People always seem to have expectations of us, especially as we get older. In a typical progression of American middle-class life, people go from being carefree teens and college students of whom not much is expected (and in fact mistakes are often expected to occur at this stage of life) to being adults in the “real world” in a matter of just a few years. As productive grownups, we are expected to get a “good steady job” with benefits and a stable income, get married, buy a house, and have children-all at the socially-determined “appropriate” times. This is all well and good for people who happen to enjoy living life in this particular manner-but what happens to those of us who choose to take a non-traditional path?
Particularly as young professionals, we tend to delay marriage and children for longer than other people do. Some of us also elect to stay in school (or return to school) well into mid-life and to take greater financial risks by opening businesses, which can sometimes delay the establishment of that nice, stable life. In my experience, the world really seems to frown on people who do things differently-so if “non-traditional” best describes your life path, I’m sure you’ve already experienced the judgmental comments and condemnations of others. These comments can be hurtful and cause us to question if we are really doing the right thing by thinking outside of the box and living differently than the majority of the population.
It is always good to question and analyze ourselves-perhaps after such an analysis we may realize that in fact our way of life is not satisfactory, and that changes need to be made. However, it is important to remember that the only one who can judge the quality and relevance of your life is you. Most of the time people who make such comments either do not understand the different path that you are taking, or are envious that you had the guts to go after your dreams and live life by your own rules (and are damn happy doing it!). So, there are a few options in these situations.
If you are inclined to do so you can try to explain to the judgmental person or people in your life your motivations and rationale for making the life choices that you do, and that in fact you are very happy living this way. Maybe they will understand, and you will develop an even deeper bond or friendship with them because you have shared a significant part of yourself. However, there is a possibility that such individuals will still find your choices difficult to understand and accept. If it continues to bother a particular person that you are marching to your own drummer in life, there is a good chance that they fall into the envious category previously mentioned. In this case, you may want to consider whether it is worth having someone in your life who judges you so harshly for who you are. Of course, a problem with this is that many times the people who seem to judge us the most are our loved ones-parents, grandparents, relatives, and the like (generally people with a more traditional, “old school” type of mindset). These are individuals who we dearly love, and whom we know love and want the best for us as well. In the majority of cases we do not want to cut these people out of our lives, at least not completely. In these situations the best course of action may be to accept that this person does not have the ability to understand your life choices, and that their judgments likely (though not always) ultimately come from a place of love. Being able to separate realistically while maintaining the positive aspects of the relationship in this manner can be a challenging and often lifelong task. But the more that you try, the easier it usually becomes. And when you are living your life in a way that makes you happy, all relationships often become more fulfilling and enjoyable as a pleasant after effect-so keep on doing what you do!