A couple of months ago, this article popped up in one of my social media feeds called “Your Facebook Life Doesn’t Fool Me”. Google it. It’s very interesting, witty, and basically says that all the perfect posts that people put up on social media are a façade for the real, gritty, imperfect lives that everyone leads. I was intrigued, and for the most part was in agreement. But then I read this one line that stuck with me that addressed the reader and said “You’re hanging out in Middle American hell with the rest of us.” And I literally stopped and wrote that down, because I am not on board with that. Never will be.
Okay, so remember when you were a kid and you wanted to grow up and be a professional athlete or fireman or whatever? It was a dream. So why, at some point, do we stop chasing our dreams and just grind into Middle American hell?
I want you to stop what you are doing right now. I assume there are only adults reading this, so the professional athlete dreams now may have morphed and consist of wanting to be a lawyer, a father, owning your own business, and so on. I want you to ask yourself as you sit here right now what your current dreams and goals consist of, and if you are chasing them. I am 35, and my dreams are alive and well. This year, I am doing the marathon. Next year, I want to play PDL or minor league soccer (yes, at 36). I made it to the final stage of tryouts with the Columbus Crew of the MLS when I was 24, but never fulfilled that dream. By 2019, I want to be a scratch golfer. I want to help the Charlotte style scene become more prominent, and immerse myself in the style/fashion scene in as many ways as I can. I’d like to see more of the world, and possibly travel regularly for work. These are bona fide goals that I have in addition to my family and career. And I’m gonna go after them.
I get this mindset from my mom. She is a professional pianist, and has been her entire life. She teaches at Wingate University, plays concerts, plays at church, funerals, weddings, pretty much anything. I didn’t realize until I was a young adult that not everyone grew up with a beautiful piano in their living room. I thought that was the norm. See, piano is my mom’s passion, and for her entire life this is what she has done. She found a way to weave her passion into her career, and I admire that so much. I asked her recently if she ever got tired of playing, and that was the quickest “no” I have ever heard. And through this, I realized that one of the qualities I most respect in people is their choosing to go through life their way, not some template prescribed by society.
Society has a way of leading everyone into doing the same thing. That’s what I see, at least. Get married. Have 2.5 kids, whatever that means. Buy a big house in suburbia with a white picket fence. Wear khaki pants. Now, if that is what you want, go bananas. But if that is not what you want, you don’t have to be like everyone else. Your dream is your dream, not society’s. I ask my wife periodically what she individually wants out of life. As my son gets older, I will encourage his unique interests. I, personally, could care less about what society (or anyone else for that matter) tells me I should do. I’m doing what I and we (my family) want to do.
I like to be unique. I don’t do it for the attention. It’s who I am. It’s exhilarating. It’s fresh. I wear my watch on the “wrong” hand. I carry a turquoise Gucci wallet every day. I change my hairstyle 2-3 times per year. I may add 1 or 2 tattoos each year. My jeans could be covered with holes. You will see me in a huge straw hat. I might let my beard grow for 2 months. And I may wear 10 bracelets one day, along with my black diamond skull ring. I’m starting to get more and more messages each week from people wanting to slowly step outside their comfort zone now that they are hearing a voice saying that it’s okay. I say, not only is it okay, it is encouraged. When I walk through a crowd where everyone looks exactly the same, I just yawn and carry on. But when I see someone that looks or acts a little different, I want to know more. I admire eccentricity and the courage to be a little different.
I have this quote that I love that reads, “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” It is applicable to some things and not applicable to others, but it has served as a good guide for me to always be myself. This week, think about what your own unique desires are in life, and how you can position yourself to achieve them in the future. Family is important. Group stuff is important. But paying attention to yourself and achieving some of your unique individual goals is too. It’s not selfish. It’s vital.
I’m headed to Italy this week and part of next, so who knows if next week will have a post? Between the soccer, fashion, pasta, and red wine, I may never come back. (I likely will, but don’t put it past me.)
Have a great week (or two).-Benj