An Unconventional Life … Part One

I have just been looking through some of Carol Rossetti’s images on Facebook (http://mic.com/articles/92651/18-empowering-illustrations-to-remind-everyone-who-s-really-in-charge-of-women-s-bodies). They have forced me to confront some ‘ideas’ about myself.

When I was a teenager, like pretty much everyone I knew, I thought I would be married in my mid to late twenties to a perfect man, have my career as a phenomenal teacher, be a writer and raise my perfect children. It was my happy ever after.

At fifteen.

But my life hasn’t followed that path. Truthfully, I think I always knew it wouldn’t. I have never been ‘normal’ or ‘conventional’. I have tried to be that; have tried to look it, at least. Unsuccessfully.

In my mid twenties I was teaching casually; I had not found permanent teaching work. I was renting a house with teacher friends in Wollongong drinking two to three nights a week but living my life. I loved my housemates, like family, and I loved my lifestyle. Work by day, play by night.

Music became my hobby rather than writing and peaked when I performed, badly, on stage in a pub in Wollongong, Minstrel Boy on saxophone, to a full crowd. My youngest sister stood before me at the front of the stage with tears of pride streaming down her face.

It was a perfect moment.

I had conquered my shyness. I had done something I never thought possible. But it wasn’t the first time. And it wouldn’t be the last.

I had already had my first ‘ink’ done. On a holiday in Byron Bay. My own initiation symbol on my left wrist into Wicca. A token of my commitment to a religion I had always believed in and followed but had only just found a name for. A delicate band of energy with a small pentagram; a bracelet. I vowed it would be my only tattoo. I had never liked them; I thought they were unconventional and people always looked at and judged those with tattoos. If you knew me, you would know that that vow has not been respected. I have learned to never say never. The hard way.

And then came the dreadlocks which I wore proudly for over ten years before fulfilling a commitment I had made to my sister and a close friend to get rid of them if I ever found a way without shaving my head. And then I had curls, predominantly blonde, for seven and a half years, fitting in to society, its conventions for beauty and for femininity. Men found me attractive. I thought I was too, for the most part. Even though I have always fought with my weight, blonde hair afforded me the opportunity to almost be normal, to almost belong in a society that adheres to a strict code of what beauty is. A code that my weight always kept me feeling I could never fulfil.

After years of missing my dreads, of fighting past the identity having them had created, I made a deal with my hairdresser that if I fell pregnant I would get my dreads back. When I didn’t fall pregnant, I figured I should gain something and I organised to have my dreads put back in. Initially fearful, when I saw myself in a mirror, I knew it had been the right decision. I miss my curls from time to time; I struggle with not fitting in and belonging to my society’s notion of what beauty is, but I am me. And I am happy that this aspect of my external is very authentic to my internal existence.

This is who I am.

And I am not ashamed anymore, that this is who I am.

Aspects of this stereotype are embodied in me: left wing, slightly feral, slightly ostracised, different. I still do not lead the conventional life.

I am unmarried. I am single. I am childless. I do not own my own home. I am happiest and most connected when I am in nature. I am most authentic when I am on holidays; at home or away. And I do travel, journey, frequently.

And this lack of convention leads others to judge. I have often been labelled. Or I have feared it. Often seen it in the eyes of those that walk past me. But I am me. And there is nothing wrong with that. Or me. The wrong is in others. In their judgements. In their eyes.

I would have loved the conventional life but it was not my lot this time. I am richer for it. I think if I had followed the conventional path it would have resulted in my head in an oven, or my pockets full of stones, like so many others before me. Embracing who I am, in my life of non-convention, has afforded me a deep happiness and a rich connection with everything and everyone around me. I see the world through different glasses and I live my life through my own ideals.

And I am at peace.

My life is my own.

9 thoughts on “An Unconventional Life … Part One

  1. So glad you feel so deeply connected to your life. I am sure people look strangely at all of us for different reasons- sizing us up to see if we fit ( them, the world,their own ideas). I don’t think any of us end up with the life we imagined when we were 15. I was going to live an unconventional life. I was going to write for national geographic and travel to archaeological sites…right after I got married complete with bridesmaids in apricot taffeta 😉 So all our paths are winding and no life journey is straightforward xxx

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    • So very very true Jowen! I’ve noticed that the young people struggle when they don’t fit a more conventional mode. We really need to reintroduce oral storytelling from us ‘elders’ to our mentees – just so they know all of what we know.

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    • Lol apricot taffeta! Go Jowen! You know I agree with you. I have found that just recently, ex students are questioning what the right path for them is, because when they follow their hearts they are being judged and questioned and minimised. I am very happy with my achievements, and know that I possibly wouldn’t have achieved as much had I lived a more conventional life. What can you do ;-).

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  2. Always know… Those that truly love you, embrace you and never judge. Appreciate you and are inspired by you. It’s unconventional to follow your heart. Society does dictate pathways but the bravest follow their hearts. Your blessed to have followed your own path at an age where it’s always possible for dreams to be fulfilled. Keep walking this pathway and remember that it just might lead you to where you want to go… Even though we don’t always know where that is… Destiny guides us all in some ways and when we turn up somewhere we have that realisation that we were on the right path in the first place…. The mystery of life…..

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  3. It was your less than conventional style which got me hooked on English when I was lucky enough to have you teaching me in year 8. While I was loving the class (and was rather good at it, if I do say so myself 😉 ), I was prone to a touch of misbehavior. Rather than sitting me in the corner and ignoring me on account of it, you gave me the assignments which your year 9 class was doing at the time. Rather than following the conventional rule of ‘Child is bad, therefore punish’, you gave me and my slightly too active mind more to do. Which meant more to me then than I probably expressed at the time.

    Never stop being unconventional. Conventional is boring. Conventional is Top 40s music and pop fiction; endless hours reading out of text books, and trudging along to a job you hate just to pay the bills. If it weren’t for unconventional people, we’d likely still be running about in loincloths gathering the food we need to survive while grunting at one another.

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    • “A touch of misbehaviour” LOL. Your brain was too active for traditional schooling is all Chris! You were very blessed to have parents that permitted you at that time to explore the world of ideas. I believe it was Michael Moore’s documentaries yeah?

      You know I love teaching kids that are prone to “a touch of misbehaviour” – keeps me on my toes whilst instilling faith that the future has a chance of bringing mass change to our world.

      I do like being unconventional, as a teacher and in my life; I just want others to know it is okay too.

      Everything comes at a price.

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