Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Breaking out of the mold

Compelling street art from Philadelphia
image courtesy of The Foundist.com
I think it can be safely said that I've never really fit into any mold. Quitting a lucrative and challenging career to live as a sailing bum in the Caribbean, living on a boat, raising kids on a boat, no 401k or life insurance to speak of - I've done it a little differently than my peers.

Yet, at the same time, it's so similar. My husband works full-time, I stay at home with the girls. We have kids. We go grocery shopping. Two cars. Bedtime at 7:30 (for the kids, not us!...although, some evenings...). On a day to day basis, my life veers more toward the hum drum than the unconventional lifestyle that it looks on the surface.

In brief
I want: an unconventional, nontraditional, exciting, adventurous, travel-filled, challenging life that pushes me out of my comfort zone and gives us lots of family time.
I currently have: a pretty staid suburban life. (Albeit aboard a boat, but, still. The boat doesn't go anywhere.)
What we're working toward: a nomadic life, based on family time and free time. 

To further complicate, I was raised and schooled to be a feminist. I struggle on a daily basis against this 1950s lifestyle that we've created for our kids. If I lived in a bubble, in a vacuum, where I wasn't influenced by societal norms and expectations, I'd be totally fine to sit back and say: this is what's working for our family, right now. It will change, it will evolve, but, right now, it's working for us.

But we don't live in a bubble. And I know our kids are happy and living a good life, and, generally, I'm happy and living a good life. But then I come across a study that says that kids of working moms are more successful later in life; that kids that are raised in families where household work is split evenly are more likely to be engaged fathers and men (moot point, I guess, for us since we have two girls, but, still).

The pressure
So I sit here, knowing that, like it has been for the past six years, our current set-up is transitory. We'll be doing something different, and then doing something different again. So I settle in to today, knowing that today is good. I'm looking big picture. Think 5-10 years big picture...then I get excited. The minute I can release myself from the pressures of the mold; once I know that, yes, I will be able to break out of that mold, my mind is at ease and I am so excited for that future to come.

It's amazing to me how much influence our peers and society has on our fundamental beliefs. I feel like I am pretty strong and certain in how I feel and what I am doing, but, yikes, the minute I get too settled in our (floating) suburban lifestyle, I start freaking out. Must set goals, must make plans, must do more. 

The pressure to do more; the pressure to compete; the pressure to measure up and reach certain goals = it's not just adolescents that feel peer pressure.

I read a great article by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love and Committed to name two of her books), that urged women to just "lighten up." You're good enough, you're doing enough, just chill out and enjoy life. I really struggle with that and I can spin myself in circles and wrap myself up in endless arguments about what I want to be doing, what I am doing, what I should be doing. When, really, I should just lighten up.

Sunrise, at anchor off Amelia Island.

(And the truth that I know: when I am out on the water, on a sailboat. I am happy. Satisfied. Content. Fulfilled Some fundamentals never change. I've known it for 12 years: all I need is a sailboat.)

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