Similarly to the post on The Pursuit of Happiness where I address how happiness is a choice, this post looks at how being different is a gift.
You’ve probably heard this is number of times, “Stand out. Don’t conform. Be original” And you’ve probably appreciated what it means, but have you really thought about it. To flock is to fit into the crowd, to follow standards and simply, not be different. Now, let’s unpack this concept of “being different”.
Your life’s path, though perhaps not how you planned it, is different from that of your peers. Your dreams are different, your desires are different and your journey is different, because of your choices or because of measures beyond your control. Why then do we conform to what others deem the normal life choices. That you need to be married at a certain age, bear children at a certain age, have career goals or have achieved academic or career objectives/ positions by a certain age? Why do we feel inadequate if we do not drive a fancy (ridiculously priced car) by a certain age or have fancy homes because our peers do? This is flocking… to fit into the cookie cutter life mold that has been deemed ‘normal’ by societal standards.
What does not conforming mean? It’s not just about your personality traits, its also about your ‘life traits’. While a trait, as defined by google, is “a distinguishing quality or characteristic, typically one belonging to a person, here we can see a life trait as “a journey descriptor belonging to a person”. So while you have characteristics which combined makes up who you are, so too is your life unique, made up from choices and for lack of better wording, luck. More individuals are defining their own life standards. Indivuals are deciding to get married later, to wait to have kids, to travel more, to focus their careers. They are redefining standards, but as more and more people shift and thus adjust to these standards, they merely normalize these as new standards. While people then still consciously decide to select these life choices one should not feel pressure to select it. Basically, decide for yourself what path is right for you. Do not follow a life path because society deems it as normal or right … only you can define what is right for you.
I refer to my parents as an example. Both got married after the age of 30, in fact my mum had no intention of getting married, both traveled first before settling down and my mum is 3 years older than my dad. Now while this is all the norm now a days, I am talking 35 years ago. Back in the day this was not the norm and especially not in an Indian community. Nope, not in the least. If you were 25 and not married, you were past your sell by date or what they termed in the old days, ‘left on the shelf’. While I think that my mom was pretty brave and a trend setter, her life choices which was seen as not normal back then, is kinda a way of life today.
And thus, do not flock by needing to achieve career objectives according to societal standards. Careers that bring money or social status too shift with time. A few decades ago being a doctor, lawyer or teacher was the height of career success (at least according to a South African Indian family’s standards). While those careers are still commendable career choices, today I would be more financially rewarded if I were a qualified plumber or electrician than if I were a teacher. And in just a few more years financial and social standards of succeeds will shift too, as new career developments become front runners for career goals. Thus, set your own career goals according to your passions and your own objectives and not society’s, as you will be the one having to work that job in the field you choose.
Do not flock by needing to conform to romantic ideals; do not settle just because society thinks you’re reaching your sell by date. Do not flock by needing to fit into life moulds; just as you are unique, your life path is unique too. Do not feel the need to set your objectives based on the comparatives of others in your social circle. Once you make peace with who you are and what you want out of life, is when you will be happy. Only YOU know what you want out of life. You need to look into yourself and decide on the career path that YOU want and the life path that YOU want. Look for what will make YOU happy, not everyone else.