I have never lived a conventional life.
In fact, truth be told, I’m not entirely sure what such would look like.
When I was a small child in the 1970s, we lived in Minnesota. A small, Jewish family. When I was 5 years old my parents divorced.
During this time in history — that was rare. Particularly in the Jewish community. My dad moved halfway across the country while mom worked and raised my sister and me. I became a latch-key kid — since from like second grade onwards I went home from school and took care of myself.
Nowadays, that largely wouldn’t fly. But this was the early 1980s, and the world wasn’t so well connected then.
Over the years, growing up Jewish in a predominantly Lutheran community, I was witness to the “normal” things. While we celebrated Hanukkah, they celebrated Christmas. We had to fight most years to make sure teachers didn’t give us tests or quizzes during the High Holidays when we were out of school at the synagogue.
I became familiar with New York City at age 10 or so since my dad lived in Manhattan. Navigating midtown alone was something I could do in my early teens.
Nothing about my life was conventional. I traveled most major holidays either to New York, Chicago, or Arizona — depending on where my dad’s side of the family gathered. We moved from Duluth to a suburb of Minneapolis when I was 6, and to another suburb and better home when I was 15. I was the only kid in my High School to go to Ithaca College in New York state that year.
Maybe, with college, I would find a more conventional life.
There’s nothing conventional about this, either
Rather than study for a degree that might be the lucrative Jewish Mother’s dream — doctor, lawyer, business mogul — I majored in theatre with a focus on directing. Because I fell in love with working in radio, I minored in audio production. I also minored in art history because I loved that, too.
After college, I stayed in Ithaca for a year, and almost relocated to Chicago. But then, it dawned on me that I loved the Northeast. So instead, I moved in with my dad and stepmom for 2 months in New Jersey.
Soon I got a job and an apartment of my own. This began my conventional, post-college life.
Except, of course, there was still nothing conventional about my life.
During my 20s I held three or four jobs, never settling into a proper fit. I moved out of New Jersey into Rockland County, New York. Then I got hit by a car crossing a street and spent a year of my life recovering.
Into my mid-thirties, the pattern continued. Different jobs, multiple wobbly unstable relationships, I moved back to New Jersey and was unable to be satisfied with almost any aspect of my life.
That’s not to say my life was bad — it wasn’t. I had amazing friends, a semi-supportive family, a roof over my head, air in my lungs, and things material and immaterial I was (and still am) grateful for. But a conventional life, mine was not.
Rather than keep fighting this, I began to look instead into how to embrace it.
Embracing the unconventional
Entering into my late 30’s, I was more stable than I’d been prior and met the woman who is now my wife. We moved in together when I relocated to her condo, and we got married three years later.
With this stability, I started to embrace the unconventional things I desired for my life. Hell, my hobby — activities with a worldwide medieval reenactment society — is massively unconventional. Rather than keep trying to square-peg myself into conventional round holes, I began to truly embrace my weird and seek similarly attuned unconventional opportunities.
This also caused me to question the conventional versus the unconventional. Why is this the “norm”? Hell, though my parents divorced in the 1970s — making us the only single-parent family in our local community — by the late 80s we were less unusual. Single-parent families became more of the “norm”.
I have had some pretty amazing life experiences. As a child, I was taking flights around the country every 3–4 months (either with my sister or solo — unaccompanied minors, either way). I walked the streets of New York City fearlessly as a pre-teen. Since my dad’s parents retired to Arizona, I got to explore a vastly different climate than what I grew up with. I had no single childhood home — since I seem to move every 9–10 years (still the case, FYI).
Why am I sharing all of this? Because people get fixated on the idea of the “normal” and the “conventional” and fitting in. There is a lot of pressure to contribute and be part of the “norm” as it’s perceived.
But, really, why?
Very little that is great has come from the conventional.
Be brave against the fear-based society
Ours is a fear-based society. Many people don’t fully grasp this, but all you need to do is spend a few minutes browsing through any news site. Fear is everywhere. They tell stories to make you afraid of the extremes. Conservatives are given reasons to fear liberals and vice versa; white people are given reasons to fear black people and vice versa; straight people are told to fear gay people and so on and so forth.
Fear the “other.” Be afraid of “different.” Fear all the suffering that will happen to you when ‘X’ takes away your guns and ‘Y’ tramples on your civil liberties and blah blah blah.
