Feeling like the odd one out

Pretty much straight after deciding to start this blog and drafting its first post, I was overcome with all sorts of questions and doubts: who am I to talk about balance and sustainability when I get so stressed sometimes that I just want to lie in bed and not deal with anything or anyone? How can I try to be someone writing about seeking a balanced way of living when I’m running after deadlines and trying to push myself harder to write papers for my doctoral studies? How can I give any sort of advice when I don’t think I’ve figured this out for myself yet? …and so on…
And then there’s the ubiquitous issue of “I don’t always want to be the odd one out, the one who does things differently”…

Some days I just don’t want to have to explain myself, I don’t want to get strange looks when I don’t get a plastic plate, I don’t want to feel judged when I only order a soft drink (“No, I’m not pregnant. No, I’m not a recovering alcoholic. I just choose to not drink alcohol…”), I don’t want to feel like I have to prove myself to show that women can do science, I don’t want to be the poster girl for this or that or whatever. Some days I just want to be allowed to be me without needing to justify or defend my choices…

But then again, I’m realising that I can’t just seek comfort. I can’t just live my life only doing the easy thing, or the acceptable thing, or the expected thing. There are some things I feel too strongly about to just accept the status quo  – and even if my own personal actions don’t change the whole of society, at least I know that I am trying my best; whether that’s about environmentally sustainable living, or setting priorities for looking after my health, or things like trying to not engage in gossip and backbiting.

So, while I feel like it’s hard to say this in an eloquent or comprehensible way, I think the thing I’m learning is this: it’s ok to feel exhausted when you’re trying to do something most people don’t do or don’t understand, and sometimes you’ll even be met with hostility or opposition. And it’s ok to sometimes just need a break and want to draw the blankets over your head and disappear for a while – and some days that might even be exactly what you (need to) do. And it’s important to accept your own limitations and needs, and to realise when you have to “give in” because it’s taking too much energy to “keep fighting”. But in the end it’s also ok to keep on doing your own thing. It’s ok to not quite fit in, to shake up the boat a bit, to question tradition and habit. It’s ok to get weird looks for being different. It’s ok to be the odd one out. Because, in the end, nobody else can judge who we are or what we do. Nobody else can walk our path.

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” (The Buddha)

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