you have permission to break the rules/social “norms”/social conformity and your peers’ “benchmarks”

where do you live? what part of the city do you live in? do you rent? do you own? what do you do? blah blah blah?

recently I was on the beach at an upscale resort. all day sitting next to me was a woman and her husband, and occasionally their 2 children came by their cabana. I had decided to travel alone. significant other or not, I love to travel alone. I need that space to think. to feel. to think and feel what is genuinely only my thinking and feeling. this makes me a better person for those close to me and for my work. anyhow, after blatantly gazing (studying) at me on and off for a few hours as I took conference calls and lay in the sun with full buns out, I was hit with a series of non-stop questions by the woman. at first I was caught off guard, and rested enough to engage with another human, so I just began to answer them. one of the reasons I had chosen this resort in the first place was to not be bothered by anyone the way I often feel bothered in New York City. by “bother” I mean mostly crowds and unsolicited conversation, but also measured, analyzed, compared against someone else’s personal insecurity or measure of what is acceptable or successful or whatever people measure other people by. I also assumed I would be free from all of that because perhaps the people on holiday at this location had absolutely nothing to prove because…I don’t even know.

where do you live? what part of the city do you live in? do you rent? do you own? what do you do? as I began to answer these questions, I realized that the woman asking them was not engaging me — she was like filling out a form and checking boxes that didn’t even make sense to me until hours later when I thought retroactively about the odd interaction. as I gave her simple answers, she began to immediately explain why she lived in New Jersey. I found it odd, at the time of her talking away, that anyone would start to tell a stranger where they lived and why. I had not asked why. nor would I. but I was relaxed, with a fabulous bourbon drink in my hand, and I wasn’t interested in analyzing anything. she asked me if I owned and started to explain why they never bought in New York City and how it was a big regret. she said that like 3 times actually. I wasn’t even sure what she was talking about, where she was going with it or why. she then went on to ask me how I knew of such a resort, because it usually only attracts celebrities and rich people from outside the US. she told me about the yachts resort guests and how they would compete with one another on holidays and how people would try to do business with others on the beach and often used it as a connection-making holiday. she talked about how ridiculous she found it. I had been at the resort for about 3 days and I hadn’t seen any of that. in fact, I saw nothing but people like me (and only one celebrity): unconcerned with those around them, burned out from work, catatonic stares at the ocean, nothing to prove, drinks and buns out. did I mention buns out? some of the middle aged and senior folks were vaping away with their sativa pens all day long, doing business deals on the beach, drinking cocktails, and playing with their children or nieces or nephews in the water. when the woman felt like she had enough information from me, she let me know that I was “still young” as she passed me off, and it occurred to me that, after her assessment, she, with relief, believed I was in my 20s (I can guarantee that we are only about 5 years apart).

I might be wrong, but I’m pretty certain that this woman, although she loves her children (who are beautiful and seem awesome) and her husband, feels unfulfilled and was looking to know whether I had decided or not to play by my own rules in life. had I told her that I’m actually well into my 30s, that my parents or sugar daddy did not pay for my time at that beach, that I am self-made, that I sold the only thing that I ever owned, that I don’t care about buying anything ever but if I do then “fine”, that I haven’t married yet simply because I chose to focus on work and self first and I can get married any dang day I like, that I will also have children any dang day I like (yes – this is my attitude for real, happily discarding norms there as well), I’m curious as to how she would have reacted. I was much “safer” – for her own peace of mind with her lot in life – being seen as a young lucky 20-something who would undoubtedly follow the herd and suffer the same fate of lack of fulfillment and obsessive comparison to others. the fact is, my reality shatters a lot of ego when it comes to women or people in general who have made life decisions from a mostly conforming point of view. because I haven’t. and I reek of freedom. and it pisses people off. but that doesn’t mean I didn’t suffer along the way dag-nag-it. like it was some kind of cake walk for me and I just woke up like this? no. the fact also is, I look younger than my chronological year because I haven’t made decisions that make me unhappy on the inside but conform on the outside. anyway, once the woman had it in her mind that I wasn’t a threat in some way, or whatever, she acted like she didn’t see me and had never spoken to me before. I sat next to her the next day and I might as well have been a ghost as she turned her back to me — direct opposition to her state of fake friendliness and grand inquisition just 24 hours prior. but, she had collected her data, entered it into her spreadsheet of false confidence, and quickly moved onto the next situation that she could size up against her life. I couldn’t believe it! are people really like that? do they know that it is obvious?

