Growing up and fitting in - we've got it all wrong!


I was chatting with friends the other day and we're joking, (although not really) about how we're getting stiffer and less flexible as we get older - and none of us are that old! Then the upside of ageing comes up, how we get more self confident and care less about the opinions of others on how we look, dress and act and how life is tough, for different reasons, at any age.

So I ask the question; which category of people has it best; the most confident, the most flexible, the greatest capacity to learn, the most open minded and inquisitive? The answer of course, is babies! And then it all goes downhill from there…and although this is lighthearted, it's also very true! Although the same could be said for dogs; they don't seem to get sick, they intuitively know what is good for them and what isn't - and when was the last time you saw a stressed out dog?

We have it all wrong! My eldest sister Sue, (love her to bits) has always been the free thinking one in our family and I have to admit over the years, I've considered her to be a bit 'out there', but as I get older and wiser I'm starting to think she may have had it right all along.

At around five we go to school, and I know things have changed since my days but the basic outline is still the same; we sit quietly in rows day after day, only speaking when we're spoken to. We are asked the questions, but we're then told the answers - we learn to remember rather than think. We learn what we're told - this is right and that is wrong; there really isn't a whole lot of encouragement to question everything. So what happens to our naturally inquisitive nature? It gets quashed! I always remember my young nephew Callum in his early days questioning everything; I would constantly be 'grilled' about anything and everything when I visited, every tradesman that came to the house would be interrogated in great detail about what they were doing and why. And he would remember all of it down the last snippet of information. I remember hoping that it would never stop and he would go through life taking in everything that went on around him. I know I stopped doing it long ago; I took everything to be what it seemed on the surface. I accepted everything I was told by anyone in any kind of authority; teachers, parents, police, priests - in fact any adult. I joined the military and believed what I was told by anyone with any seniority to me. I learned who the good guys were in the world, and who the bad guys were - both of whom seemed to constantly change depending on what, I don't know? But that's what we were told so it must surely be right…mustn't it???

It wasn't until I grew older and realized that I didn't really know very much at all, but what I did know was that I wasn't the only one - everyone in life was just passing down the same information without questioning it. Someone could have made up a total lie years ago and we all believed it because 'it must be true' and to question it would mean not fitting in, being the outsider, being different.

And this is the biggest mistake of all; we shouldn't fit in, any of us. We should ALL fit out, we need to all be different, be our own outsider. How can we change things for the better if we keep on doing the same things that clearly don't work? And this isn't about anything specific; it's about everything in life; how we live, how we lead, how we build our homes, how we provide for our families, how the country is run and how we create sustainable energy. This is not me being a conspiracy theorist, this is me opening my mind. We are fed into a system based around money, debt and greed. Young people come out of university with huge debt which often takes them many years to pay off, by which time they are 'fitting in', they use their qualifications to get good, well paying jobs. But part of having these good jobs involves having the big house, the nice car and all the toys. So we now have to earn good money to just be able to sustain the lifestyle that the good job affords us. And so the circle goes round and comes round - on and on and on - until we retire after 40 plus years of working 50/60/70 hours a week to give ourselves what we are told is the good life! But what has this all cost us? We put on weight, we spend more time sick, we pile on the medications, we get stressed, we lose our health - for what? To fit in, to belong - to the consumer population. 

And this is the wealthy ones; what about the less fortunate? So many families these days are struggling to get by; both parents working two jobs just to make ends meet - those ends never will meet - as long as huge corporations can pay minimum wage in order to make more profits for the shareholders.

Thankfully we now have the internet so there is no right and wrong answer anymore; all the information in the world, right and wrong, is just a click away. Some true, some not true, but at least now we have the choice. We get to read both sides of every story, every argument, which can only be a good thing. We can make our own informed decisions, we get to question everything and make our own minds up. No longer is there any justification to the phrase; "Don't believe what you read on the internet!" You'll read plenty of information that at first seems wrong because it's not what you've been led to believe, it goes against everything you've ever been told. But is it wrong? Maybe, maybe not… We need to start thinking for ourselves; question where the information is coming from. Just because it comes from a reputable source - why is that source reputable? Who sets to gain from this information? Are there political or commercial interests at stake here? If it's just the opinion of a 'nobody' does that make it any less worthy of your time and consideration?

So is there an answer to all this ranting? I believe we should all learn how to live from babies and dogs; they both seem to have it right - we clearly don't. And parents, next time you need an answer to one of life's troubling questions, just try asking your kids. You have nothing to lose and you may just be surprised by their open-mindedness...

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