On Breaking Societal Norms and Living Life on Your Terms

Updated: May 8, 2019

Well, here I am, stuck at an airport, again. Unlike 127 flights flown in the previous year, this one excites me. I am meeting my good European friend and her American boyfriend. The thing about having eclectic, international friends is that sometimes they all converge in the same city on the same day for one's birthday. The City that never sleeps is fitting as it is a special birthday indeed. It marks exactly 10 years from when I, as a manager of small insurance office, wrote out life's goals to accomplish before my 35th birthday.

It's still odd to reflect at an airport, but these pit stops of travelers, have become, over the years (especially executive years), a fascination of mine. On some level they are miniature cities, with laws and regulations of their own, shuffling travelers to their various destinations across the globe. During my travels and various assignments, I often wondered who these people are, where they are going and why. Today, however, such questions point inward, toward me.

See, my dear reader, it's been 90 days since I did the unthinkable. I cut the ties of captivity. I quit a well-paid and rewarding five-year executive stint at a legacy company. I ended a twelve-year career of progressive responsibility just to check-off the items written on a sticky note a decade ago. The decision to do so grew from an inkling which blossomed in my head over four years and took a year to execute. I simply haven't had the time to recollect and organize my thoughts since the separation. This airport's wine bar is as good a place as any.

Insurance, or rather the concept of it captivated me, particularly as a European moving to the States at 21. Not in a fiscal sense per se, but more so, that given someone's driving record, age and education, along with other factors, perhaps one's health records, insurance companies can, with a reasonable degree of certainty, predict one's risk. More so, they can price it appropriately, cover any losses that do occur, and still turn a profit. While formulas and algorithms are no doubt complicated (actuarial is its own department after all), I suspect most of it has to do with peoples' nature and predictability.

In other words, humans are creatures of habit with an avid distaste for change. We hate it when our coffee isn't made the right way, if the traffic light takes too long, or even if our typical path to wherever we are headed is undergoing maintenance. We want six-minute abs, caffeine fix, overnight success, instant fame, and we always search for a shortcut out there. There must be one.

Basically, we expect more for less. This makes us predictable. Predictable is safe. We become sheeple. Insurance formula extrapolated to (western) life then loosely goes something like this: childhood programming, school, GED or B.A., significant other, house (apartment), child(ren), yearly vacation, college fund (insert possible divorce), retirement at 65, a decade or two of enjoyment (if you're lucky) and eventual sickness and death. The same general cycle repeats itself with your children. And so the circle of life goes.

Everyone is impacted and no one is immune. Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum of things, or if you are a strong believer in conspiracy theories (I am not), you will agree that the entire population retiring, at say 50, as opposed to typical 65, would have devastating effects on American Social Security System or its health care. Minor trembling of this can be felt today as Baby Boomers live longer than any other generation in history, thus placing additional (perhaps unforeseen) burden onto the the future generations. It is for that reason that the social narrative, more or less, encourages above-mentioned formula with minimal fluctuations and deviations.

In other words, I've deduced we all live a giant societal lie. It is this lie that paints us in the corner with everyone else. It then inundates us with beliefs of those feeble men (and now women) who have succumbed to its fruits by those gone before and protect the little respect amassed by their immediate circle over the years by continued adherence to "collective" thought of predictability. This is what robs us of our creativity, dreams, thoughts and identity.

Ever since, I could recall, I was in awe of the vastness of the world. Captivated by boundaries, languages, martial arts, and Will Smith. In childhood, the world was my canvas. Leaving Europe with a hundred fold more dollars than the famed rapper at 21, a couple of degrees and fluency in six languages, I had no intention of failing; no reservation in my mind, I will make things work. It was this childhood innocence that survived and crept up into my adulthood. Yet, it the same innocence I had come to neglect and eventually lose with my formative years on the new continent. The void, and its aftermath, I've been substituting in all my journeys after. Somehow, I have come to believe that I am what society wants me to be; validated only by my socially desired achievements and attainment of positions of power. In other words, I only existed because mostly (white) men in positions of power acknowledged my existence and gave me their stamp of approval. Fast forward years, it was this master that I have come to serve, diluting who I am into meaningless endeavors, camouflaged with veil of drinks on the weekends, the yearly bonus, two vacations a year, paying for a fancy car and a mortgage payment - very things I did not need or even enjoy.

As political tides turned, or rather, as I slowly refused to navigate them, the nimble innocence of my childhood began to reverberate. Eventually it echoed too loudly to ignore. Since you know the outcome from the introduction, I can assure you it is the best decision I've ever made. While 90 days after I still don't have all the details worked out, nor should I, I feel that same child-like enthusiasm again I have come to miss. The journey thus far has been amazing. Specifically without politics, emails, phone calls and other distractions, my ADD mind (not medicated by Ritalin) is free to fully operate in uninhibited spheres with a 100% naivete while grounded in my practical experience of life accumulated thus far. That said, I don't yet have all the answers. But there is a a life after a great leap of unconventionality. As a side, completely unrelated note, I recently went sky-diving. You should try it, even if you're afraid of heights like me. It both, literally and proverbially, tests your boundaries by forcing you to be in the moment. We cannot see the future no matter how much we would want to, but such is the purpose of great leaps - faith in transcending the ordinary. I know not yet where I am going, BUT, again, I feel, I smell, I sweat, I cry, and I toil in the sweat of my own labors.

I guess, it took such a leap of faith to rediscover that I can do anything. Particularly, if I choose to dedicate my entire desire to it. I don't know how I forgot it, especially as it gets tested in grappling practice daily and competition regularly. But I did. I suppose, if my grandma were here, she would tell me "to laugh at the odds and live my life so well that Death will tremble to take me." Ironically, that is the most powerful message I recall from all our years together which resonates to this day. To think she told me that after picking up from kindergarten when I was six. It is that love of myself I am discovering again. Join me on this journey that is freedom.

60 views1 comment

©2019 by Gregor Štrakl. Proudly created with Wix.com