I believe it’s the way we express it. My middle age, you’ve learned that being yourself doesn’t mean fighting the system – it simply means doing what works for you, and by the time you hit middle age, you’ve pretty well figured that out. Your eyes are open to other alternatives that don’t require you to launch a protest, get in arguments or, as one person I once worked with loved to say, “rock the boat.” By middle age, you learn to steer that ship instead of rocking it, and you have the confidence to do what’s right for you in ways that are honest and respectful of others.
Once your reach the realization that convention is what it is because it works for most people, you understand that the best thing to do is leave others to their business and mind your own. You realize that life isn’t a one size fits all endeavor, and that if you want others to grant you the grace to be you, then you need to grant them the grace to be them. Instead of changing the world, you change yourself to create a world around you that fits better, and in taking calm control, you gain enough confidence in yourself that you aren’t threatened or worried about what others think, say, or feel. In fact, you realize that’s a complete reflection on them, and it really has nothing to do with you (even if they claim it does). It’s a truth that sets you free, and in that freedom, you can do what you need to do without imposing your will or way on others. As you respect yourself, you respect others. What about others who don't respect you? They probably don't respect anybody else, either. Stand up for yourself, move on, and minimize contact. Believe me, you attract what you allow.
We all do plenty of things that fall under norms, but the difference is in the details. I’m a writer, but I said goodbye to knocking on the doors of brass in the traditional part of that industry five years ago, and I decided to go the same route with my short stories recently. I'm working on two ebook collections of stories right now that I plan to self publish, and I'm thrilled about these projects. Why should I query people and pay reading fees when they'll probably say "nah, not for us" anyway? I know I'm not highfalutant enough for the traditional publishing industry, and going my own way was one of my best decisions. In fact, I’d say that ebooks have opened a new world to readers and writers who need a wider range and variety than the traditional industry offers. It’s not so new as to be strange anymore (and there are more people on the path), but we’re all doing it our own way without any set “standards” or “norms.” It’s an exciting new adventure, and I believe it’s opened up a new world in art that’s been confined and controlled by convention for far too long.
That doesn’t mean that you never have use for convention. Life requires all of us to do plenty of things that are considered the “norm,” but that doesn’t mean that you have to do it in a cookie-cutter way that doesn’t fit. I’m a full time state employee, but I don’t think anybody would call me a “typical” worker in that domain. I do things right and to the best of my ability, but there’s still room for my personality and preferences in carrying it out that’s different from how others do things. I learned not to be scared of what makes me unique long ago. As I got more comfortable with myself, then others got more comfortable with me, which in turn made me more patient and understanding of what made them different. Authenticity really is a symbiotic circle that works in mysterious ways. It may not always be big or obvious, but there’s a level where it’s significant.
I’ve always said it’s important to know and be yourself, but I’ve only recently come to realize the huge impact it has on how you see the world and others. Changing the world really is an inside job. Do it your way, and you appreciate others who do likewise. You have to learn to accept and respect yourself to accept and respect others, and once you do that, then you’re open to the rest of what life has to offer.
That’s all today. Take care. Have a Happy Friday tomorrow and a wonderful weekend.