Lately, I have become aware that I often have opposite perspectives of the people I interact with. Even more so, I recognize that I make decisions that are often the exact opposite of the current trend. I have been mulling this over trying to pinpoint when this pattern arose, why it erupted, and whether this approach has hurt me or served me well.
The most recent realization struck when friends have asked why we are moving to California and whether we considered a move to Florida. While many New Yorkers have made a move to the Sunshine State for better weather and lower taxes, we did the exact opposite and chose a move cross country to a state that charges even more taxes than New York. It would have been an obvious choice for us to move to Florida, our hometown. We have family there as well as many childhood friends and friends who relocated south from New York. Yet, we resisted this option from the get-go. Suddenly, I desired to dive into other examples of times I've marched to the beat of my own drum.
- When the majority of folks from New York City voted for Biden, I voted for Trump. I'm not a staunch Republican per se, I've voted for both parties in the past (in fact I voted for Hillary the term before). This last round though felt extra important to vote opposite of how those around me chose to cast their ballots. Politics became way too divisive and the overt judgment imposed on Republicans by my uber-liberal New York friends, neighbors, and colleagues really began to annoy me. I didn't want to feel like I was voting for Biden just because everyone else around me was or because I was afraid of being judged as a moron. I stepped back, assessing the bigger picture. I felt it was important to vote freely without fear of ostracization and needed to vote opposite of those around me to practice my rights to do what I want during a time politics became more threatening than ever. So, I voted for Trump.
- My father recently tried to convince me to invest in real estate in a growing neighborhood. I kept telling him that while others keep buying property, we are trying to get rid of ours. For us, it's a headache to own property and to manage tenants. Yes, although property value increases over time, I just don't find it worth the effort. Unlike most, I don't buy into the American dream of property ownership. I've seen too many people work their lives away so they can own a home and then they rarely leave its walls. We've also had horrible experiences with tenants. I'm with Elon Musk on this one, we're selling everything.
These are just two tiny examples of many, but I think you get the point.
So, why, I wonder, do I go against the grain at every opportunity? How has this pattern affected my life? Is it a path I want to continue pursuing? An even bigger question for myself is where did this instinct to live on a perpetual opposite day come from?
In digging deeper to answer these questions, I traveled back to a childhood where I never quite fit in. My hard-working, middle-class parents placed me in a private school with the help of financial aid. I was surrounded by wealthy kids who lived in Miami Beach mansions while I drove back home to our small Hollywood townhouse.
During my college days, and even well into my current life stage, I always felt (and still do), conflicted between my Israeli and American roots. My family moved to the US when I was three. I practically spent my entire life in the United States, but I was raised by Israeli parents with Israeli views and perspectives. I've always felt "too Israeli" for my American friends and "too American" for my Israeli friends.
I do think that eventually the circumstances of feeling out of place ironically helped formulate a sense of security and confidence in being different. I spent so many years feeling out of place, in not the best ways, that I finally stopped resisting the ways I was different than the people around me and began to embrace them instead. This acceptance catapulted me into making decisions that were different and living a life that is different.
Looking back at all the many ways I made deliberate decisions to behave differently than the popular tendencies, I realize how irritating and even threatening, this may have felt to those around me. There have been those along the way who had a strong sense of security and were supportive and sometimes even inspired by my unconventional choices. These folks often inspired me too. Yet, there have been many who made it clear in their behaviors and questions, that they were obviously bothered by my choices along the way. Somehow, my unorthodox approaches threatened their safer ones. Regardless of the feedback, I plowed through the path that called my name.
My message to you is to be different. My life has been so rewarding and fulfilling because I consciously decide, whenever possible, to do the exact opposite of what others are doing. The less treaded territory has almost always been the place that I have found happiness because the road less traveled truly delivers the most unexpected treasures. Humans sensibly feel most safe blending with crowds, traveling in herds. It's comforting to know that there is support in the successes and failures we share with others. It feels safe to make choices that are similar to the ones of our neighbors and friends. But, there is something extremely inhibiting about following the status quo. Write your own unusual script, despite how scary or lonely it may feel. Feeling unsafe and uncertain is healthy sometimes. Allow yourself to enter these spaces. They will ultimately take you somewhere much better than where you started off.
You are living your one life this one time. All the rules and constructs that have been imposed on you do not have to exist in your life, in your script. You really can do almost anything once you break free from the chains that have seduced you into a set of norms. Do not convince yourself to be complacent. You have so much more to uncover and discover. Yet, there is so little time. Don't wait too long. Push yourself. Push yourself to be different. Push yourself now. Break the rules. Don't worry about the Joneses, it's really turf on their lawn. Face your fears and feel those butterflies in your stomach that flutter once you decide to do the very thing you have wanted to do for so long but have been too scared to pursue. When was the last time you had butterflies in your stomach? For myself, every time I face the unknown and do things that may seem erratic or crazy to others, I feel those exciting flutters. Those are the very moments I know that I have made the right decision. It is when I am most afraid to try something new, and push through my fears, that I am always rewarded in the best ways.
We are all unique human beings. The problem lies in pushing away our innate differences to assimilate, keep up, be accepted, follow the norms, stay under the radar, please others, etc. While following along feels safe, I think we can mostly agree that it is limiting and sometimes even an unknowingly boring path. That special quality you have, which you may try to suppress, is likely the very one you should share with the world. Those dreams you have, that you keep pushing off for another day, are probably the ones that you should pursue now. Celebrate what makes you different than everyone around you and then feed it, nurture it, nourish it.
I hope you will join me on a journey that will lead to new roads of discovery, with their potholes and all. Please drop me a note and share what you have been pushing off and the ways that you are beautifully different than others. I would love to hear from you.