Challenging the Path of ‘Normality’

From a very early age, most of our youthful creativity and imagination – our inner child – is trained and taught out of us until we become slaves to grades and test scores. We desperately try to get into a good university so we can get a decent job, climb the career ladder, buy a nice house and car, and start a family. This is the vision of normality, perpetually driven into us by society. So much so, that it can sometimes be very difficult to picture a life for ourselves without striving for these particular goals; to picture a fulfilling life for ourselves outside the norm.

Ask a five year old child what they want to do in life and you will probably get some answers along the lines of: “go to the moon” or “become a pop star” or maybe even “travel around the world”. Not many would say “go to university” or “buy a house” or “start a family”. But somewhere along the lines, most people’s dreams and aspirations change to the second three options, either because that is actually what they want in life, which is great, or because they feel their is no other alternative, which does not need to be the case.

Just for a second, fast-forward fifty years to your final days on this earth and ask your future self the most important question you will ever answer: did I fulfil my own reason for my existence? In other words, was my reason for living achieved? If you are on the path of normality, and you think the answer will be yes, superb. Do what makes you happy and stick with it.

Anxiety

If you think the answer will be no, and you consistently feel pangs of regret or of missed opportunities, make changes to your life, as these feelings will only grow and grow as you get older. They will grow until you make one simple, yet vital, realisation: normality is not for me.

Some people may make this realisation after they retire, as they chase the exciting, romantic life they missed out on when they were young, by moving to another country, possibly Spain or India, e.g. the ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ period. Others, may experience it when they turn fifty, as they decide to splash all their life savings on expensive holidays and fast cars, e.g. the ‘mid-life crisis’ period. Between twenty and thirty-five, one holiday to South-East Asia could be all it takes to make this realisation, e.g. the ‘finding myself’ period.

It can take a long time, sometimes your whole life, but eventually, it’s quite possible you too will have this moment of realisation. Once you do, there is no going back. Society tricks us into believing that the sensible steps we take, e.g. getting a degree and finding a reliable career, will lead to a happy and fulfilling life. Unfortunately, these steps guarantee nothing; and the younger you realise this, the more you are able to do about it. However, it is never too late to have that moment of realisation; that life does not have a generic one-size-fits-all linear structure, and get yourself off the path of normality.

Luggage

If you don’t already feel that you have a purpose for your life in your head, ask yourself every day until you settle upon something that completely satisfies you. Try to remember what your real dreams and aspirations are – release your inner five year old. Once you have something in mind, do everything you possibly can to make it happen. My own dream is to visit every country in the world, as, in my ridiculously systematic head, that would provide me with the greatest opportunity to see the very best, and the very worst, that this world has to offer. That is what I want the purpose of my life to be.

Don’t give up on it. The primary reason people provide for not chasing their lifetime ambition is money – or indeed a lack of. But even if you aren’t able to put a deposit down on a house, or pay for a wedding, or buy a second-hand car, you may already have everything you need to start fulfilling your reason for living. Just ask yourself what it is, and don’t let the fear of leading an unconventional life stop you.

A fantastic example of this comes from an Australian couple, Meagen Collins and Tom Williams, who gave up the opportunity to own a house, withdrew their mortgage deposit, and used it to start travelling the world, permanently. They live off $30 a day – generated through their website and sale of their podcasts – which they have used to swim with whale sharks in the Philippines, live in a volcanic spa in South Korea and have birthday drinks with an Angolan diplomat in Portugal.

[Before] It was all work and no life. I could look back on a year and only remember a few key events. Repetitive routine was essentially robbing me of life memories. I don’t have that problem now. We have zero regrets leaving our stuff. Materialism doesn’t make us happy, social interactions, experiences and memories do. I don’t remember my toaster, but I will remember crossing the Gobi Desert in Mongolia for the rest of my life. Plus, other people around the world have toasters, I don’t need my own.

Gobi Desert, Mongolia

Read about their story here…

But don’t just be envious of their lifestyle if that is what you dream of doing yourself. You can do the same. Save enough to take the initial plunge, find an income stream whilst on the move and you too could be getting drunk with an Angolan diplomat.

The path of normality is the correct route for most; it offers stability, social acceptance and monetary rewards. But if you suddenly wake up and realise that that is not what you want in life, do not fret. It is never too late to realise that normality is not for you, take your life savings and spend it all on the reason for your existence. After all, when you are silver-haired and in your rocking chair, you won’t remember your toaster.

J

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