Story time again!
I’m focusing for awhile on sharing with you some of my own life stories, as a bit of a change of pace on the blog. I’m so grateful to be doing this work and to be able to share more of myself with you. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the story. :)
How I Learned to be So Unconventional
I’ve never been one to truly follow the rules of society and those people who are often perceived as authority figures. Oh, believe me—I’ve definitely tried! But ultimately, it has never worked. And it’s been something about myself that I’ve really needed to grow in acceptance of. I don’t often follow convention. And not following convention usually doesn’t fail me. ;)
In my story last week, (check it out here if you missed it), I shared with you about how my mother had been in a convent for 5 years as a nun much earlier in her life before I was born. Between Mom’s very interesting background as well as my father’s own quirks, I had models of unconventionality right from the start!
In addition to having been a nun for awhile, my mother did not follow many tenants or supposed authority figures of society either, except when it came to her religion. However, outside of soaking up all of the teachings of those on her favorite religious radio station and relying on God and religious leaders as her ultimate authorities, my mother really did not subscribe to much of what was “normal” in modern society.
Mom was convinced she and I had many food allergies, so we never went to restaurants. She made her own very interesting mix of food for herself to eat. She’d eat things like dry milk, wheat germ, great northern beans, and a few tablespoons of canola oil, all mixed up in a bowl. This was her daily food.
The food she made for me was also nowhere near normal. Everything she bought or cooked for me didn’t have any sugar or much salt or fat. I ate plain, unsalted, cooked ground beef. Plain, unsalted, unbuttered pasta—for a treat. Plain great northern beans and wheat germ. Half of a scrambled egg for breakfast. No sweets at all. She thought they made me too “hyper,” too “disobedient.”
Unfortunately for Mom, she couldn’t control this regimen outside of the home, and I’d eat sweets whenever else I could get my hands on them. It took me a long time and a lot of rebalancing of my system to learn to moderate my sweet tooth!
We also never made the traditional holiday meals. I remember there were several holiday meals I ate with Mom when I was older and out of the house, ones that involved me buying and eating things like canned ravioli while she had her usual concoction. We’d sit and listen to religious radio after we celebrated the holiday at church.
Modern TV and music were severely limited and strictly controlled. If there was any speak of even the slightest of innuendos or “immodest” dress, the radio or TV were quickly turned off, or I was given a large guilt trip and a sense of disgust on the side. I was only allowed to see G-rated movies, and we rarely saw them at a theater.
Shopping for clothes was done at places like Goodwill or St. Vincent’s, or I received hand-me-downs from other families Mom knew. Mom just didn’t believe we needed to spend the money on new clothes. She herself had been given a wardrobe of brightly-colored pantsuits from a family friend, which she’d gotten tailored and wore throughout her teaching career. I never saw Mom buy a new article of outer clothing for herself.
Also, Mom never really had a lot of friends who she did things with outside of work. I sense now that it was because teaching took a lot of her energy. But she didn’t ever “get together with the girls” and do anything. She never drank alcohol. She befriended a few other teachers and church members in her community, but they never went out and spent time together.
As a child, growing up this way was so hard for me. I wanted more than anything to fit in with society and “be normal.” I wanted to shop at malls, to watch the shows and listen to the music that everyone else did, and to eat at all the popular places. I rebelled against Mom a lot because of all of this. But it wasn’t to be.
My father also had many of his own quirks. Pop was the kind of person that would approach strangers on the street and try to start a conversation with them. He had a heart of gold and, like Mom in many ways, a sense of naïveté, so that he didn’t really understand that approaching and conversing with strangers on the street was not “normal” behavior.
Pop was also not at all a typical “man,” in the stereotypical sense of that word. He disliked hunting, fishing, or other outdoor activities. He also didn’t have close male (or female) friends to spend time with, so he didn’t go out to eat with others or hang out at bars with them. He didn’t like beer and rarely drank alcohol. I think he was afraid of it, since my grandfather had been an alcoholic.
Pop loved football and other TV sports, but that was about the only “normal” man trait he possessed. He had a very nurturing side. He loved to laugh and make jokes about pretty much anything, but overall, the jokes were tasteful, punny, and not bitter or sarcastic. And his favorite color was pink.
Before my parents divorced, Pop stayed home with me while I was younger, while Mom worked. Thirty years ago, this was a much more unusual arrangement than it is today. We didn’t ever take family vacations and only traveled together to see relatives. We never flew anywhere, didn’t go out to eat together, and didn’t participate in any “normal” child or family group activities such as team sports. I took piano lessons, which I hated practicing for. I didn’t do Halloween because I wasn’t allowed the candy. I did get Christmas presents, mainly thanks to my grandmother. That was as “normal” as it got.
I also had many unconventional moments with peers, and as I got older, with colleagues or friends. I’m an only child, so I had no siblings to fight with, or to play with. As a child, I had a very hard time making friends with anyone at school. I was often picked on and was an outsider. And as an adult, I’ve tried many times to sacrifice parts of myself to attempt to fit in, only to have the truth come out later or to continue growing in my own ways.
My life has continued to be unconventional in many ways. Very early into my 30s, I found myself the only survivor of my small, most immediate family, after my dad had passed first, then my mom years later. I’ve continued to grow on my own, and have grown out of many groups, friendships, and associations. I continue to research, wonder, and question incessantly, and often try things or think up ideas that are so different from “the way we do things around here.”
I often resented having such unconventional parents and such a non-traditional upbringing. But today, I see how much it has served me. Yes, it’s cost me certain things in my own life, like friendships at times, like being able to connect with many others who are well-versed in the knowledge and ideals of our modern society. (I never know anything about names, plots, or actors/actresses in many “famous” movies, for instance!)
It’s likely allowed for others to give me a “weird” label or badge when I share my latest story in how I tried or did something that maybe other people may never have considered looking up or researching, or may have been too afraid to try. But all those times when I have tried unconventional things, I have either greatly benefited from them or they have led me to another important step on my own path in life. And after so, so many years of feeling conflicted about being so unconventional, yet also wanting everyone to approve of me and like me, I’ve now come to a point where the approval of others has much less weight on my decisions than my own growth and learning.
The acceptance of that very truth also seems like quite an unconventional way to live these days, but that’s okay. At the end of my life, if I’m blessed to have time to look back, I’m sure I won’t hope for one minute that I’d been more like other people around me. I’m sure that even if I’ve failed a lot more, I will be grateful that I will have had the courage to be myself in a world that tries to make all of us conform to some often ridiculous and at times dangerous standards. And that is something that, however unconventional, I know I can be quite proud of.
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Thanks again for letting me share one of my life stories with you. I’m so grateful to be able to connect with you in this way. I’d be honored if you felt called to take a peek at some of my cornerstone work in my first book, All About Me. It’s really a book just for you, with a chance to do some of your own reflecting on your own story, and maybe gain some new perspectives from it at this particular time in your life.
If this calls to you, you can check it out right here.
No matter what, always remember this: You are deserving, you are worthy, and you are good enough. Keep being you, keep shining, and keep growing!
With great love,