paddle own canoe
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paddle (one's) own canoe
To act independently. Now that you're 30, people expect you to paddle your own canoe—you can't just live with your parents forever.
paddle one's own canoe
Fig. to do something by oneself; to be alone. I've been left to paddle my own canoe too many times. Sally isn't with us. She's off paddling her own canoe.
paddle one's own canoe, to
To be independent and self-reliant. The analogy to steering one’s boat is very old indeed; Euripides drew it in his play Cyclops (ca. 440 b.c.). Canoes being largely a Western Hemisphere conveyance, this particular version of the term is American in origin. It dates from about 1800. An early appearance in print occurs in Frederick Marryat’s Settlers in Canada (1840). A few years later Harper’s Monthly (May 1854) published the following ditty: “Voyager upon life’s sea, to yourself be true, And whate’er your lot may be, paddle your own canoe.” It became a popular music-hall song.