Was having an interesting conversation with a mate today about, well, “fitting into your own skin”. It’s a great idea that goes, you should do what you feel is right.

The impetous for the conversation was free time, and a shared outlook on how people we’ve both known over the last twenty years have planned out and conducted their lives.

What’ve we’ve both noticed is that all too many have followed “the formula”, and woken up to find themselves extremely unhappy. An example? Some who is a creative, but hasn’t been among the few who’ve made it big doing creative things. They end up depressed, and wonder why in the hell their career in writing/art/music/dance/whateverthefucktheydo hasn’t turned into fame and big dollars. And frankly? Tough shit… Not every career is going to make everyone great, and if you’re still battling for that big break in music since you were 18 and you’re now 35 then… bad news. Your playing might just be, to use that popular Wellington phrase, a bit shit.

Many people simply can’t see that though. They end up in these mid/early-life crises because the life they imagined and the shit they ended up with do not marry. They might be in a loveless marriage. A stressful but ultimately meaningless job. An endless cycle of creativity and rejection.

Now I recognise that some become famous after they’re dead, and some take the SeaChange option and get the hell out of the rat-race. Many don’t though, and they eek out their miserable lives, making themselves and others around them miserable as well. Working in the public service certainly exposes you to a lot of them.

“The formula” is a version of this where you:

  1. Leave school and go on a gap year
  2. Go to University (or maybe uni then the gap year), or start a career/trade
  3. Meet someone special
  4. Move in together
  5. Get the joint account
  6. Get engaged
  7. Get married, and buy a house (or vice versa)
  8. Breed.

Let me state right now that there is nothing wrong with living according to the formula. It is a tried and tested way to live. Especially in the 1950s. And not everyone this conservative and limited are complete tossers.

Thing is though, the formula isn’t for everyone, and if you’re living according to it because you think you have to, then experience has taught both the mate and I that you will end up completely miserable. But if you are conscious of what you’re buying into, and you actively chose this path, because it is right for you, then you will be happy.

That’s the clincher we decided. You need to decide that peeling on the skin that is the formula really is you. And if you’re a cliched range of different types of people – gays, geeks, weird creatives – then you might just find that this isn’t for you.

So what’s the way out? Choosing. If you want to live by the formula, just chose it. Say, “I want to live my life this way”, and whatever that way is will make you happy. But, you have to actually believe it. And if you’re lying to yourself, then you will never, ever be happy.

Even when you buy that Porsche.

PS. I realised last night that I have a better example of “the forumla”.When Second Chef and I first told people about Chef Du Plunge there were three, maybe four questions that almost everyone asked. These were:

  1. Are you going to get married? – Ans. WTF? We’re a happy, stable and committed relationship. How is a ceremony going to change or improve that?
  2. I suppose you’ll be moving to some place with “some land”? – Ans. Why is this important? There’s only, maybe, a billion people who grow up in cities? Why do we have to start commuting from the back of beyond to be living somewhere “normal”?
  3. I guess you’ll be needing a car then? – Ans. No. The car is only necessary if you’ve been dumb enough to go making work by getting a big garden and lawn. i.e. so that you can escape the hell and social isolation that is suburbia. It’s like making choices to spend more money, just for the sake of it…
  4. Are you ready for the responsibility/lifestyle change? It’s pretty big… – Ans. Weeeelll… if we we’re grown-ups who chose to have a child because we were ready and comfortable with the idea, then… maybe.