It’s curious how often I do what I think I SHOULD do – what I was brought up to do. I was taught to behave in prescribed ways, believe culturally acceptable ideas and fear the consequences of misbehavior – of being ostracized. It’s my obligation, my duty; to behave correctly – according to my people, my culture.
Life is better when I’m with my tribe – I am … we are, social animals.
But when can I know that going along to get along is to my detriment? What if my experience is different? There are still consequences; denial of self or nonconformity. What I can live with?
What if I didn’t fear the consequences? Felt I had nothing to lose? Would I choose differently?
My husband and I watched the movie “Veronika Decides to Die” based on the book by Paulo Coeloho. Veronika, beautiful and young – appears to have everything; yet finds life isn’t worth living. After an unsuccessful suicide attempt she wakes up in a mental hospital. She learns that her actions ruined her heart and only has days to live. She also learns that crazy people don’t have to be “normal.” These lessons liberate her and change her attitude, her way of seeing the world. She now has reason to live.
As a corporate wonk, I took a psych test to find out what traits might derail my career. One of my derailers was mischievousness. HA! Knowing this delighted me – and strangely enough I exploited it. Maybe that didn’t do me many favors – but I felt liberated; maybe like Veronika. Being a nonconformist in a buttoned up world boosted my desire to retire early; loosened those golden handcuffs.
Yes there are consequences for every choice, every decision. Each choice is personal, unique; a privilege and a responsibility.
“I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” ― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar