This is not an article about fitness, or about hair care regimen…this is about your life. As children, we grow up as a product of our environments, and then we move into society’s box of rules and regulations after that. By the time you reach adulthood (30, not 18…) you are set in a bunch of pre-established grooves that have been laid out for you.
The only way you can reduce this conditioning is to become aware of it first.
In the past couple of weeks, I have seen a few great examples of the conditioning I am speaking of. Maybe sharing a few of these will shed some light on some of your own limitations or thought processes. I’ll start with a glaringly obvious one from my own life: I didn’t get married until age 48. I used to get questioned about this all the time, from family for sure, but friends and even strangers too. Oddly enough, many were jealous of the single life that I was living and yet felt compelled to question why I hadn’t done what almost everyone else does. The fact that I wasn’t “settled down” by age 30 made a lot of people uncomfortable, and I find that so strange. My life, my choices. I got to experience so many things BECAUSE I chose to not follow the masses, and I am the person I am today because of that. I don’t see any downside to that. If I have wanted to, I could have changed that at any moment, as I was free to do so. But I lived that life to its fullest, and then when I met the right person at the right time in my life, that was when I chose to “settle down”.
As an extension of this, my parents wanted grandkids, my sister wanted to have kids for her kids to play with, etc. etc. My grandparents had the expectation that I would be married and have children, preferably right out of college like they did. I blew that whole preset notion apart when I decided to leave Northern AZ University after one year of college to pursue my Pro Racquetball career. That didn’t go over well; but my life is so vastly different, and so am I for that matter, because I took a stand and made this choice. I carried the weight of this stance with me to every tournament, and first round loss, every victory. It was not easy, but then what that is worthwhile is?
I will tell you this, emphatically and without a shred of doubt, I did what was right for me with these choices. I didn’t want to have kids. I wasn’t ready when I was 25, I was barely paying my own bills. I wasn’t ready at 35, as I was in between careers and deep in debt from my racquetball days, and I was in the midst of yet another career change at 40. By the time my life had leveled out and I had really gotten a handle on things, I was too old to really think about having kids. My mind had not changed at that point, but I had aged out of the time slot to have kids without a serious increase in risk of health issues for them. I also don’t want to be using a walker to go to my kid’s high school graduation either. I have good friends that follow the “classic route” and are happy doing so, but I knew early on this wasn’t for me.
Takeaway #1: I make my own rules. It is my life, and these are my decisions.
No one else gets to make them for me, or live my life for me either. Another great example of conditioning relates to the holidays and how families gather this time of year. A friend of mine was freaking out because her family decided that they would go out to eat this year instead of hosting thanksgiving dinner at someone’s house. She was so uncomfortable at the idea of not “doing what they always do”, and she literally was having anxiety at the thought of this derivation from the norm. I was laughing at her, partly because of her stress over this, and partly because she was proving my point about what I am writing about here. I don’t think it occurred to her that she could make her own rules, and that they could do this holiday gathering differently than most people.
As it turned out they had a great time. There was no hassle, no all day prep and cooking time for someone to deal with, no mess to clean up afterwards. They came in, sat down, enjoyed to food and the time together, and they left. End of story. They did it their own way, and I hope that was a good lesson for her to do more things outside the box she grew up in.
Since we are on the topic of family, here is another example from my life. There are family members of mine that I do not like, and therefore I do not spend time with them. I used to, and I dreaded it ahead of time, hated it during, and regretted it afterwards. Not any more. Whether those people are family or not, I am not obligated to spend time with them. Anyone that negative, dysfunctional, or otherwise gets weeded out of my life, blood ties or not. Life is too short to spend it with people that have that much of a negative impact on you. I am not interested in the expenditure of energy it takes to tolerate someone I do not want to be in the same room with, and have trimmed those individuals from my life accordingly.
Takeaway #2 – NOTHING is carved in stone
If you are accumulating a bunch of medical school debt pursuing a Doctorate because your parents wanted you to become a doctor, get out now. If this isn’t what YOU want, then what the Hell are you doing? That is ludicrous, and you are setting yourself up for a life of long hours, hard work and a mountain of debt that doesn’t have the love and satisfaction built into it that a career of your choice should. If it comes down to it, stop taking the financial support from the family and pursue what you want. This is what will make you happy, and ultimately (should) make your parents proud of you and happy for you. If you want to pursue an athletic career, travel the world, volunteer in Zimbabwe, whatever, the best time in your life to pursue this is when you are in your early twenties. The next best time is RIGHT NOW. It may take them a little time to come around, you may even need to “prove” your decision was the right one for you over time, like I did. But in the end, you have to do you, and there is no other way to find peace and happiness in your own life.