into the next school year, I crawled; and at times, didn’t move at all.

Activities that once meant so much to me lost their effect. I was sleeping more, and dreaming less. A seemingly unmovable weight had been put on my chest.

My eyes were dimmed. I couldn’t see the light in life. I lacked vision – not in the literal sense, but figuratively. I couldn’t even picture myself being successful anymore, let alone happy.

Every day felt like an obstacle and was viewed as a threat to my well-being – not a challenge capable of producing growth.

My only escape was the delusional world of consumer nightlife, which is synonymous with today’s YOLO (You Only Live Once) collegiate lifestyle.

Unfortunately, using external solutions to fix internal inadequacies will put you on the fast-track into a state of cognitive dissonance so extreme, that you start to wonder who you are anymore. What’s the meaning of life? Is it worth living? Can I even survive being the person I am right now?

I made it through the year with a collective 3.5 GPA; however, this was not reflective of how I felt on the inside. I was battered, broken, and nearly defeated.

But then I learned a lesson of even greater value: failure is not fatal.

As I limped into summer, there was only one real certainty – that I at least had a place to live (thanks to my generous friends whom I am forever grateful for), but that was all I needed.

I had no money, no job, and hardly any contact to the outside world. But it didn’t matter. I had access to the Internet, and no obligations aside from focusing on my well-being.

So I got lost surfing the web and its vast waves of knowledge and worlds that lie within it. A plethora of knowledge lied dormant, waiting for people like me to StumbleUpon it; so I did.

Who would have known one website could help change someone’s life so dramatically? I encountered fascinating topics such as Buddhism and philosophy, alternative exercises such as meditation and yoga, as well as great thinker’s ideas from Socrates to Albert Einstein.

I began to find peace in life again, but this peace had transcended any kind of harmonious existence I had ever known. There’s something very mystically nourishing about connecting to the spiritual world with us all, a realm that our 5 senses cannot perceive. This consequently can shift your view of the natural world.

It took an entire summer, but thanks to the support of my amazing sister and friends, and a willingness to seek the beauty in life, I found a renewed sense of being.

I was on a new path, The Enlightened Path to be exact.

A quote from the movie Fight Club resonates with this transformation, “It is only after we have lost everything that we are free to do anything.”

I may have not lost literally everything, but I was willing to sacrifice everything I had and knew about life to pursue a greater purpose of living.

And it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

This past school year (2011-12) has been transcendental to say the least; at times I find even that word does not fully explain the impact of my new outlook and philosophy towards life.

I found 2 jobs, or callings if you will, that I without a doubt believe in. One is a leadership position in experiential education with Adventure WV (http://adventurewv.wvu.edu/), and the other is with WellWVU ( http://well.wvu.edu/) promoting healthy lifestyles; which stemmed from my curiosity in meditation and yoga, and also thanks to a friend that I made through Adventure WV. The best part about it is that I’m working with people who have helped restore my faith in humanity.

If I’ve learned anything about purpose or work in life, it would be that it’s easy to wake up motivated every day when you believe in what you’re doing.

All of this stemmed from my curious desire to believe in the beauty of life again – that it had more to offer; and that I was worthy of its rewards.

Sometimes I still can’t believe the drastic changes I’ve made. Once I stopped looking at all the problems with the world, I was able to focus on the good. But first I was able to find that good inside me, and change who I was.

I think Ghandi put it best.

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – as in being able to remake ourselves.” –Mahatma Ghandi

So if we want to see change in this lifetime, we first must be willing to change ourselves. Changing your life immediately affects every energy body you come in contact with; plus it’s amazing to see, even better to feel. And it all starts with a little bit of curiosity….

They say curiosity killed the cat, but it saved me.

How could your life benefit from curiosity?