Also, we’re constantly bombarded by messages of lack, scarcity, and insufficiency. Mostly, they are all about suffering you’ll experience because “they” are taking what’s “yours” and there’s not enough of it.
All the fear pumped into our lives like air into a tire tends to be focused on how much we’ll suffer. The suffering will be tremendous and unpleasant and will suck a lot.
The reality is that, more often than not, this is utter, complete, and total bullshit. Hell, frequently the fear of suffering is far, far worse than any suffering you might experience.
To quote Paulo Coelho from The Alchemist,
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.”
What’s more, this quote goes on to address why taking unconventional paths is both brave and empowering.
“No heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
Now replace “God” with “the Universe” and “eternity” with “abundance.” Because the truth is that this is an abundant Universe.
Fear has been weaponized
I don’t think I need to share any examples of weaponized fear with you. But in case you need to see what this means, all you have to do is look at Trump. He is weaponizing fear by encouraging his cult. Reject the legitimate election results or you will suffer. And of course, he’s afraid of his loss of relevance and relative immunity when he is out of office.
Lack. Scarcity. Insufficiency. Not enough to go around. The “other” taking all the pieces of the limited pie. To combat this idea many of those in power present themselves as the one and only solution to everything you fear.
Which is ironic, since they tend to be the root, origin, and cause of most of the suffering you fear you’ll experience.
Many are the messages about why you should be in a constant state of fear. But that’s not the truth. This is an abundant Universe, and most of the suffering you fear to experience isn’t so bad as you fear it to be.
Or, frankly, it often won’t come to pass at all.
Fear has been employed across history to disempower the masses. Thus, a “conventional” way of life tends to be established through fear to keep those not in power out of power.
In the past this was feudalism. But the peasants, in time, rose against and overthrew those in charge. Then it was robber-barons and the virtual slave-labor in the industrial age. The Unions formed to combat this and get laws made for safety and better working conditions.
Now it’s the uber-wealthy hoarding all they can and attempting to control the tech and other intangibles that dominate the world.
Embracing the unconventional is risky. But the rewards are totally worth it.
Live a life you love
Conventional wisdom suggests that you go to school as a child, then college or vocational study. After that, you work 8 to 12 hours Monday through Friday for the next fifty years or so. Then, you retire — and finally, get to enjoy the fruits of your labors.
I don’t know about you, but that seems rather wasteful to me. Shouldn’t we be enjoying the fruits of our labors now?
The answer is YES. Because there are no guarantees of tomorrow.
This may be harsh, but you’re going to die someday. Hopefully not suddenly or in your prime — but who knows? I didn’t expect to get hit by a car crossing a street when I was 27 — and to be made partially of titanium ever since. But that’s my reality.
Today is the only real time that exists. So why let it go to waste? Why live in fear of living? Because that, when all is said and done, is the real fear.
Life is not simple. There are good days and bad days. But it is always an adventure. There’s always potential and possibility. We live in an abundant Universe where no two people are alike nor desire exactly the same experiences.
The unconventional life was not what I chose to have in my youth. But now? Now I embrace it. I have bad days, and fight depression — but overall, I am so deeply grateful for what I have and the experiences of my life. I just wish I could properly and sufficiently express that gratitude and all it entails to you.
Conventional or unconventional is your choice
I have the power to decide how my life should be. The choices are all mine to make.
You have the same power. A conventional or an unconventional life is yours for the living.
And, to be perfectly fair, there are times and aspects of your life that will be conventional or unconventional no matter what choices you make.
Life is random in many ways. But you get to choose to let the fear of society overwhelm you — or to stand as a beacon of reason and make your way as you desire.
A conventional or unconventional life experience is yours to choose. And it’s not a one-time all-or-nothing choice. This is an ongoing process — and nothing is written in stone.
If you live a conventional life and it makes you miserable — why not choose anew? The same applies if you live an unconventional life. Either way, you have all the power to decide how life will be for you.
It doesn’t always feel that way. Shit happens that you have zero control over. But when all is said and done life can be what you decide for it to be.
A conventional or unconventional life. Which makes you feel more connected and alive today?
Thank you for reading. I am MJ Blehart. I write about mindfulness, conscious reality creation, positivity, and similar life lessons.
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