Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Art of Non-Conformity

If you save $2 a day for three years, you can go anywhere you want in the world. The list of really big mistakes you can't recover from is really very short. Potential is good when you are fifteen years old; after that, you need to start doing something. You don't have to live your life the way other people expect you to.

All of these ideas and more can be found at The Art of Non-Conformity, which consistently blows my mind. I went through a brief granola phase--my former husband and I liked to brag that when we got married we had two backpacks and a 1971 VW bus (we were actually pretty well taken care of and both held down real jobs, but it made us feel like rebels)--but once I had children, I became pretty conventional. And I live in a really conservative town, where being just a little unconventional is way out there. So to someone who lives in Seattle or even Austin, I am way uptight.

But I digress. Chris Guillebeau is a former Peace Corps volunteer who believes, rather stridently, that we should all break out of our cubicle nation and see the world. Many moons ago, I ran off and planted trees and backpacked around Europe for a summer, and I thought it was great. But then really, it was time to grow up. And now sleeping in a hostel or in a traincar is most definitely not an adventure I'd care to relive.

Chris writes posts with titles like "A Brief Guide to World Domination" and "Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel Around the World." Outrageous for the carpool set and yet, by the time I've read them, he has a point: we say we can't afford to travel to exotic places, but that's because we are spending our money on pedicures and satellite television. He's not saying people shouldn't do that--at least not if we don't mind being "mediocre"--but that we should get off auto-pilot and realize it's a choice.

One of my favorite posts is "How to Write Your Own Annual Review." It's a full evaluation of one's life and a template for a strategic plan for the next year. Although he suggests taking a full week to do it, going through the exercises on a Saturday afternoon is a good way to consider whether you are using your time in gratifying ways.

In a much more radical way than in Laura Rowley's Money and Happiness, he works to make us think outside our cubicle walls to what might be, if we have the courage to smile, nod and walk away from people who tell us what we "should" be doing. If I look in the back corner of the closet, I might be able to find that backpack and those Birkenstocks. But I think I'll keep my day job.

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