It’s been two years since I left my job and life as I knew it. It was a decision that had been roaming in my head for months, but fear of the unknown held me back. I wanted change but was afraid of getting it wrong. I was unhappy but had no guarantee that leaving would bring me happiness.
It’s hard to envision a new life, a reality different from the one you know and have experienced. Through our experiences we develop a concept of what’s normal and defend it like it’s the only certainty in our lives. We are attached to our expectations and all the things we think we can’t live without. We are taught to be ambitious and want those things. Many of us are told to dream big and then we’re told what to dream, bombarded by images of an ideal life. So, we live in constant comparison and fear of inadequacy. And we forget what really matters. I had to leave to figure it out.
Change, particularly drastic change, triggers a destabilizing stressful reaction in most humans. Yet we underestimate our survival spirit and sense of adaptability. It’s just a matter of time before we are able to adjust and conform to a different environment, before the new stops feeling new and becomes our normal. Some of the things we were used to begin to lose value, while others gain new meaning. And we’re left to wonder, Why did I wait so long to make that change? What was I so afraid of? Judgement, I say, judgement.
Think about this… How would you live your life if no one was watching?
How would you live your life if you knew nothing about how others were living theirs?
I’m not advocating for chaos or ignorance or isolation. But the idyllic vision of the American white picket fence was created by someone and unconsciously accepted by all. We overestimate the concept of happiness like it’s a state we can only reach once we’ve ticked off a series of boxes: stellar career, financial wealth, perfect family, numerous friends, etc. But is it what each of us really wants? Or, to refence another American idiom, are we just trying to keep up with the Joneses because we obsessively measure our life against that of the people in our network?
There was a time when our network was limited to our closest friends and family, people who truly mattered to us. Then came social media and the concept of friend started to broaden. Now, while I recognize the value of Facebook in the barriers it has brought down connecting people from around the world and building communities that bond and inspire, I can’t help but fear the damages of living with the daily judgement of, and comparison to, an immense audience of strangers.
Who are the people in your life who know you deeply and accept you and love you unconditionally? The people who want your happiness and will celebrate it with you no matter their own emotional state? The people who don’t care if you’re a doctor or a comedian, or if you have children or pets? Those who do not pretend to tell you how to live your life and they do not condemn you for doing so in a way that’s different from theirs? These people should be your only audience.
So, I challenge you. Silence the noise and focus on your own voice. Abandon those who do not support you. Take a chance. Make a change. Step outside the lines. Erase and redraw the lines.
Find the happiness that exists in every moment you get to choose how to live your life.