The essence of this post is super simple: You can live your life any way you want. I expect that most of my fellow weirdos and path-walkers know this well by now, but there is still a large number of people (particularly young people on the precipice of crippling debt) who haven’t yet had this message communicated to them. I’m writing it in the hopes that it will one day stoke the spirit of someone who isn’t sure what they’re doing in life and is tired of being asked to figure it out by well-meaning loved ones. I am here to say that not-knowing is more than okay, and that you can live your life any way you want.
Unconsciously, we compel one another to follow a pretty standard route when it comes to life. We are encouraged to make plans, to act as if we know what we’re going to want to do for the rest of our lives, and to affix rigid ego-identities to ourselves. Anything outside of this ego-identity is regarded with suspicion. When our lives are uncertain, this uncertainty is treated as a problem. Really, uncertainty is not a problem, and certainty is actually an illusion.
At every turn, the message is to cobble a rather predictable “person” together, to wear several masks to get through life no matter how awful it feels, and to do something that guarantees financial security over all. Many of us have also inherited scarcity complexes, meaning we feel like there is just “never enough” when it comes to money and things. Because of this, we end up chasing this stuff rather than living, hoping this will make us feel safe enough to truly live one day. It doesn’t work like that.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with choosing safety. To the ego-identity most of us operate from, security and group acceptance are Everything. Without these things, we feel we might die. This is why we end up acting so similarly even when doing this totally goes against our own best interests. If you choose a life that looks not-so-assured (particularly if you’re a woman, I think), you’re likely to find precious little support.
But the truth, still, is this: You can live your life any way you want. Really. You can. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do this—besides, they are not going to give it to you. Any time you publicly step out of convention (i.e. quit your job without another one lined up, pursue a lifelong creative dream, live in a car/van by choice, make money in a stigmatized way, challenge your whole culture, step out of a nice but not-quite-aligned relationship, get into cars with strangers,), you are likely to be questioned and/or criticized.
These kinds of questions are usually couched in concern, but very often, this concern is rooted in old fear stories. It is very common for us to be closed off to one another, to be mistrusting and assume the world is going to destroy us. We project our stories onto others, and the result is all kinds of “concern.” Why do we do this to each other? Fear, of course. How to handle harsh judgment and avoid projection is something that will require its own post.
Fear is a piece of information to witness and respect—nothing more, nothing less. Even in a state of expanded awareness, we notice fear sometimes, though far less often than when the ego runs the whole show. We can decide then if the fear is unreasonably coming from prior conditioning (such as the false belief that the whole world is full of cold, shitty people), or if it’s valid and we need to change course (such as someone coming towards you with a knife). This may sound like a calculated process, but when we sharpen our intuitive skills and keep our minds clear, this all happens in a fraction of a second.
Very simply, we don’t let fear determine our lives for us. We surely don’t feed it with the fear-inducing garbage our culture tries to force down our throats (seriously, turn off the news, loves). Instead, we just watch fear. When it is reasonable to do so (and it usually is), we face the fear and do the thing we’re afraid to do anyway.
When you begin to do this and step outside of your own comfort zone, it challenges the comfort zones of others. That is another reason why you may be met with criticism. There can be some degree of jealousy when we see people finally start to embrace the revelation that they are alive. I know I’ve felt that way before.
Most of us want to be living bigger lives. (Important: by “bigger,” I do not mean wealth and fame—these are empty ego goals. Living bigger means embodying freedom, experiencing more love, more openness to one another, and more creativity.) When we want to try, we often find ourselves steeped in the first kind of fear—the kind based on egoic conditioning. Before we even do anything new, the mind threatens us: What happens if I “fail”? What happens if I get hurt? What happens if something happens to someone else?
Except in cases of true physical danger, the fear is coming from the challenged ego. Above all, the ego wants to remain safe and unchallenged. If it had its way, all we’d do is sit in a room doing nothing, being warm, eating a lot, and never stretching ourselves. True, we now live in a culture where some of us do that. I expect that we all know this kind of stagnant lifestyle brings about tremendous suffering, even though it seems comfortable.
Beneath the ego, a deeper part of you wants liberation and self-knowledge, and somewhere in the middle, the “bigger life” thing is desired. The problem (if it’s fair to call it that) is that freedom and safety are necessarily at odds with one another. As soon as you start to challenge your ego, it’ll muscle its way in and use all kinds of tactics to keep you stuck. Fear is its favorite one because it is so effective. As soon as you’re on the cusp of something that could truly change your life, your ego convinces you to be afraid.
Facing fear is truly essential here. Start small and stay the course, pushing the ego’s comfort zone little by little.
So, you don’t want to pick a major or go to college at all, get married, have children, have one job for the majority of your life, have a boss, be a boss, drink alcohol, do yoga, be a vegan, etc.? Awesome! Because you can live your life however you want! It really is nobody else’s business how you do this thing! (Yes, we do all affect one another, and we don’t get to opt out of that. I expect that we bear this in mind when we start to live consciously.)
When someone compels you to live one way and/or “have answers,” this person is generally speaking from the conditioning handed down to them. Conditioning is basically socially acceptable ignorance, so feel free to remember that with most “life advice,” it’s basically the blind leading the blind.
Now, learning how to reject conditioning and figuring out what you truly want—as opposed to those things our collectively ill society urges us to think we want—that’s a skill for another post. Mostly, though, I’d say figuring that piece requires a lot of solitude and at least some removal from said ill culture. Otherwise it’s too easy for the crazy to leak in, to be afraid of things that are not real, and to fall back into the unskillful patterns laid out by others. That’s why things like meditation retreats and ashrams can be great, and why it is wise to turn your own home into a sane space to live. I feel I’m getting ahead of myself, but you gotta protect your space if you’d like it to stay clear.
For now, I just want to encourage anyone who stumbles upon this post to go live whatever life you feel most passionately about. Work on yourself and fall in love with life, and everything will really be fine.
P.S. Oh, and in case this needs to be said: I am not advocating that we shirk all responsibilities or leap into all of our impulsive desires. We can still learn to think ahead without being coerced into a routine life we don’t really want. The path = practical living/common sense.
location: Burlington, WA