About a month ago I began interacting with someone on Facebook to buy a secondhand Tuffo Muddy Buddy for our tiny puddle stomper. The price? Agreeable. The location? A public park before a HIB hike. “Meet me by my obnoxiously yellow car? You can’t miss me. If you’re running late for Welcome Circle, I’m the one with the full tattoo sleeve of mandalas.”
I don’t blend in well. Sometimes by choice & sometimes by chance, my life & circumstance have led me to becoming the queen of being different. I have a lot of identities; woman, mother & wife, traveler & outdoor adventurer, deaf, artist & creative, zero waster & minimalist. As a product of these numerous labels, I feel incredibly authentic & free. I love the bubble I’ve created for myself within my home & amidst the relationships I’ve cultivated. However, I’m the first to admit that sometimes my personal choices aren’t the norm. And so I’m here to tell you tonight how to dare to be different.
Know the Pros & the Cons
If you’ve chosen an alternative lifestyle, you likely have a plethora of reasons for living the way you do. You’ve probably read all the research & it resonated with you in a way that forever changed the way you see the world. Maybe it was a slow rolling snowball, gaining momentum until suddenly you realize that you’ve become incredibly passionate about a cause you’ve always cared for. Maybe it was a sole moment which altered the way you decided to live your life in an instant. However you began, I’m sure you know all the positives about the lifestyle you’ve chosen to live.
Have empathy, because the world isn’t black & white. Take the Zero Waste lifestyle as an example. It seems obvious that we should reduce our impact by refusing packaging, to use our clothing threadbare & to keep things from heading to the landfill. However the other way of seeing this movement is that it’s full of privilege. You’re assuming that the other person is able bodied. You’re assuming they have a diet that is able to prioritize or tolerate unpackaged & low-impact food when in fact they may thrive better avoiding contaminants in the bulk section or by consuming red meats. Knowing the positives of your chosen lifestyle is one thing but respecting how it might not be for everyone makes you a kinder human being. There are solid convictions against your cause. Which brings me to my next point…
Don’t be a Jerkface
Ever heard of the phrase “you catch more bees with honey?” If you feel inclined to preach your way of life to another person, don’t belittle the way they choose to live theirs. There’s a world of difference between someone feeling curious about a new lifestyle versus feeling mocked for their old one. Everyone chooses their own priorities in life.
Make your Home an Oasis
One of the stranger decisions we’ve chosen to do in our home is to forgo a kitchen table. After my husband suggested we begin eating paleo, I challenged him to not only eat in a way that’s natural to the human body, but also to move in a similar manner. I fell down the google rabbit hole & became mildly obsessed with Nutritious Movement. We began eating around the coffee table, squatting or shifting as we dine. I feel great. I feel balanced & strong. Moreover, I know that our house is our home. One of the struggles we had as we began this lifestyle was how to navigate meals with friends or family. We held onto our traditional table, which sat unloved & unused in the corner. With our last move, we decided to convert this table into my husband’s desk in our next home, putting an intentional low table in it’s place in the center of our home. Your home should be inviting, but moreover it should reflect you. Besides, as we quickly discovered when we started inviting our friends to dine around our coffee table, quirks are infectious; a few of our friends started to convert their own families as well!
And we do still hide a folding table & chairs in the closet!
Find your Comrades
Think local & national. Facebook is a fantastic resource to find advice, support or laughs of agreement when it comes to any number of fringe lifestyles. I’ve found great ideas for Wildschooling & Zero Waste though these means. Meetup, on the other hand, is a great way to find local groups, great for vegan potlucks or foraging clubs. Lastly, if you can stereotype “your people,” you might find luck chatting with friendly strangers with a common interest, striking up a conversation with someone holding a great book or complimenting someone’s minimalist sneakers (true story from the grocery store). Get outside of your comfort zone & become approachable! The worst that happens is that you become just a random unmemorable friendly person.
But Say You Can’t Help It?
Deafness – I get it. Some things in life are chosen for you, not by you. If you wanted to psychoanalyze me, one might say that I intentionally made my disability the least interesting detail about my identity (although it’s fact that I barely consider myself disabled for any reason other than my National Parks Access Pass). Maybe that was inadvertently my intention, but in a way that’s always true. The most impressive thing about a person is what they’ve worked for, not what they’re granted. How hard you’ve worked to achieve what others take for granted is something to feel daring about. So deafness isn’t a trait I feel bold about; adaptability is something I’d like someone to recognize. How can you feel daring in the face of disability or disadvantage? Recognize your tenacity. Strength is sexy.
You’ve Got This
Most people have something unique they’re hiding. They have passions, causes, curiosities & fads or chosen lifestyles. They explore diets, fashion statements or hobbies. They march for things they believe in or volunteer to make the world a better place. That’s what makes the world unique & beautiful. That’s what drives dialogues & stimulating conversation. If something you’re interested in exploring doesn’t feel like you or doesn’t feel worth your time & energy, you don’t need to continue down that path. But you’ll never know how you feel unless you try it.