It is so easy to go along with the crowd. I think we learn this in junior high school. In elementary school, kids pretty much do what they want to do, not knowing or caring what others think. Then as kids approach their 'tweens, everyone else's opinion suddenly becomes so important that they forget about what they actually want to do and just follow the crowd. Advertisers learned this lesson early and have put it to good use...show people what "everyone else" is doing then make us feel like we will be less acceptable if they don't follow along in kind. Here's ten things that almost everyone else does but that I am slowly learning to rebel against:
1) You need a car. Every adult needs a car. I haven't owned a car in maybe five years. I finally couldn't justify paying nearly $1000 a month just for a car when I was supremely happy taking public transportation anytime we traveled. I figured that if I could take a bus in a third world country sitting next to a chicken on one side of me and a drooly baby on the other, and still be amused by life, then I could probably take public transportation in my own home town. And so far this has worked out very well. Now hubby and I share his car or I ride the bus and it has literally saved me thousands and thousands of dollars.
2) You need a house to be a rooted, responsible person. I am moving more towards the thought that you need a clean, warm, safe place to live. It need not be a house with a mortgage. In fact, the lower the maintenance on your home (ie: no mowing the grass, re roofing at regular intervals, finding a new pool man, redecorating every season, etc) the more time, and probably money, you will have to actually enjoy your life. I am dispensing with my house as soon as I get home next week. I am set on making my sister-in-law's guest house in Atlanta my new digs as soon as possible.
3) You need a college degree. I have always wanted a college degree just for the status of having one. I dropped out of college after three years because it just didn't make sense to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get a degree in order to get a job that would have actually paid me less than the job I had that supported me while I was in college. I guess getting a degree is a math equation that people don't often ask themselves.
4) You need a lot of expenses that you can use for tax deductions. These may include the interest on your home, business expenses, etc. My new thought on this is that it would make more sense to buy less stuff and work less in order to pay less taxes than to earn more and buy lots of stuff in order to get a fraction of the costs that you expend back in tax deductions.
5) You need a lot of stuff to have a fulfilling life. My in laws are amazing, wonderful people but it has been like I am trapped in an unending commercial while we have been with them. Granted, in their culture, status is of extreme importance. Where you live, what you buy, which credit cards you have, what kind of purse you carry, where you go on vacation...basically everything they do is dictated by what people in general will think of them. In their culture, people are judged mostly by these outward signs of wealth and prosperity. Fortunately in our culture, especially with the recent uptick in the popularity of minimalism, there are many more people who understand that material goods do not equate to happiness or fulfillment. I know many people who seemingly have everything yet they can't get through a day with a couple of drinks or a Xanax while others I know who would be considered below the poverty level are very happy and content with their lives.
6) You need a good job. Actually that has been the mantra for at least the last four generations of my family (before that people were self employed as farmers or small business owners). Since the industrial age began, people have moved towards the career job/stable salary tract and have forgot that it is perfectly acceptable to be your own boss. I have been my own boss for the last ten years and love it. I do, however, need to focus more on diversifying my client base. It is easy to get lazy when you have one client that pays really well and a couple of related clients which you just kind of fall in with. Starting next week, this diversification will be my main task as I work to rebuild/remake my business into something that works better for me.
7) You need to be responsible and do the right thing. This usually entails following the crowd and doing what everyone else is doing. I have been responsible and "doing the right thing" for ages and all it has done for me was get me into a rut and make me bored silly. I am going to start doing what I want to do and screw what everyone else thinks. If I want to paint my new bedroom purple with pink polka dots I will, and I won't even care that it isn't something an adult would do. I am also going to finish my novel, enter off the wall contests, maybe even sing on a street corner for kicks....anything to make life more interesting and exciting.
8) You need to be part of a community. I have been a bit overwhelmed with social/community organization responsibilities for the past decade. If something interests me, I tend to say yes and volunteer for things to the point that these sidelines become more like a secondary job. Part of the attraction to moving and settling somewhere totally new is that I won't have a half dozen board meetings to go to each week, I won't be responsible for moving organizations forward (ie: doing fund raisers, volunteering for projects, etc), and people won't be calling me for every crisis. It is great to volunteer and help out in the community but by trying to help everyone you actually do yourself a dis-service.
9) You need great credit. I will be perfectly happy when, like Dave Ramsey, my credit report becomes unavailable because I will have no credit track record. His credit score is zero because he never uses credit and one day, I would like mine to be zero as well. But, like Dave Ramsey, I will of course have lots of money in the bank so that I can pay cash for anything I need (he pointed out at his recent event in Atlanta that while he would be unable to rent an apartment that required a credit check because he has no credit score, he could easily write a check and buy the entire building. I think that's cool!).
10) There are lots of things that we have in mind to do during our lifetime but we often put them off in order to tend to our responsibilities. As a recant event showed me, you can be perfectly healthy one minute then drop dead the next so we should never put off doing anything. If you have always wanted to visit Washington DC, you should go now, even if it means CaigsListing a ride and CouchSurfing in order to do it...there may be no tomorrow.