Photo credit: Rich Reid
Can you really be doing what you love and be acknowledged for it? Isn't there a place where conventionality and elements of surprise can meet? What do successful people – from both sides of conventionality – have in common?
The Traditional Path
"We are what we protect," – Audrey Tautou, Da Vinci Code
Look at you, in your late twenties or early thirties; at the prime of your years. You finished school, gotten engaged or married, and got yourself a steady income. The future is set and stable, the children are coming, and you probably have the next 20-30 years of your life – until junior gets to the same place you are today – planned out well. You parents are pleased, your friends high-five you like you've won a PS3 game, and all is peachy and perky, right?
So then, why the second thoughts? I started writing this for friends who are in their twenties and on steady pathways to somewhat success yet harbor premature depression or pent up bitterness. They've lived their lives as perfect children, perfect students, perfect graduates and adults. They're the perfectly loyal and affectionate husbands and fathers. Something important seems to be missing in their lives and they envy the people on the other side of the lifestyle: the unconventional hippies.
The Quirky Path
The quirky hippies are folks who openly and guiltlessly renounce the traditional path of perfection. They are unruly, fashionably outspoken, are well informed about social injustice and conspiracy theories and are probably vegans too.
Looking at the carefree hippies, we indulge on these second thoughts: what if you did things differently? What if you never graduated from school and pursued your passion? What if you never got hitched and went through series of love affairs instead? What if you were never sure what tomorrow's going to be like, and lived for the moment instead?
The reality is, hippies are probably uninsured and are prone to fall into pits of debts and awful healthcare. They might only achieve a mediocre level of success in their fields of passion to wake up in their own pools of vomit and resume drinking gin at 9 o'clock in the morning. The unpredictability of life crushes them in a premature onset of depression and pent up bitterness at a life that might have been.
It isn't less scary, whether you choose conventional or the hippie lifestyles. Both lifestyles come with consequences that you are going to pay for later. It could be a matter of choosing between the two evils: a conventional life with all its mind numbing routines, or an unconventional one with all of its low-risk commitments and longer-termed confusions.
The Great Grey Area
When highlighting the milestones in a person's life, we focus on the headlines: The Graduation, The Wedding, The Funeral. We often neglecting the tedious and mundane; like what they have for lunch, how often they masturbate, how many hours of indecision spent over an adjective at the end of a descriptive sentence. When in fact, the fillers, the small stuff in between the headlines, are actually the brick stones that gives every life its running shape towards the headlines.
Greatness, whether in traditional or unusual terms, sits comfortably on a fat cushion of deliberate and uninterrupted daily routines: the calorie-counts, the run/drive to the grocery, the conversations over dinner. It's a discipline to appreciate and honor the small stuff, the stuff that you might take for granted, that builds and polishes the elements of greatness in your life.
Having the small stuff done correctly, with joy and deliberation, with purposeful faith is the only thing that can make greatness achievable whether you live like a hippie or a yuppie.
After all, even mountains are moved starting from pebbles, and miles crossed starting from a step.