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Monday, February 20, 2012

It is MY Life, and I Choose to be Happy

I was reading a blog this morning from “Single Dad Laughing” that posed the question “Whose Life is it Anyway?” -

It really got me to thinking. His story of how he changed his life against the better judgment of those around him really resonates with me, especially since in a way, my own story is has many similarities. I have to admit that I have not actually read the entire post yet, I got too excited and had to stop reading to start writing. The basic premiss of the post is that most people spend so much of their energies trying to live the life that other people think they should have, that they end up making themselves miserable because they are not living the life they really want to be living.

Social pressures to conform come at us from every direction every day of our lives. Whether from family and friends or from complete strangers on tv and now the internet, everyone has an opinion of how we should think, how we should feel, what we should believe, how we should behave. And my gawd if you dare to think for yourself and make your own decisions about how you want to live your life that don't fit into their narrow world views, well that is just NOT acceptable!

Here I was thinking I was somehow different. That my family held the monopoly on trying to direct and control other peoples lives. Silly me, the whole freaking world is that way! I guess I probably did know that all along, but I never really thought it all the way through before. I have been so completely ostracized from a world that I don't fit into that sometimes I lose sight of the fact that most everyone else probably feels exactly the same way.

We are surrounded by unrealistic expectations from the moment we are born, and the well meaning intentions of those who love us will always keep us from becoming our true authentic selves if we allow them to. Parents want to “protect” their children. That is our job. Unfortunately it really easy to protect them way too much for way too long. When the people who love you are “protecting” you from living the life you want, they really believe it is in your best interest. They don't want you to be hurt if you fail, but in the process they are actually hurting you more than any failure ever could.

Everyone wants to be happy. At least they want to think they do. The problem is that we are made to believe that the only way to be happy is to follow the “in crowd”, to live your life the way those around you live theirs, to follow the status quo. Unfortunately that is a one way ticket to depression and misery. There is no happiness to be found chasing other peoples dreams. There is no happiness to be found in denying your own dreams for the sake of other peoples opinions or beliefs. Happiness comes from being true to yourself and your own dreams, no matter what any one else thinks about them.

I find it funny to ask other parents what they would like their children to be when they grow up. I always get answers like “a doctor”, “a lawyer”, or some thing along those lines. My answer to that question, what do I want my kids to be when they grow up? Happy. Healthy would be nice too, but mostly I just want them to be happy. I know what it is like to live without happiness, I don't wish that on anyone (well, maybe a couple of people). I don't care if they are rich or poor, atheist or christian or Buddhist, whether they are gay or straight, fat or skinny, tall or short, none of that matters in the grand scheme of things. The only thing that really matters is happiness, because without happiness nothing else really matters.

For me, happiness came when I decided that this was MY life and I am going to live it the way I want to live it and I do not care what anyone else thinks about it anymore! When I decided that I came first in my life, and that what I wanted and who I wanted to be was far more important than what other people thought I should want, that was when the door out of depression finally opened and the light came flooding in. And the more I stand up for my right to live my own life my own way, the happier I become. Even though many of the people I love walked out of my life because they refused to accept the life I chose, and it saddens me to lose them, by walking away they finally gave me the freedom to be happy without feeling guilty for not being who they think I should be. I no longer have to pretend to be someone I hate, I no longer have to hide who I am in a corner, I can be me, ... finally, fully the me I want to be. That makes me very happy.

My dearly departed mentor in life views, George Carlin, once said something to the effect of “Life gets a lot easier when you learn not to give a crap.” I think that may be true, at least it is true for me. I certainly hope there are families out there who love each other and support each other whether they all think exactly the same way or not, but I didn't get one of those families and I cannot change that fact. I can either choose to pretend to think like them and be a part of their lives while being miserable in my own life, or I can have the life I want and be happy and have my existence ignored by the rest of the family. I have learned I just can't afford to give a crap anymore about what other people think. I have to be true to who I am if I am to be happy. So it is MY LIFE DAMNIT! And once I took ownership of it, regardless of what other people thought, wanted or believed, I found that I am finally happy that it is mine.


  1. I have always hated those high school graduation speeches where graduates are exhorted to go out & change the world! The implications of if you don't 'make a mark' are that you are a failure, a waste of space. (appropriate change being as dictated by social mores, naturally) Seriously...what kind of bullshit nonsense is this!? Few people are going to be 'leaders' or are going to be 'people of note'....& that is *fine*. It's a good & great thing to decide that making a mark in this world is the same thing as living a life of happiness, contentment, & not blowing it up.

  2. I commend you for your bravery. I'm lucky in that I have a family that completely supports me being me. The problem for me is the rest of the world.

    I grew up in a small, conservative town with peace-loving, open-minded, marijuana-smoking, music-loving, fairly poor (money-wise), but caring, kind parents. However, I was also constantly told: "don't tell others about our life, they won't understand" (in various ways about various things) and so I grew up with one foot in the "real" (read: close-minded, conservative) world and one foot in MY real world.

    I always loved reading as a kid and academics came easy to me. So - when I found myself pregnant at 19, I committed myself to pursuing an education. The father of my child (a musician, like my dad, ironically) comes from a wealthy (conservative) family. They encouraged me to go to law school and so I did. I loved it in one sense, but the more I learned about conforming and becoming an accepted part of the "real" world, the more distance I put between the Self I am inside and the person I presented to the world.

    That relationship ended. I'm in another one, with a much more mentally stable, accepting, kind man. My daughter is 19 (the age I was when I had her) and I have 3 young children with my new partner. I left the practice of law, I work from home, I am far more MYSELF than I could ever think of being over the last 20 years....BUT, I still find myself straddling these two worlds, scared to reveal the REAL me to the "real" world.

    I guess maybe part of it is the fear my family instilled in me as a child (the - "what will they think?" ... or maybe it was the - "they'll tear our family apart if they know we smoke pot" ... ironically, part of my law career was in child protection, representing first parents...which I actually enjoyed...and then the Agency...which I HATED). The rest of it is obviously self imposed. WHY do I care what THEY think?!

    It's so inspiring to me that you have faced these same questions - albeit in different contexts - and have arrived at the brave (and yet only sane choice) BE YOURSELF. So what if that self talks like a trucker (I'm talking about me here) or would rather stay home and get high (illegal) than go out and get drunk (socially acceptable, though WHY is beyond me)?!

    I'm still struggling with all of this. It definitely gets easier as I get older. Maybe 40 (on the horizon) will be the turning point. Maybe by then I will be able to publish a comment like this from ME and not anonymously.

    In the meantime, thanks for sharing your story for those of us who aren't quite ready to stand up and take ownership of our own.