that next day, I also had a call scheduled with my therapist. vacations and holidays can tend to be a trigger for me due to some serious early life trauma that seemed to land, without fail, on every single vacation or holiday. as my therapist and I spoke about my week and generally what was happening in my life, I briefly mentioned the woman on the beach — because honestly, the experience was just so ODD. my therapist is at least twice my age. she married super young. she had kids by 21. she has lived and she has experienced the after affects of many decisions in her life, for better and for worse. she immediately jumped to fill in the blanks for me regarding the woman at the beach, and echoed this feeling I had about people and their general desperation to fit in, but then be ok with their decision to fit in by creatively rationalizing the lives of strangers. initially what came up for me during the conversation with my therapist was the thought that maybe I’m like a societal pariah with some kind of scarlet letter, somehow wrong for staying true to myself and not selling out — that maybe this whole honoring myself thing is actually like a punishable crime! I mean, people act like it is. like the woman on the beach. the perceived threat many people feel when faced with someone else’s thinking and doing based on their internal barometer versus some manual of “social acceptance” is like the wrath of hell that they experience and then spit out at you in projection. if I had a dime for each time that has happened to me…

at the end of our conversation, my therapist told me that if she were to do it again, she never would have had children. she did it because, well, that is what you did in the 50s when you wanted to have sex with a man. you got married and then you had children. I don’t believe she regrets anything at all — there is no such thing as a mistake in life. there is only the threat of resistance to the soul once we realize that we are, in fact, not living in personal alignment. that realization is pure opportunity to shift gears at any time.

this little resort experience that I describe here is everywhere! in fact, the woman on the beach reminded me of a relative of mine — this relative of mine, every gathering that was had, would pummel me with these superficially-measured questions (how much do you charge for your sessions? how many do you do per week? — instead of what happens in a session? how do you feel? what’s that like for you?). she married super young, she was very competitive, and unfortunately given her competitiveness created for herself no purpose other than to raise two children and appear full on the outside with help from her husband’s wealth. I knew better. and she was faking a happy life, withering away in her soul, and simultaneously trying to rationalize it by eliminating me as a threat to her reality with analysis and passive aggressive comments any time she had the opportunity. her end game, each time, was to get me to question my life based on my decisions, and based on her “norms”. happy people do not do that. they don’t have to. happy people care about your heart and they talk about things that reflect that. not money or achievement by way of timely relationships.

it’s unhappy or fractured humans who impose these very “norms” that have fractured and dismantled their happiness upon others. when we listen to that radio station, or any station other than our own, we then fall prey to the same fate as those who live in fear and repeat that cycle. then we find it in magazines, movies, advertising and in most social circles (except the art world — God bless the art world! — and generally speaking, New York City — NYC is the one city in which I do not feel any social pressure to do any one thing. and maybe LA too, because Hollyweird). I am here to tell you that if you are falling prey to the above — aka SETTLING — you do not have to. why do you not have to?

first of all, no one cares. seriously. they act like they care, because they care about what people think of THEM. so they pretend to care about you so that they can feel better about their own life. I can’t tell you how many people I have seen marry each other out of “well I guess it’s time” or “we’ve been together this long, so…” or “she’s pregnant!! how did that happen?” or “my family expects me to settle down by such and such age, it’s kind of protocol” or “all of my friends are doing xyz I don’t want to be the outlier” and they are so miserable years later. because they didn’t choose themself. they chose an idea. they chose to “fit in”. and there is a cost when we make a choice that is not actually ours. guess what happens when we make decisions out of conformity aka FEAR? we suffer. when we do this, a piece of our soul dies. we secretly begin to hate ourselves. we look for others who also hate themselves. so what do we do, if we have done this? what do we do if we have sold out?

it is never too late to live the life you have always dreamed of. so, what we do is we act upon our highest integrity at that moment. we get a divorce if that will liberate our soul (I have admittedly bypassed at least one wedding that I knew was not honest, one of a former friend that I knew was a sham and would end in destruction in 2 years flat due to cheating and dishonesty, but their desperation to fit a mold of “wedding” for family and friends was too overwhelming than to simply honor their soul). forgetting about the stupid “financial” consequences associated with separation. we choose our self instead. if we have children, we set the example of personal integrity, not a facade. we leave a job if that will liberate our soul. we leap and the net will appear. we end a friendship if that will liberate our soul. we spend time alone, wondering where our tribe is, and we deal with it. we take any action that we can in the direction of personal alignment (thoughts=words=feelings=actions). “it’s not that easy” — oh really? so living an entire life of lies and resentment is easier? it’s actually much harder. yes, living a life of lies and resentment is surely an epidemic afflicting many. but just because it afflicts many, does not mean that it is easier to join them. on a soul level, where there is intrinsically unlawful conformity, we suffer even when we “fit in”. so if we have decided out of fear to “fit in” and now we regret it, we can do something about it.

