It was years before I realized that buying into this philosophy is very limiting. It says that life needs rules and common practices and that one needs to be able to predict and expect certain behaviours from family and friends. Of course this makes life comfortable and provides a feeling of safety when it happens, but I came to realize that it was also like having blinders on. These blinders prevented me from seeing and seizing opportunities that were outside the predictable. I had gained a lot through consistency, but I was also missing a lot.
One day, I sort of gave up on perfection and became quite happy just knowing there were other options. But of course that wasn’t enough and before long I began to experiment with the concept. I began to stray from straight and ordinary. I wanted to be different than I was and the best that I could be. I wanted to be an “original” but I thought I looked pretty ordinary.
Different— what did that mean? How different? A little, a lot? Did anyone care if I became intentionally different than I had been all along simply by making non-mainstream choices? Would I be a happier, healthier person than I had been by taking hold of my life and not going so much with the flow, and the expectations ingrained by my family? Why was being “outside the box”, looking so inviting, anyway?
As life unraveled, options I never dreamed of began to appear before me. I found that I only had to allow myself to grab hold and enjoy the ride. “Say yes, not no”, became my motto.
It wasn’t that my life up until that point had been unfulfilling. I could not have been supported or loved in any greater way. In fact the sense of security my parents had given me allowed me to grow wings. And I needed wings because there was that “something” restless in me. My curiosity was all wrapped up in a very conservative being who was willing to risk in order to experience new things and new ways of being. Where others got stuck on why, I problem solved and like RFK I began to ask “why not?” and then I got on with it!
This attitude has taken me to the ends of the earth and around the globe. I found myself obtaining a doctoral degree from a prestigious university. I ran a 10 km race. I learned to live again following a horrific accident. I walked into Stromness in Shackleton’s footsteps and paddled my kayak into Vernasky Research Station in Antarctica. I was welcomed by a real penguin who stood under a sign that told me I had arrived at my destination.
I could have fallen off the mountain in South Georgia. I could have been attacked by a leopard seal while kayaking. I could have just stayed on the boat and not had either of these amazing adventures. Many folks chose not to explore the land that we were visiting in my ways. Many chose the familiar and less risky, and appeared to be quite content with their decisions.
But my choices make me, me; and your choices make you, you! Those decisions that I actively make now, drive my life, just as having been brought up in a military family and as a middle kid, did when I was younger. I like my life, I continually dare to be me and usually that is at least slightly “different”.
But if you are finding that life is dull and boring, regimented and repetitive, how can you get out of the mould that makes you feel like you are being held prisoner and that prevents you from living as fully as you can?
Change is not easy, but everyone who chooses to change has to start somewhere. Somewhere easy. Somewhere where a disclosure of intent can kind of creep out and into a person’s normal world reinventing it almost silently and in a most magical way. Well, over this last year while reflecting on many things, I have decided that socks are the answer. Yep, socks!
As a very young person, my mother taught me to knit. Such was my productivity that I warned my husband that I could fill whole rooms with my hand made items. He thought I was kidding. I was not.
But that is not the point. The point is that I discovered that my knitting skill and my creativity, collectively offer a way out of “ boring” and into “ unique” and “exciting”. But wait, I am not suggesting that you take up knitting! I’m suggesting you look at your feet or your hands on a cold winters day!
Each mitten or sock develops on my needles in its own unique way. Sometimes, right hands and feet would not readily recognize their counterparts nor could one predict what the other might turn into. If one heel is red, the other is blue. If one hand is striped the other is plaid. But not to worry, one can always tell these two have the same underlying personality and that they belong together even though they are apparently hearing different drummers. The right and the left have the same colour scheme, more or less, but they are singing a slightly or greatly different tune. As I build each one, I am responding to the options I have before me in a totally spontaneous manner. I am using my best creative self and I am innovating as my needles click away.
I have come to the conclusion that whoever thought that socks should match has done people in the western world a disservice. Now that I know that life has endless possibilities, I also know that each of us has to design our lives on the go as we reach out and realize our goals.
If a life is to be exceptional, one cannot be timid. If you have not done so, try to imagine what you would see while swimming upstream instead of floating with the current.
(Note that “ Dare to be Different” Socks and Mitts can be purchased by emailing the author via http://www.brendanutter.com . I really do make these! All socks are hand knit from handspun fibre. Most are 100% wool. Each is unique. No patterns are repeated exactly. Profits are contributed to Children’s charities.)