I might be the most stubborn person I know.
When I reflect on my childhood experiences, one big realization comes to mind: I learned everything the hard way.
No matter how many times they told me, “Gina, don’t touch that, it’s hot.”
I just had to know for sure.
Dozens of tears and I-told-you-so Band-Aids later, I stopped touching the stove, or “Hot Kitchen Monster,” as it came to be known in my imagination.
You might think that the increasingly precarious trials of adulthood would have changed a lot about how I approach life’s obstacles.
Live, learn, start taking more people’s advice –– the sensible route.
Although plenty of well-meaning people frequently advise me on the so-called prudent and practical ways of doing things, something just doesn’t click. I’m always (naively or arrogantly, depending on how you look at it – I prefer ‘creatively’) looking for a different way to do it.
Why does it have to be done that way? Are you sure? Have you tried it this way? Why not?
As you can imagine, this ornery way of living life and challenging norms has its consequences, including but not limited to:
… and those are just the positives!
I’ve realized that when you choose not to follow the well-meaning instruction and guidance of others, you certainly run into barriers that others don’t, and that can leave you questioning if you’re adulting correctly, as the kids are saying these days.
But in the back of my mind, I ask, why follow the signs when you can make your own road?
It definitely sounds more glamorous than it is.
And being stubborn doesn’t always yield something more innovative, efficient, or interesting. Sometimes you end up back at square one, taking the route that someone told you to.
However, big shock alert –– I’m still convinced that there is a lot to be gained by approaching life as an imaginative skeptic.
For one, I have become resilient as fuck.
But that hasn't proved the only benefit.
Over time, I have also become:
… and honestly, I enjoy the ride a little more than I used to, as I have learned (ok, am learning) to accept that nothing ever goes to plan, you can’t control a lot of life, and things will never be perfect.
So, why not dare to shake things up?
(My 16-year-old self would fight my 26-year-old self about all the aforementioned points. Teenage me was a bit of a buzzkill.)
Now, I’d be lying if these first several years out of college still weren’t a total slap in my face (or burn of the oven, if you will).
By opting for two years of service with AmeriCorps in lieu of a traditional job, I quickly learned how to budget on modest funds.
Through moving to multiple states, and then a different continent, I figured out how to create a network and build a community from scratch in a short period of time.
Diving into new types of jobs I felt totally unprepared for helped me challenge my own learning curve.
Taking time to learn from those of different walks of life made me not only appreciate what I had, but decide to dedicate my career to giving back to others.
Spending nights alone with a bottle of wine and a box of Kleenex catalyzed tough but necessary decisions in my personal life.
Completely, totally, fucking up, feeling ashamed, but bouncing back after?
That made me… me.
Now, you may wonder why that matters, since I’m no one rich or famous or even a YouTube celebrity.
I’m not one of those frustratingly successful wunderkinds who has built a multimillion dollar company seemingly overnight, who holds the keys to life you haven’t found yet. (jingle jingle)
By many societal standards, there’s no good reason to take my advice on this.
I’ve got no quick fixes, no hacks, only lessons from my own life experiences.
Through these often difficult moments, I've learned to recognize important pillars of how I want to live my life, including:
If most of my days are filled with most of those things, I’m pretty happy.
Those are some of my priorities –– what are yours?
More than any other marker of success, these guiding forces, and many others I didn’t mention, take precedence over social milestones, professional accomplishments, and other external markers of achievement.
It’s a constant, daily, difficult choice to pick those things, as our culture and society dictates otherwise.
It’s a harder road.
You have to be willing to be stubborn, ornery, and different.
Especially when you look around and you see most people funneling down familiar channels and life paths and you wonder if there is something wrong with you.
Some people might even affirm the doubts that swirl in your brain.
Are you totally wrong? Are you crazy? Are you doomed to forever be that kid that just has to know what would happen if you sprayed your sister with Windex?
You will struggle, cry, and wonder to yourself if you’re the only one grappling with all this uncertainty.
Perhaps in these moments, the so-called ‘safe’, ‘easy’, or ‘traditional’ path calls your name.
But you know what?
Sure, there are seemingly safER, and easiER routes, but nothing is a guarantee.
In a lot of ways, I’m no more a maverick than anyone else. We’re all just trial and erroring here, if we’re being honest with ourselves.
So, I’m not gonna tell you what to do, or that you should even take my suggestions.
Whether you’re a stove toucher or a bubble boy or girl, you’ve gotta figure things out for yourself, in whatever way makes sense to you.
Listen to my perspective, or give me the middle finger –– your pick.
You might not want to fall down as much as I do.
Generally speaking, I’ve had more bumps, bruises, burns, and scars than a lot of people might.
But for each one, I also have a damn good story.
Interested in learning more about my creative, ornery ways when it comes to #worklife? Check out my free 7-Day Professional Crash Course!
It's based around my methods to effectively leverage your experiences, take charge of your online identity, network meaningfully, and build resilience in the process –– helping you find a social impact job faster.
If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, plug in your email down below and you’re on your way. ☺
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Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.