We’ve seen those elephants at the circus. The big ones, full grown, old elephants. They lead them around on a rope and tie them to a small dinky post and they stay there. They don’t even try to get away.
They don’t think they can.
When they were young they were tied to that same post with a rope and they fought and they fought and tried to break free until they realized they just weren’t strong enough to get away. And when they ‘broke’ that was it. The rest of their lives their innate belief is that they are not strong enough to break free from that post.
Believe it or not humans are much the same.
Most little girls are told by their mothers at a young age that they’ll grow up, get married, have kids and a beautiful house and a perfect life. When they get older they are conditioned to believe this is their path and they stay on it and when they have the husband and the kids and the house they will think their life is perfect.
Did they choose that path or were they conditioned to think they wanted that storybook happily ever after?
Young men are taught to be strong, to go to college, get a job, get married, be the man and provide for their family and teach your sons how to play baseball and tell them boys don’t cry. That’s what men do. So the boys grow up, they keep things to themselves, they go to college, get a job, get married, have kids and a house and provide for their families and teach their sons to play baseball and not to cry. That’s what men do.
Did they choose that path or is that what they do because they were conditioned to believe that’s what men do.
We are conditioned for lots of things at an early age. And it is during this time-frame that we form our system of beliefs that shape our lives. That drive our future. If we stray from this we stray from our beliefs.
Who are we disappointing if we don’t do…well, all that.
All that which we grew up believing was our path to the future and happiness. Do we disappoint our parents? Because they want us to be happy. And they made us believe that will make us happy. Do we disappoint our friends who are all going down the same road? Do we disappoint our selves because well we were supposed to take that road to that perfect life, because that’s expected.
But what if you don’t want…all that?
What’s dad going to say if I don’t go to college?
What’s mom going to do if I decide I don’t want to get married?
What will my friends think if I’m the single guy at the barbecue that never settled down.
What will I think of myself if I don’t follow the path that I have been led to believe is my life?
What will you think of yourself, indeed.
Many of us just blindly follow the path that we have been led to believe is our life, like the elephants to the big top. And they stand there and they get shown off, do tricks and are amusing, and incredible. But the elephants don’t know they can break free.
And if they did they would.
Why? Because they don’t care what their trainer thinks if they run off.
We do. We care what our trainers think. They being our parents, our friends, our teachers, our mentors. Ourselves.
But what if we could break free? What if we could live the life WE wanted?
Clearly we are considering it if we are thinking how disappointed our parents would be if we didn’t land that great job or get that house with the picket fence. But would we be disappointed in ourselves?
I mean lets face it, you’d be facing a life of Thanksgivings with Aunt Agnes saying ‘oh my dear boy when are you going to settle down and get married?’ But what’s a few hours once a year to pay for a life on your own terms.
But we are preconditioned to please aren’t we? We innately want our parents approval. We may challenge them and their authority but deep down we want the validation of them being happy seeing us do what is expected, or hearing them say how proud they are of us. We want the approval and validation of everyone don’t we?
Don’t we? We think we do. At least at first.
We want to hear everyone say how happy they are for us. At graduation, at our wedding, when we have kids… We want people to like us, we are people pleasers. And if we don’t please our most important people, our parents, we are doomed.
I’ve got news: Eventually, no matter what you do, if you are happy, they are happy.
If your parents, and family and friends can’t be happy because you chose an apartment in the city and the single life over suburban blight, give them some time. When they see you are happy they may change their tune.
And what if they can’t be happy? Who’s happiness is more important, theirs? Your’s?
I mean it is your life isn’t it? Don’t you deserve to be happy? Or do you think you can’t be happy if you don’t do exactly what everyone else thinks you should do.
The risk is too great!
What happens if you are too afraid to do your own thing and decide to ‘do what’s expected’ only to find that isn’t at all what makes you happy and you end up miserable. But they, the people who expect certain things from you and taught you those beliefs, they are all happy so your misery is invalid. Right?
Sooner or later you will realize your life choices could have been different. And you could have new friends in the city who are also single and you’ll go for rooftop cocktails over suburban cookouts anyway and those friends will accept you for who you are and not judge you for the path you chose.
You have to get a few things in your head: You can’t please everyone.
And if you try you’ll never please anyone or yourself. (trust me I know)
You can’t live anyone else’s life but your’s, and if you want to be happy and you value your own happiness over the happiness of others you have to choose what’s right for you. (I didn’t always do that)
You don’t need everyone’s approval or anyone’s permission to live the life you want. (I’ll be honest, this is the hardest one and I am still learning)
You have the incredible, some say divine, power granted to you by your creator, source, God, spirit, universe, whoever it is that you believe to be your go-to person up there.
The power of choice.
This isn’t some dictatorship where you are raised from birth to wed some random princess who was raised at birth to wed you in some far of land. That’s not the world we live in. Maybe it is someone’s but really, someone else’s.
You sir, you have the power. The power of choice to live the way you want. The power of choice to not ask permission to ‘opt-out’ of expectations. The power of choice to not care if others don’t approve. The power of choice to show yourself you can live life on your terms and YES!! Still be happy.
Hmmmm, there’s a concept. Be happy. On your terms.
I didn’t have any direct intention to get married and have kids. I thought if it happens it will happen on the road to doing what I want to do. It wasn’t on my main agenda. Then BOOM, I met a girl. We fell in love, and got married. And I stayed in Boston. Don’t get me wrong I love Boston but this life didn’t go exactly as my agenda specified. But something happened. We had the two most amazing boys anyone could ask for. I realized then that my agenda was shit and that they were the entire purpose for my life and every decision I made was right because it led me to be a father.
My parents and my family were happy. Her family was happy, friends were happy. But was I happy? I was extremely happy to be a dad, absolutely no regrets ever. But…something was missing.
Somewhere along the way I hit a roadblock. I realized I was gay. Well I put a lot of thought into ‘what now’. The life I was expected to lead vs. This new life that maybe I wanted. I’ll fast forward, I reached a point where I chose to transition to this new life. It was, for me, a long road. Okay so I’m still in process, I’m on the on-ramp and just about to merge but a few things left to do. But all those fears of disappointment from others, gone. If they loved me they accept me. If I’m happy they’re happy. If they don’t like it, bye Felicia. Ok that sounds more aggressive and it was more of like I ‘lost touch’ with a few people, but I’ve gained more true people in my life that enjoy and promote the happiness of others in their lives.
Shouldn’t we all do that?
But maybe you want to be the guy that gets married and raises some kids and teaches his kids how to lift weights and do MMA, because you hate baseball. And maybe you’re the stay at home dad. And just maybe that does make you truly happy. Well that’s great!
You do you. But make sure you are doing you. And not someone else for someone else.
You want to be a man?
You want to wear that shade of masculinity proud and let people know just how strong you are?
Acknowledge your power, take control of your life and live the one you want.
It’s never too late to take the wheel, make a left turn and set your GPS to happy.