And I’m hoping you can help me out with a little modern-day conundrum.
Here’s the deal:
I don’t get the narrative we’re sold about how we should all live our lives.
Wait, let me rephrase, I do get it. I probably understand it far too well – and it’s messing with my head a bit recently.
You know the narrative I’m referring to. It’s the one that’s been built upon thousands of years of tradition, religion, and accepted inequality.
We’re told what we should do. We’re told what right and wrong are. And, for the most part, the great majority of people in our beautiful world buy into the whole shebang.
We’re not born sheep. But we’re taught to act like them more and more as we grow older.
What’s the deal with Keeping Up With the Joneses? Why are so many people obsessed with ‘stuff’ – so much so that they spend the majority of their lives in traffic or in offices to obtain the stuff they rarely use because they’re so time poor?
When did we all forget to just take in a sunset, or to find joy in time spent with family? When did the ideal of ‘busyness’ creep into our lives as a marker of success? When will we, as a collective, go back to a pursuit of happiness and kindness over cold, hard cashola?
I’m not sure how to answer the questions above.
We all go about our days, weeks, months and years fairly similarly. All the while, we duck and weave that little tug inside of our heads and hearts, all to keep enlightenment and deep thought at bay.
It’s as if we live so fast and hard that we fear slowing down. We’d rather keep up the pace of facade than face our most genuine selves – just in case we realize we’re not sheep.
In most western societies, we start our journey to ‘success’ by going to school. At school we’re taught that we must sit still when we’re told to, run and play on a schedule, obey, learn by rote, and ‘repeat after me.’
We do what we’re told and get a lovely little pat on the head.
For following the rules, we’re given gold stars. Sticky sweet-fixes that hard wire our baby brains to tell our adult brains that we should conform to imposed standards instead of adapt while we learn.
We (especially us girls) aren’t supposed to ask questions, be curious, or speak out (especially not out of turn.) Lord forbid any of us ever questioned why we did what we did, or why we learned what we learned.
We just went with the norm. Didn’t make waves. We have always been told not to make waves, haven’t we? We’re just here to play the game by the rules someone else wrote. We’re not to change the rules (or even attempt to re-write them completely).
Nope. We’re here to just accept the world as it is. Inequalities dripping from the underbelly of unbreakable glass ceilings.
We’re told to repeat the mantras and learn the jargon.
Success is not measured by kindness or joy brought to others, but rather in quantifiable numbers on bank ledgers and the logo we wear on our clothing.
After school we’re supposed to find a ‘nice boy’, settle down, buy a house, have some babies to raise, and quietly delight in cooking meals for our brood.
Afterwards, doing the laundry, juggling a corporate career, and trying to find time for inner-peace as well. All the while striving to make it to the pinnacle of our human existence: retirement.
Grey haired. Porch sitting. Rocking chair knitting. A grandchild bouncing on each knee. Yep… those are supposed to be our best years.
While this scenario might be a dream for many, it’s a nightmare for me.
At this precise moment in time, as I sit here tippity-typing away on my MacBook (such a cliche) raging against the rules by which I’ve been told to live.
Before you ask, yes, I’m acutely aware of the ultimate irony of my life to date.
That irony being that I’ve followed the Path-of-Good-Educated-Girl-Who-Does-What-She-Should to a T. I’d get an A++ in the school of life for following the rules.
Yep, the path I’ve walked down has always been that of least resistance. Which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve just always been one to choose my battles while weighing all of the odds and thinking of the longterm.
Why choose the road to Normalville?
I did it because I thought that path was supposed to be my ticket to happiness. And, it was for a good long time. I also didn’t want to let my family and friends down.
In trying to live up to the ideals of others, I took a while to find myself.
For a long time, I was right on track to live the same, cookie-cutter life as most of us who were raised in the pre-Facebook, Zack Morris, Xennial times of rainbows and butterflies and sun-drenched sappy love songs.
Gag. Someone change the channel, will ya?
Every day I’m rufflin’ (feathers, that is)
How have I ruffled feathers? Simple. I’ve asked questions. Lots of them. Of myself and of others. Mostly to learn, to evolve, to innovate – and ultimately to grow as a person.
What I’ve found super intriguing is that asking questions causes people to stop and think. Sometimes abruptly. And, most people don’t like doing that. It’s uncomfortable.
Stopping to really evaluate a situation or choice makes most people feel uncertain – in themselves and in the world around them.
It makes them think about their own life choices. And, makes them remember that they have the ability to chose. Nothing is pre-determined.
Basically, asking questions causes most people to step outside of the comfortable narrative they’re buying into.
Me? I’m getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I’m recently divorced and am onto my second marriage. I don’t fit any stereotypes anymore – though I used to fit them all. That spectrum people talk about? I skate up and down it on the daily.
I’m simply, unapologetically me. And, I’m happy in my skin for the first time in a very long time.
I’m also a better parent, partner, colleague, and friend for it.
Sitting here on the cusp of what I hope will be an epiphany (and not a pre-midlife crisis), I’m questioning everything.
My home, my car, my bank account, my hair colour, my clothes, my plan, my purpose.
Why question everything? Because I’ve seen the Challengers. They’re brazen and brave. I’ve even toyed around with the notion of being one without committing to it whole-heartedly.
It’s that one-toe-in, one-toe-out approach that’s the worse! You’ve tasted true freedom of choice, but then teeter back to normalcy.
I’ve seen the spark in their eyes, these Challengers. I’ve breathed in the passion in their souls, and felt the burning heat from the fire in their smiles.
I’ve pontificated late into the evenings and gone of on otherworldly tangents – learning all the while – with these oddballs who poo-poo societal norms.
I’m ready to be a Challenger.
I’m ready to commit to Otherness. Outsiderhood.
I want to be someone who exudes individuality. Someone who lives for the pleasure of living. And, someone who works and toils endlessly the betterment of others.
I want to spend time with people I love. Earn money to live, not live to earn money (this is an old hippy chestnut of a saying, but is a goodie I cling to.)
And, most importantly, I want to be genuinely passionate about asking questions. I want to hear other peoples’ stories and forge my own path. Write my own narrative. Be happy without the confines of normality.
What are your thoughts on bucking the trends?
Why must we all follow similar, already forged paths when there are potentially better/different/alternative ways to get from one place to another?
Here’s to questioning, challenging…
…and to being The Challengers.