I’ve been thinking a lot about the expectations society so clearly deems as “normal”. It’s no secret that there’s a certain code that everyone is to abide by as well as specific milestones that each individual is expected to meet throughout their lifetime. We are expected to fit inside a box society deems as acceptable and “normal”.
Now, I’m not talking about the milestones set for physical development or intellectual processing, but instead the milestones that have somehow been deemed as expected upon reaching a certain age or season of life. Whether we acknowledge it or not, it guides our thinking, processing, expectations, goals, actions, attitudes, and ultimately how we live our day-to-day life.
I’ve never really been one to conform. While I’m a self-confessed people pleaser, this trait has very seldom caused me to change my opinions, fold into unneeded pressure, or rethink the God nudges that have been so evident, but a little crazy, in my life. I’ve always been strong-willed (my mom would go one step further and call me “spirited”) and able to hold my own amongst the critics telling me otherwise. However, it’s been more apparent to me lately that my life looks vastly different than most people at the same stage of life as me. I wouldn’t call it better or worse than “normal”, simply different. I’ve been so wrapped up in everyday life, just pushing forward in the millions of things I have going on each day, that I didn’t have time to step back and really evaluate my life compared to those surrounding me.
While my greatest mistake may have been looking around me when I finally had a few moments to slow down, it impacted me more than I would have imagined. My life hasn’t lined up with those aforementioned milestones or goals that are viewed as the “norm” for most of society.
I dropped out of the degree program I started right out of high school.
I moved twelve hours away on a prayerfully considered whim.
I travelled to Uganda where I ended up living and working for almost two years.
I reenrolled in a different program and started working on my degree, slowly, online.
I returned from Uganda, travelled a whole ton, and powered through school.
I moved to San Diego to serve some of my best friends and have a job I love.
I finally graduated with my degree, which was oddly anticlimactic.
I still don’t have a car, since I sold mine before I moved to Uganda.
I don’t have a house or a perfectly curated home or a job that perfectly matches with my degree.
As I slowed down and started looking to those around me, I realized how my life doesn’t meet the standards that are set for my age. While I have more life experience than many people at the “same life stage”, there are so many places that I feel inadequate or behind. Like I’m trying to play catch-up because my life path was completely different than I expected. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I was able to do things that people only dream of. I was able to meet people that I never would have crossed paths with if I had continued on in my original program. I moved to a city that was completely new to me, and while I still feel like I’m settling in, I absolutely love it.
So maybe I don’t have the perfect car or the perfect house or the job people would expect me to. So maybe I don’t fit into the typical “norm” that so many people live their life for. So what?
I’m determined to stop questioning my decisions, answering questions on my tip-toes, not knowing how someone is going to react to my unconventional choices. I may not be searching for the job that perfectly fits with my degree, but I’m 150% sure I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Whether people understand that or not, whether they agree with me or not, I’m learning to be perfectly fine with just that.
Will I automatically stop looking to those around me for validation? Absolutely not – I’m human. Will I continue to boldly chase after our Creator, tripping and falling daily? I’m going to try my best every damn time – because the Gospel is real, and is the basis for my entire existence.
So no matter what society says is “normal”, dare to march forward on the path you are confident of – even if you’re the only one there. The Gospel is messy, it’s hard, and it’s painful – but it’s nothing if you’re not willing get in the trenches; whether you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with the person next to you, or completely on your own. We weren’t put on this earth to be comfortable, we were put here to serve the One who loved us first – to love because He first loved us. And in that there is joy unlike anything we could ever imagine.