when I was leaving corporate America in 2006, I felt like I was dying inside. I was programmed to get a “regular” job and use my degree. which I didn’t even want or care about. I cried on my graduation day from University because I felt like a fraud to myself. this was my soul crying, alerting me to consciousness around my personal truth. I had been urged and persuaded to live a life that other people felt made them look good. so when I finally admitted to myself who and what I was, I knew that I had to do something about that. it was not easy. I turned down a major job opportunity ($$$, travel, fun, “accomplishment”) in finance to wait tables. at first, every table that I waited on, I wanted to tell them that I was smart and I had a degree and I had just turned down this major job. my ego was taking a hit, and I judged myself for that. I didn’t know who I was, at that time, without another title. I quickly decided that I would murder that ego, and simply exist as an energy, not a piece of paper. I decided that those who “saw” me would already see all that I was, no matter the on paper facts. I felt insecure at this table waiting job, I wasn’t very good at waiting tables, I felt old, and people said obnoxious things to me all of the time (like “hey! you look like this famous actress! her face is crooked too!). all of that said, I went through the crushing fear that encompasses taking the alternative road in life. most of us are just never willing to go through that death of self. which, by the way, only lasts in suffering for like a month or two! it’s not worth obliging conformity to end up spending a lifetime wondering “what if?” or “who am I really?”.

throughout my 20s, there were several significant relationships and the men wanted to get married. I felt that to do so would ruin my life. not because the men were bad, but because I knew I was still settling. I couldn’t understand how I, personally, could continue to grow and flourish in my career AND “settle” down at a pretty young age with someone who had a ceiling that I didn’t have in life. so, though I was becoming an old maid by southern standards, I knew that I was about to step into the best time of my life if I went my own way. like leaving corporate, this was also a very hard decision to make, when it would have been so “easy” to marry a nice guy who just wanted to support me and have children. I knew that, once again, my ego would take a hit as I ventured into my 30s as a single woman. but that my soul would rejoice. and oh, did it ever.

it’s not like making these decisions for one’s own soul and well-being are EASY. if they were easy, everyone would make them. but I will tell you what IS easy: the long-term. the short-term, the ego-breaking period associated with dismantling your peers’ “benchmarks” sucks. because we naturally gage differences between our lives and the lives of others. but the way I see it, is why would I decide to live an entire life of lies just to avoid the inevitable short-term ego break, when I could just break that bone from the beginning and then spend the rest of my life healing it? the bone is going to break no matter what, when we are not making decisions for our highest joy.

the same notion can be said for stupid material benchmarks that we find important or “on par” with our contemporaries (or society at large). at what cost do we constantly need to fit in? when the lady on the beach asked me if I owned (who the flock asks these questions to a complete stranger on the beach?), it reminded me of a young woman who had seen me for a session who had noted that I lived “simply” compared to what I was capable of living material-wise. I remember being taken aback at first by her perception or perceptivity, but I also realized that yes: material items and benchmarks do not matter to me. when I began making real grownup money a few years ago, I recall recognizing the fact that I could go buy a house somewhere or stress myself just to own some fancy apartment in the city. but it wasn’t important to my personal sense of luxury or comfort. I, rather, felt more comfortable donating money to animal rescue groups and other charities and projects that build opportunities for humans. I preferred to spend my money on very expensive stones to use in my healing work. I preferred also to boomerang my profits nearly 80% back into my business and hired staff to support me as I moved toward additional goals in the healing arena. I didn’t care about living in the fanciest apartment or buying something that frankly even a fraction of my healing stones and jewelry (which helped to build a sustainable business overseas) could support.

now, regarding all of the above, I would like to say that some of the best couples I know got married in their 20s and have beautiful children and they are also totally in their purpose and happiness! just because someone has fallen into the zone of majority in terms of partnership, family or material staples does not mean they are conforming. I am not, for one moment, suggesting that. it’s just that the percentage of those people, who chose themselves and also falls into the majority, is very small. and you can see it in their faces and in the way they engage. they don’t pummel others with questions to measure their personal situations, and they don’t need to compare or compensate with on paper facts. it’s obvious when someone has not conformed, yet happens to fall into a certain demographic that many people share. the percentage of these non-comformer people is small because it is inherent in the human condition to be like other people. we perceivably suffer when stand like the lone ranger. it’s not a naturally comfortable feeling. but we have a choice: short or long-term discomfort?

I am here to tell you that no matter your placement and timeline associated with partnership, family, career, material wealth or other societal suggested “success” and “norms”, you always have the choice to be true to you. I am here to tell you that absolutely no one cares what you decide to do: they care what they have decided to do. perhaps you can be the one to set the new tone by honoring yourself and breaking the rules. perhaps doing this will give many, many other people permission to do the same. and they will smile with gratitude. perhaps it is your liberation from your own conformity, no matter where you are at as a result from past decisions, that is needed to inspire others. and they will smile with gratitude. what if you are the pioneer that others will thank for lighting the way? you have permission to break the rules. I hope that my share adds to that permission. it wasn’t easy for me. it’s not easy for anyone. but it’s worth it, no matter what. I broke all of the rules that were laid out for me and now things are SO EASY. you can go your own way too — no matter what it looks like on paper, past or present. it’s always easier to feel flawed versus bitter.