October 12, 2012

Follow Your Own Path

“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn't matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.” 

― Barbara Hall
Writer J.D. Stroube said that no one can exercise their free will until they are adults. The problem, she continued, is that by then the choices that have already been made for us have set us on a course that leaves little room for exercising that free will. Because of this, it can be difficult to follow your own path.

From birth, powerful parental and societal forces move us toward the beaten path. The well-trodden way is pushed as safe, predictable, acceptable, and right. It is a one-path-fits-all arrangement, and if you find that you don't wish to be on it, there is going to be resistance.

When Linda and I chose to veer from the path that had been set for us, we were met with resistance from those around us. People thought we were crazy to trade our full time, well paying jobs for part time work. Then we moved from our 3 bedroom place in a city of over a million, to a town of ten thousand. There we found a tiny home to rent, not purchase.

Many of those we knew only wanted to know what we were going to do for retirement, or how we were going to pay for dental care, or anything else. They were curious to know what we would do with "all the time off."

We quit traveling and holidaying, stopped eating meat, and started doing all our own baking and cooking. We learned to play guitar, and started to sing and perform in our living room music studio. The extra time we had was taken up with art, reading, gardening, and enjoying the company of people who were also living alternative lifestyles.

When friends called they inevitably asked about what we are doing for 'work', which invariably meant 'paid work'.

We haven't had any kind of paid work for about a year now, we would tell them, but we are living so simply that securing employment has not been necessary. We have been able, so far, to live on what we saved before we struck out to find our own way. We have no debt, and don't need any more money at this time. We have enough for now.

Very few people have ever heard anyone say they have enough money and are not actively seeking more. Surely this is a sign of faulty, dangerous thinking. It is common knowledge on the well worn path that everyone wants more money, needs more money.

However, that is the kind of herd thinking that keeps everyone nose to tail, calmly heading for the big house.

If there was more understanding and support for individuals to use their free will, I wonder how many people would turn their backs on the materialist mainstream and strike off to follow their own more sustainable path?


  1. Excellent post, thank you. Due to severe sensitivity to indoor mold, we are not able to find a healthy house and are now planning to build our own. If we go with under 500 sf it does not have to meet several restrictions, but about 700 sf would be ideal for our family of three. Anyway, I don't like how people will outright say that under 500 is too small and they don't even think we are seriously considering it.
    I'm taking care our almost four year old daughter, and do not want a "job". I'm an artist, but it annoys me that the label of "artist" is more acceptable than "stay-at-home mom".
    My husband works 4-day weeks and is thinking about self-employment so he could work less.

    We want to teach our daughter to go her own way too. So she CAN exercise free will, not all the time on all matters, but for example she prefers to stay home with me still, rather than go to kindergarten, so she can stay. I'm not going to take away her freedom like that.

    1. The label I get is "unemployed", or "retired", but what I really am is a full time caregiver for Linda, the love of my life. I, too, don't want a "job" - I already have one. There is no job more important than being a mother.

      When I was a little guy, after a few days of kindergarten I decided I didn't want to continue. When I told my mom, she said that I didn't have to go back. I was so relieved.

      My mom taught me a lot about love, and free will, with that one crucial decision that has so affected the rest of my life.

    2. Vappu, I read your blog as well as this one and know the progression of events that lead to you keeping your daughter at home with you. I am glad you followed your heart and did it. I did the same exact thing with my son and am very happy I once again decided to go against the grain.

    3. It sounds like you had an awesome mom! I cried everyday (I am not exaggerating)of preschool and kindergarten and my parents dropped me off ignoring my cries. I understand that they thought they were doing what they thought was best for me, but I vowed to always allow my child to have a voice and not ignore it. Freedom is the most important thing to my family and that includes freedom of choice. You have made some "alternative" decisions if you want to call them that, but I would bet that you have never been happier!

  2. 12Inspiring read. Thank you for sharing, I read it with fascination!

    1. It looks like both our paths have at one time led to south Asia. Thanks for reading.

  3. Anonymous10/13/2012

    My niece who visited the other day is struggling with some tough decisions. She is about to graduate college and is being pushed in several different directions. Everywhere she turns, someone is telling her what will be best. At 23, she doesn't know who she is yet, so how is she supposed to know what she wants to do with the rest of her life. I advised taking time to contemplate, listening to what her gut is telling her. Be still. We all need to partake of our own journey, one meant just for us. No one else can discern this for you. I wish I someone would have told me this when I was 23!

    1. There is a lot of pressure to conform, but it seems like more recent generations are starting to get things figured out - participation in the system as it exists is optional.

      Going with your gut instincts is definitely the way to follow your own path. Your niece is lucky to have such an aware aunt for guidance.

  4. This is one of many reasons with my youngest 2 I have chosen the path of authentic parenting and unschooling. My children ARE allowed to use free will, they are also very secure in who they are and what they want. They will not have to spend years later being confused and trying to figure out "who they are"

    We support them in their choices and allow them to BE THEM, now who we "think" they should be from our standards. They are allowed to speak their minds and do not have tons of arbituary rules

    They have no mold to try to fit into. They are who they are and THAT is a celebration. What a difference it has made too compared to my oldest two that were raised the more traditional "societial" norm......

    1. I unschooled myself twice - the first time I liberated myself from kindergarten, and the second from my career as a public school teacher, or "agent of the state" as a friend uncomfortably pointed out.

      Letting kids be kids is important. We can learn so much from them.

  5. These points about honoring children's choices make me question the best way to help my sensitive, creative, empathetic 13 year old son. For the last year or more he has said that he hates school and wants to be homeschooled. I don't know how to do that with our current family employment configuration, so I have just kept hoping that the situation would get better. He is adapting (conforming?) better to expectations at school, but he is still just as unhappy.

    What is this teaching him? :(
    Now he is heading to high school next year. Maybe I need to look for other options for him, at least different programs that are more individualized and less academic.

    1. I feel for your son. I was unhappy at school from grade 7 to grade 12. Graduation remains one of the best days of my life - I was free.

      For me alternatives were not available, but now with computer-assisted learning, the internet, and supported distance education, there may be a program available to your unhappy scholar.

      Start with your son's school, and the school board to see if they offer programs for students that want to follow their own path more independently, or in a more supportive, personal environment.

      Learning, if offered up properly, should inspire us and motivate our natural curiosity, not stifle it. What are your son's interests? Is he a more hands-on learner? There may be trade-oriented programs at certain schools, just as there could be some that offer programs with an arts focus.

      In my own case, I took 5 years after graduation to recover from my grade school trauma, then started classes in my local university. I discovered that I loved learning, and went on to complete two degrees (in psychology and education).

      My university experience fostered in me a life-long love of learning, a passion that I was happy to be able to share with students during my teaching career.

      I wish you and your son the best with a difficult, but not intractable, challenge. Our innate desire to learn can be stifled, but it is hard to eliminate entirely.


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