I don’t like having to justify my life to other people – and yet I feel like I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to do just that. It’s not that I have some crazy lifestyle that is so different than most people. It’s more that I haven’t done what would be expected out of someone with my background and means. Nor have I rebelled against it so fully as to be its own way of explanation. I simply “failed to achieve” certain milestones or really have much ‘to show for myself’. Since I’ve never been very vocal against shooting for the things most women in my situation (try to) attain, I guess that means to most people that I want them too and just didn’t succeed. And, to a certain extent, I’ve spent the last few years of my life trying to convince myself that it’s okay that I don’t live my life the way society tells me I should, the way my parents expected, and the way I thought I wanted to for so long.
I’m getting to the point where I realize that what is right for most people isn’t quite right for me. I don’t need to do or need to have certain things in my life to be happy and complete. I don’t have everything figured out yet and am still searching to find the things that do make me feel that way, but I know which things I don’t need and don’t really want either. I have a lot in my life but it’s intangible, inexplicable things. I have time and freedom and I get to move at my own pace. Many people might look at me and think I’m wasting my life but, really, that’s their own values and ideals trying to overlay onto my life. Like trying to measure a ball with a yard stick. Their problem – not mine.
I met Hubby relatively early in my life. (It seemed late at the time to be dating a ‘first boyfriend’ but since he was the one I ended up spending all this time with and I didn’t have to try on a bunch to find a good fit, it could have been much much later and I know many people my age who still haven’t met their person.) It seemed I was on track then to hit all those other markers in life that make one a ‘successful adult’. But I sort of stalled right out of the gate on that front. We did get married eventually, but we never had kids. I never graduated from university and got a career. I didn’t even stick with any one job for very long. Hell, I never even got my driver’s licence! Looking down the adult checklist, I have mostly only unchecked items.
Until recently, that made me feel bad – like I was defective or lacking something. I think it’s because I felt the pressure to be that person that I also felt the need to defend myself, but because I didn’t actually go through with most of it (maybe the pressure wasn’t strong enough or maybe because, deeper within myself, I knew those things weren’t right for me), I had no defence for myself to give.
You wouldn’t think that I’d have to rationalize the way I live my own life to other people since it’s my life, but unfortunately, I have to do it in varying degrees almost constantly. It comes in many forms – from the simplest, benign inquiry of “So, what do you do?”, to the dreaded “When are you guys finally going to have kids?”, to the cringe-worthy “What are you going to do next?”. Luckily, at least my parents seem to have given up on me years ago.
Just today, I was talking to someone I don’t know very well, doing the whole awkward small talk thing I hate so much as she gave me a ride home from lunch. She seems like a nice person and I assume she didn’t mean anything condescending about it but I felt like I was being interrogated about ‘what I’m going to do with my life’ by the questions she was asking me. I think she was waiting for some profound anti-establishment sentiment or at least some evidence that I’m not just a lazy bum and have some sort of justification for taking up space and having fun while other people feel the need to run in the rat race. I have no idea what impression I left her with. I feel fairly certain that, whatever it was, it was underwhelming because that’s how I felt.
The reason I hate this topic so much is because the easiest questions send me back into that insecure mindset where I’m floundering for reasons why I quit school time and again, why I’m not a mother, why I don’t work full time in a job that utilizes any potential I may have, why I’m not out there doing amazing things with all this spare time I have… And if I fully felt shame for that or wanted a life that matched all that criteria, maybe that would be warranted. But it’s just habit that my mind falls backwards like that. It’s not how I truly feel. I leave those conversations angry with myself for giving the other person the idea that I think I’m pathetic or somehow unworthy or whatever. I don’t and I’m not. Actually, I’m … well, maybe not totally, but 80%… okay with my lifestyle. (There are a few things I’d like to change, but we all have that.)
Part of the problem is being backed into the proverbial corner and reverting to defensiveness but another part is my manner of speaking. I tend to talk about myself in a self-deprecating way AND I also use language that downplays the way I think and feel about things. (This has a name but I forget what it is right now.) It’s a bad habit. Words like kind of, sort of, pretty much, a little bit, etc. For instance, if I just cut off my own arms by accident, that would kind of hurt. I come across as blasé, unaffected or ho hum. Everything is meh. (Little tip for those that want to know how I feel about something – you have to read more into what I say to decode what I actually feel. If I say “I’m kinda mad”, that means “I’m fucking pissed.” Haha.)
I could be that passionate, rebellious-sounding person who stages personal revolts against “the man” and refuses to participate in social convention… but that’s not me. I’m not not doing these things to rebel. I’m not making a statement. I’m just living my life.
The last component of the problem is that I have a lot of trouble putting my thoughts and feelings into comprehensible language. Someone may ask me why I do something and even if I know exactly why I do it, I can’t explain it in words and can’t muster the energy to try, so I say “I don’t know”. I do know… but I don’t know how to tell you.
The truth is that I don’t live like most people my age, abilities, and situation because I either don’t want to, don’t feel the need to, or don’t find it important to do so. And I don’t think I owe anyone any more explanation than that.
Great post…I can totally relate to this. In fact, I think we all can (secretly)! I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone is insecure about whether or not they fit into the mold of what is “normal” in their society. It’s just that some are more comfortable with admitting it than others, and some don’t put the human urge to conform as being their number one priority in life. I think that when people probe into your life and ask questions about your job / education / future plans, etc., they’re not trying to critique you personally — rather, they’re just trying to reassure themselves of their own normalcy, either that or they’re trying to figure out whether it’s acceptable not to have to conform in every aspect of their lives. Looking at others making less conventional life choices can make one feel more secure about one’s own lifestyle. I think it’s more about trying to comfort themselves than it is about judging you. After following a vegan diet, I’ve had to face *a lot* of questioning about things that, at the end of the day, really don’t affect anyone but myself. I’ve had to spend a lot of time wondering why what I have in my fridge is of so much interest to everyone haha! 😛
That’s a really good point. I admit that I use other people as a measuring stick for various things too. I just hadn’t really considered the possibility of other people’s insecurity about their lives being the reason they are curious about mine. I was thinking more negatively – that they were just being judgemental and disapproving. You’ve given me another perspective. Thanks!
When people critique or judge, they only do it to bolster their own image — either in their own eyes, or in the eyes of others. Because, really, there’s no other reason why they should mind what you do in your own private life. But at the end of the day, you can never be certain why people do the things they do. So, if you have the choice between interpreting it in a way that makes you happy, or in a way that makes you sad, always choose the former! I have no idea why I wrote such a long comment…I usually keep it very short ahaha. Sorry about that…I guess you just got me thinking! 😛
I love long comments. Balances out the long posts. Lol.
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