For a large part of my life, I tried desperately to be normal. What I mean is that I tried to conform with what the majority of people were doing.
With age and reflection, my past attempts to try to be normal led me down paths that gave me no happiness and were at times, exhausting and destructive.
It was only when I reached my mid 40’s that I realised that for me to normal I had to follow my natural instincts and do what feels right for me.
I’ll give you an example. I was always under the belief that being socially active was the normal thing to do. Attending morning teas and parties is what everyone else would do, so I followed suit. However, I found that the only way I could attend a function with a large group of people and feel at all comfortable was to drink alcohol. And not just a beer or two but to binge. This obviously is not the healthiest thing to do but probably worse is that I acted completely different to my own personality. I was loud and out-going, where I am generally reserved and reflective. Strangely enough, the loud and out-going me was quite successful with women but needless to say, when they met the real me, it was awkward and things did not progress.
That is just one example of where I have followed a path in the past to be normal and socially accepted. Others have been:
- Following a safe and secure career path
- Buying a particular type of car, or car in general
- Wearing a particular brand of clothes
- Not taking risks with career or finances
I’m not sure exactly what the trigger was but one day I started to consider that maybe I should put myself first rather than worry what others thought of me. Maybe it was from a discussion I was having with a friend from a previous job. He is very attracted to men, however, he insisted that he wanted to get married to a woman and have children. When I pressed him a little, he responded that it would make his family happy and it was what they did in his culture.
I didn’t argue the point further but it did seem strange that he was doing something to make other people happy and to meet his cultural standards rather than following what was natural to him. Anyway, it made me consider my choices. Was I basing my choices on what was right for me or just to conform.
I realised then and more so since, there are so many things that are normal to others but seem abnormal to me. Some that come to mind:
- The Kardashian’s. While I love reality TV, I cannot see the universal appeal for this family. To me, this family seems to lead a existence without substance. To me this doesn’t serve as entertainment yet their every movement is of social importance.
- Going to church or following a religion in general. I won’t get into a theological debate on this one. I’m very spiritual and I’m a strong believer in karma but organised religion and praying to a God does not seem logical to me.
- Buying a ‘forever’ home. I rarely stay in a home for more then 2-3 years. To wake up in the same room for the rest of my life seems depressing.
- Having children. I don’t particularly like children and don’t feel compelled to have my name carried on.
- Working for one company your whole career. I actually admire this but it isn’t for me. To my career advancement detriment, I change jobs frequently.
Please, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of the points above. They are simply my opinions and I don’t judge anyone for thinking the opposite. Well, in the case of the Kardashian’s, I pretty much assume you are not right in the head if you like them! What I really mean is, what is right for one person does not mean that it has to be the only way.
Recently, I was in conversation with a colleague at work. He was telling me that on the weekend he had some activities to do with his family. He asked if I was married and had kids and I said no. He asked me then ‘So what do you do then?’. I actually took offence at this comment as I perceived he was judging me and that my life had no value without a wife and kids. This bugged me for a while until it came to me that he didn’t know me, what I had done in my life or what my interests were. His life was not normal for me but I didn’t judge him for choosing it and he shouldn’t have judged me.
To summarise my point in a nutshell, I would say ‘Follow your own path’. Do what feels right for you and makes you happy. I would much prefer to be considered an eccentric that goes by the beat of his own drum than a sheep that follows the herd.
In saying all this, you still have to follow some reasonable societal standards. For instance, regardless if it feels normal or not, you should not purposely break laws just because it feels right. Also, you must be reasonably considerate of others. To swear loudly on a crowded train may feel comfortable for you but would be unpleasant for others and may get you a punch upside the head.