Take your own path!
The path from dreams to success does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get on to it, and the perseverance to follow it. ~ Kalpana Chawla
I was thinking about something today, something I refer to as the script. The script is that generic normal American pathway that we’re all expected to take. It’s a way to summarize the expectations for the life of a “normal” American. We all know the pathway. You go to high school, play sports or be in the band, you go to college, you go a little crazy but you settle down before graduation and find a partner and a career. Sometime in your late 20’s as you settle on the career ladder that you’re going to climb you get married. You might wait a couple of years, but no too long, because you have to start a family and buy a house. So by your early 30’s you’re locked in a career path, you’ve got a couple of kids, you’ve established your couple friends who also have kids. You work too much, take your two weeks of vacation every year, we all know the vacation. Get in the car on a Friday night or Saturday morning, drive like hell to a rental house or hotel at the beach. Get sunburned, buy stupid trinkets, do too much then pile back in the car the next Saturday and drive too many hours home to be ready to go back to work no less stressed than when you left.
Now what’s wrong with that you might ask? Nothing, if that pathway makes you happy. The problem is that we also attach to it the idea that not following the script is a failure. In America different is very clearly bad. Ask any woman in her 30’s who hasn’t had kids yet, how many times a day she gets asked about having kids? I can’t count how many times in my early 30’s I heard when are you going to settle down, find a woman and start a family? You see not following the script is an indication that there is something wrong with you.
For people who are gay these expectations and disappointments are especially tough. This goes for anyone else who is considered different, whether it’s related to their gender identity, the sexual orientation, the religious beliefs or lack there of or non-traditional political affiliations. People, intentionally or not, make others feel bad by proselytizing the script. I can honestly say that I was well into my 40’s before people stopped trying to make me feel bad for not following the script and accepted I likely never would, and that frankly I didn’t care about their script.
Tonight I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to follow that script. The script is shit! It never fit me, it doesn’t fit a lot of people, in fact I’ll go so far to say there are plenty of people who follow the script who are very unhappy because it doesn’t fit them but they’re living it. I personally know a number of people who got married because it was the right time in their life, not because it was the right person or relationship. I’ve watched people get married because they feared living alone, we all know, that living alone means you’re a relationship failure, or something is wrong with you.
The script is deeply embedded in society, I’ll never a forget a first date I had. The date was going great, we had things in common, we talked easily, we laughed and I could tell she really liked me. Then she asked me the big question, “have you really never been married? Then, she was more honest than most, she followed up with, “you seem great, and that makes me wonder what’s wrong with you?” I said to her, you’d be happier if I’d met someone, got married and couldn’t make it work, utterly complicated my life and possibly threw some kid’s lives in turmoil? So, that would make me ok, making a bad decision, but not having found the right person, so not just getting married to get married makes me defective? I was about 35 at the time. She was completely perplexed and stunned then, she said, “I never thought about it that way.” I let her know at that point that her lack of thinking is why we wouldn’t have a second date. She was offended, called me a couple of names, now that she’d confirmed there was something wrong with me and stormed out. The night worked out ok, the waitress had been in earshot during the conversation, brought the check, smiled and said, “I think you dodged a bullet,” her phone number was on the check.
The thing is you could see that this woman, and most of society are convinced that the script is success in life, it’s not. And I know this because I’m almost 60 and a lot of those people who earlier in my life had assumed my life was a total failure, now have great admiration for the unconventional path I’ve followed. They see someone who utterly ignored the script who is happy, in a good place career wise and financially, who has also traveled the world, had many adventures, written books and is a very interesting person overall. They never saw that as possible, they didn’t think you could find success unless you followed the script.
So if you don’t fit, GOOD! Build your own path, take the road less traveled or even untraveled. Find your own way. Will it be easy, absolutely not, will people look at you weird, question your sanity, make you feel bad, yes, unfortunately they will. But there are enough of us square pegs in the world who will cheer you on. I’m here to tell you that your own unique path can lead to success, happiness, a well-lived life and provide you with many happy days my friends. ~ Rev Kane