Just Do What You’re Supposed To Do!
Work. Family. House. Kids. Religion. Sexuality.
The many areas where society tells us we need to fit into a specific box and just do what you are supposed to do. Depending on your tribe, the expectations will differ, but oh, there will be expectations.
What to do when the shoulds and expectations of society or your tribe are not aligned with your beliefs and are not bringing you fulfillment? There is a psychological shift that must occur; stop listening to what others are telling you to do and start listening to your own soul’s desires. No one has to live your life and sleep soundly in your bed but you.
Work, in my experience here in America, is expected to be the ‘grown-up’ job you get at the end of your four (or six or ten) year college degree. That waitressing job you had in high school? Not a real job. The temp work you did to get through college? Not a real job. What you are expected to do is get a real job, and work your way up the ladder to a management position, complete with raises and perks. You should have a single steady paycheck and benefits!! Also, make sure that the job you are working is one you can brag about on social media and one your parents will be proud to tell their friends about.
What we are not told, in this expectation scenario, is that a single job with a single company for the entirety of your adult life may lead to frustration, stagnation, atrophy, stress, diminishing self-esteem, and zero happiness.
I have worked many jobs for many companies, with bouts of self-employment in between. So many jobs that my full CV fills seven pages. I have never done what I am supposed to do for work. I take a job role that interests me, a job where I can learn something I didn’t know before, with a pay that will feed the kids and keep the lights on. Benefits? Meh, I can take them or leave them.
My two goals for 2019 are to have the time and mental space to fully parent my children and to have a life of peace and no drama. To meet those goals I quit a business I was partnering with and I took a job that is far from what I am supposed to be doing. Supposed to because of my age, my education, and society’s expectations. But I am not listening to them, I am listening to me.
My first job, at the age of 16, was waitressing. Now, my job is once again waitressing. I realize that, at my age, waitressing is not what I am supposed to do for work. This is a bad career move. My CV will not show the proper upward trajectory.
But, I like waitressing. I like interacting with the customers, I like food — as most people do, the hours are great and allow me time and mental space for my family and my creative life, and the money feeds the kids and keeps the lights on.
Family. House. Kids. Ah, the trifecta of American life since, well, since advertising has been telling society that a family, a house, and kids are the ideal we all should strive for.
For a really long time, I bought into this ideal as to how an adult is supposed to live their life. I was supposed to get married. I was supposed to buy a house and things and things and more things. I was supposed to have kids and buy those kids things and thing and more things.
I spent so much time striving for these expected events that I never stopped for a moment of introspection to determine if these three fit into how I actually wanted to live my life.
I was married, and those marriages failed. Looking back, they failed because I partnered with people since partnering with people is what I was supposed to do. I did not partner with people because he and I were good fits, good partners, or better people when we worked together. Oh, the heartache I caused because I didn’t listen to myself.
I have two wonderful children that I adore. I was raised taking care of other’s children and I always expected to have children of my own. Having children is an irrevocable choice. Once you have them, you are in it for life. My only advice is to think, deeply, about how you want to live your life and then view how having children fit into that life. There is no right or wrong answer to this question, there is only what is right or wrong for you. Don’t let your parents, your partner, or society push you into a decision as unchanging as having, or not having, children. (The same goes for pets, as you will surely be the one to pick up the poop)
I have owned many houses, and have lived in three times as many rentals. Buy a starter home, spend oodles of money to fix that home up, sell it and buy a bigger home! Yeah, progress and upward movement to show that I was doing what I was supposed to do!
Now, I live in an old house is a semi-seedy part of town. This house was a foreclosure, left vacant for five years. I was able to pay cash for the house. Most of my furnishings are from second-hand shops and my floor lamps are from Target. The kitchen was last updated in the 1970s, but it is fully functional so I see no reason to remodel. The yard grows wild around the edges, the volunteer trees and bushes blocking the neighbors. I repair structurally when needed.
I am not ever going to do what I am supposed to do to this house; spend $20k on a new kitchen complete with granite countertops or update the bathroom for $7K. I will not buy brand new furniture, imported no doubt, so I can have my home look like a photo shoot from a Pinterest spread. Nope, none of that for me.
Religion. I was raised in a very religious household, Baptist to be precise. My father was on the church board and was the church treasurer, my mother worked as the church secretary. If the church doors were open, we were there. When I was growing up, most of my friends were from church.
What I was supposed to do was to stay in the same church I was raised in, marry a nice church boy, and have nice church babies. It does not matter if your religion is Baptist, Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Muslim, or Atheist. There is the inevitable expectation that how you were raised to religiously believe is how you should continue to believe, even when you are a cognizant adult.
I am now a Buddhist, which is a philosophy more than a religion. When asked which branch or sect of Buddhism I follow, what text I adhere to, I reply that I didn’t leave an Abrahamic religion to follow yet another set of rules telling me what I should do.
Being raised in a religious tradition is nice. Being raised in no religious tradition is nice too. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should religiously believe. That mindless following is what leads to many bad scenarios in this world. You are not mindless, take the time to think about what you truly believe and then live your best, moral life aligned with those beliefs.
Sexuality. What are we supposed to do about sex? I was raised with the expectation that I should wait until after marriage to have sexual intercourse, that I should stay with my one husband (yes — read that as one man one woman) for the rest of my life, and that the only person I should have sex with, ever, would be the one man who took my virginity.
Oye. Where to start in the unpackaging of this Just do what you’re supposed to do! How about society, because when I looked in Pexels for a license-free image for ‘sex’ every image was either one man and one woman or it was a provocative picture of a woman. Anything outside of this norm is not what you are supposed to be doing!
Are women kissing women? Yes, do it if that is what you would like to do. Men kissing men? Yes! Transgendered? Yes! Multiple partners? Yes! No partners? Yes! Are you two, or three, or seven consenting adults? Then yes! Are you monogamous? Yes! Polyamorous? Yes!
Look, sex is necessary for so many reasons. The continuation of our species. The release of endorphins. The connection between people. If you are an adult and you have thought about what sex means to you in a positive, non-abusive fashion, then do not let the should’s of your tribe get between you and your panties.
In the end, think and understand yourself. Know that the shoulds you were raised in may be a good foundational start but that you, and you alone, will do what is best for you. Let the shoulds be damned.