At the end of life one may come to realize that what got in the way of living it authentically were things that were not necessary to abide by, but human-made constructs that were followed automatically.
I think this is so important to pay attention to because these constructs may only reveal themselves in such clarity to be unnecessary when viewing them through the lens of having little time left (or maybe sooner if we’re in the paradox of being lucky/unlucky enough for a big wake-up call). Things like…
The societal pressure to act and dress a certain way to be accepted, the amount of time we spend working on things that mean nothing to us, that 40 hours has somehow become the decided amount for which to complete every job in America each week (a life-changing idea pointed out in the 4HWW), marrying someone or choosing a major/occupation that no part of us actually wants, doing things out of the vision others have for us instead of our own, worrying about or giving our attention to petty matters, etc.
So how do we escape that which doesn’t serve us and live a full life that does not lead to us asking wtf just happened in the end? For those of us that want to make a change, I don’t find escaping these norms to be easy or to even be purely an individual matter, because they exist on the family/cultural/societal group level. Yet the results of blindly following along in my opinion are revealing themselves to be incredibly detrimental in both overt ways (i.e. people simply commenting on how dissatisfied they are with ‘the way things are,’ burn out, the feeling that there has to be something more, restlessness, etc.) and in covert ways (expressed in my opinion through numbing- contributing in part to the rising use of substances, overeating, excessive distraction, etc.). This is going to sound dramatic but I am not exaggerating when I say I think this is truly a matter of life and death. Are you living a life that makes you feel alive or are you slowly diminishing each today?
I believe it’s serving to ask how, if these norms don’t serve us, do we change what is so ingrained and insidious?
The reason I started asking these questions back in 2011 was because I had the opportunity at the age of 25 to meet many people with illnesses and injuries who commented how living the life they didn’t want is what led to the poor quality of life they had by the time I met them. Many of them insisted that I live my life well, yet I simultaneously was coming to realize that if I stayed on the same track I was on I’d end up with the same anxieties at the end of my life. While I was at jury duty one day in 2012 (btw I found myself relieved to be there instead of at work which then made me realize just how bad my situation was) I did this exercise on ‘fear setting’ to see the potential positive and negative outcomes of making a change. I will share that exercise in another post, it is from Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week. It was the final push from what I remember that got me to take the leap. For now, I’ll share some of the actual pros/cons of leaving my ordinary life, which I now realize has involved escaping many of the human-made constructs I mentioned previously...
- Doubt/worry/judgement from family members
- Financial instability
- Moments of stress about basic needs being met- shelter, healthy food, car repairs
- Misconceptions by many others about who you are and what you’re doing
- Being bitten by a brown recluse spider in the desert and walking into the ER without health insurance
- Realizing the person you’ve become vs. who you may be if you waited
- How many times your needs actually are met in magical and unexpected ways
- Realizing you would have spent a lot more money (and life) on making sure you had health insurance
- When your family starts to change their mind because they realize that not all of their fears about you were founded and they eventually respect you more for who you’ve become in the process and some of them even get inspired by your journey and support you in it and maybe even make changes in their own life as well
- The feeling of being truly yourself in the presence of others when it wasn’t like that before
- Everything you learn along the way- increasing your skills in variety of ways you had never planned
- Meeting people you would have never met otherwise that relate to your weirdness and your view on life
- Getting used to do doing things that are scary, leading to doing things that you always wanted to do despite the fear like public speaking or acro yoga or meeting new people and moving to new places
- Getting over things that used to bother you
- Finding new connections with friends / healthy relationships
- Not regretting a thing despite the challenges
- Knowing that you can always ‘go back’ in some way to the way things were previously, but never actually choosing to
- And so much more...
With these potential pro/cons that are consistent with not only my journey but many others I’ve met on the path, the answer to the question of how to do things differently comes down to the willingness to respond to what is calling you personally despite the fear, despite the noise and opinions of others. And what is gained from the experience of doing so is likely not what we originally set out for, but about who we become in the process. It is not easy, but a worthwhile journey in my opinion that holds less risk than remaining complacent.
Does anyone here relate or have items to add? I think it’s important to share, and that what this is is a process of coming to life...