I have probably chosen every road less traveled, and like Robert Frost said, "it made all the difference." But also like my favorite Kid President said, "it hurt." In today's day and age where there really is no conventional way to live, I still live a very unconventional life to most. I am a 35 year old single woman with no children. I am educated, went to college and majored in international finance and marketing, then got my graduate certificate in non-profit management. I worked in non-profit for 7 years before I left to pursue my dreams in India to teach yoga. That one choice changed the course of my life forever.
That one choice to follow my heart is the push I needed to embrace my life as the black sheep. I had realized that there were a number of things I had been doing to make other people happy or to fit into societal norms, and after India, I just couldn't pretend any more. I came back from India to teach yoga full time, where I made little to no money. It was a huge shift from my life in non-profit. I had push back from my family, but I strongly believed in what I was doing and continued teaching yoga full time for another year and a half until I decided to follow another dream and move to Japan. This was a bigger step to take as a black sheep. This time I would move across the globe by myself to teach English, something I had never done.
Over the years it has become easier to pick up and move and try something new. I have posted about my many adventures over the years and unfortunately I believe it has given the impression that this life I have chosen comes without a price. This is untrue, and this is the where this blog post really starts. To live a life where you follow your heart, where you are the black sheep and you are okay with it, in my experience you need to do the following:
1. Feel the fear and do it anyways.
This is the biggest one. I, like every other human being, get afraid. I let the fear come over me and I even let it consume me for a while. Then, I do the thing anyways. Because in my life experience, if I don't feel that fear, it isn't worth doing in the first place.
2. Learn to say no
I spent most of my younger years being a "yes" girl. Which of course gave me some amazing life experiences, but by learning to say no I could really embrace who I was becoming. Learning to say no helped me establish boundaries so that I could fight for what I felt was right, and more importantly so that I could fight for the things I wanted in my life.
3. Keep an open heart
This one is the most difficult for me. As I followed each dream or each adventure, my personal relationships were always sacrificed. Not ever on purpose, it just happened. Each time I changed direction, I had to eventually chose me or the guy I loved. Every time I have chosen me, and it has not been easy. Every time I chose me, my heart broke. But in order to follow your heart, it has to be whole, so I had to pick up the pieces and find a way to open it again to new possibilities. And that is what love is about, new possibilities.
4. Make mistakes
Not every dream turns out. Not every choice you make to follow your heart will leave you fulfilled or even content. But you will learn from the mistakes you have made and it will prepare you for the next dream. You will get to know yourself even more. I have made countless mistakes. From each career change I have made, what works for me and what doesn't.
5. Be patient
This is another tough one. Be patient with other people and most importantly with yourself. Your family and loved ones will come around, they just need time to embrace you in your real avatar. If you are patient enough to learn to love yourself in all your flaws and all your perfection, others will too in time.
If you are a black sheep, you already know these lessons. If you are struggling with finding your path, I hope this list will help you embrace yourself and your path. Life is not a competition, no need to compare your life to others. You have every right to choose you. If that you includes a husband, a wife, kids, then choose that. If that you includes a dog, a van, and the road, choose that. If that means choosing to do something you didn't go to school for, or making a big move half way across the world, do that. Every path has a price. No life is better than the other. The house with a picket fence is just that, a house with a picket fence. The life of a roaming nomad, is also just that, a life of a roaming nomad. Happiness awaits you once you embrace yourself exactly as you are, at any given moment.