Family Mission Statement – Part 5: Freely
In 2010, Joelle and I had the chance to spend a summer in Orlando, Florida. We couldn’t have timed it better! Just a few weeks prior, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter had opened at Universal Studios. How could we resist the opportunity to channel our inner Dumbledore and Hermione! We went and it was packed – in fact we waited near an hour just to get into that portion of the park. Besides the simulated ride through Hogwarts and drinking my first butterbeer, our other fondest memory was our mystery line. With the masses of people in the park, lines were everywhere. At one point we jumped in a line thinking we knew where it led. We asked the people around us in line and no one could give us a definite answer. In all, we waited in this line for over an hour, it only moved a few feet, and still to this day we have no idea what the line was for. Somebody pass me another butterbeer, please!
We eventually got out of our not so magical mystery line. One thing I couldn’t help but notice was how many remained in the line. How long, I wondered, would they continue to stand there with no clear direction and such little forward progress? Either way, walking away gave us a new sense of freedom to explore! I think we left Wizard World and enjoyed the rest of the park where there were no lines at all 🙂
The next part of our Family Mission Statement says, we “live freely from what’s conventional and not comfortably.” Living conventionally and unconventionally is a difficult thing for me to define. Mainly because what’s unconventional takes on different levels of meaning for different people. For instance, buying organic produce from Aldi may be unconventional for one while buying organic produce from a local farmstand is unconventional to another. The common thread is that there needs to be a conventional option, which in this case would be buying non-organic produce from the grocery store.
That said, I am not trying to paint a picture of right and wrong. What I am trying to do is open our eyes that two worlds exist and we have both a freedom and responsibility to choose our path in each. Our mission statement is maybe not the best worded here. It can easily be interpreted as rejecting all that is conventional. This is not what we are after. What we really mean is being educated enough in our consumer and lifestyle choices to weigh the pros and cons of the conventional option. Likewise, it means actively pursuing the unconventional options and being willing to leave the conventional if the benefits are greater. It’s being in the mystery line and not being afraid to ask why and not being afraid to get out.
I’ve seen this trend throughout my life. People want to be doing the thing everyone else is doing. More than that, we usually want to be doing it better! Call it “keeping up with the Jones’,’” call it the “American Dream;” there is a tendency for the masses to follow suit. And not staying on the straight and narrow is often interpreted as falling behind.
I believe this is the building block of conventional living, which can have a striking resemblance to a conveyor belt. Which, before our journey to sustainability started, is exactly where we found ourselves, firmly strapped down, rolling along. It wasn’t until we were exposed to some key bits of information and started asking “why?” that we even began to see the conveyor belt, let alone ponder the way off of it. Earlier, I mentioned consumer and lifestyle choices. Let’s take a look at each to see ways we have recognized what’s conventional and been amazed by the benefits of going unconventional!
All of us need to consume. At a minimum there are life’s basic needs and at a maximum there are life’s luxuries. We talked about this in our first post, Put a Face On It, but our journey toward what’s unconventional has gone hand in hand with recognizing that our dollars equal support. Every tank of gas we fill up, trip to the grocery store, article of clothing we purchase, electronic device we order online, and investment we make are all showing who and what we support.
It begins to sound different when the questions are phrased like; Do I support the company and their cause behind this tank of gas I just purchased? Do I support my local grocery store importing salad greens from Mexico instead of buying from the local farmer the next town over? Do I support my favorite clothing brands wages and working conditions for the people making my clothes? Do I support, let alone understand, the impact this latest gadget is having on my child’s development? Do I support the causes behind the companies I am investing my retirement savings in or do they simply perform well on paper?
And here is the trade off. If we don’t have reasonable answers for questions like these in our consumer choices then are we really choosing and believing in what we support or are we merely consuming for our own convenience? Again, not drawing definitive lines, but from our experience of educating ourselves in what’s standard in our consumer driven society, the bottom line is almost always about cheap and convenient. And when you dig beneath the surface, cheap goods always come at a high cost to someone who is being hurt in the process. Our dollars spent on cheap goods turn a blind eye to this hurt and call it fair.
So how do we know what’s actually fair? For a real world test, take the last fresh produce you bought at the grocery store to a local farmer who grows their food naturally and sustainably, and ask them if they could stay in business for what you paid. Knowing a decent amount of local farmers in the area, my guess is many of them would love to sit down and run through the numbers with you and give you a realistic idea of what it cost them to grow their food. They would probably also love to explain the nutritional benefit their food has from going from field to plate within days instead of weeks along with the avoidance of toxic pesticides and herbicides to your body or the planet.
Anything that primarily exists to be cheap and convenient is typically what we would call conventional. This is the road most traveled. But for every conventional option there are unconventional options as well. And as people become more informed and begin to recognize and engage in the support given by the outflow of their money, voices will be heard, industries, will be changed, and fairness may even be realized.
I think you’ll find that as you ruminate on the multitudes of conventional and unconventional consumer choices around you, you’ll be just as overwhelmed by the number of lifestyle choices. To give an example, one of the easiest places to see this is in the workplace. With the abundance of studies confirming the results, it is hard to debate that a desk job is one of the least healthy lifestyle choices we can make. Even with daily doses of exercise, our bodies were just not meant to be sedentary for 8+ hours a day, staring at a computer, without some serious side effects. To confront this, and many of the other common work complaints that cause 9-5ers to feel stuck and undervalued, there is an increasing amount of unconventional job options out there. Anywhere from Spin Farming, which involves farming small urban parcels of land to RV Entrepreneurs that do exactly as it sounds…. Live remotely in RV’s while running remote businesses. Unconventional – Yes! But stuck in the 9-5 grind – No. There are lots of ways to make a liveable income without needing to feel stuck in something that doesn’t line up with our passions or values.
If you’re anything like Joelle, then you can’t enough Katy Bowman in your life lately! Very much tying into our health related desk job issues, her unconventional teaching on moving our bodies and awakening people to stop living a sedentary life is beginning to shape a new generation of health talk. And she does it by revisiting very ancient, tried and true methods! On her website, she has a tour of the “furniture free” spaces she’s created in her own house. It’s not that there is no furniture. But instead of the comfy, plush couch that invites extended lounging, she might have a couple stumps to sit on. Or, objects may be set at non-standard heights to facilitate extra motion or bending for use. It’s about moving in ways that are natural and sustainable, and her belief is that degradation of movement that comes with age is entirely unnecessary and due to our lack of movement throughout our life. And the 80 year olds she works with that still climb trees for fun can probably testify to that!
I’ll give one more example of conventional vs. unconventional lifestyle choices, mainly because it is near and dear to our heart. The medical world is capable of amazing things and I believe there are a lot of exceptional doctors out there. However, two things concern me, 1) it is still a business, and 2) much of what is diagnosed or prescribed has been simplified to a one size fits all approach. I’m SO thankful Joelle was skeptical when she got a wrong diagnosis from the first three doctors she went to about fertility issues. Had she not questioned it, done hours upon hours of her own research, and eventually figured out her own diagnosis, I don’t even want to consider the time and money we would have invested down the wrong path. I am not recommending that you always trust Dr. Google but more so to not be afraid to question and fully understand the information that you’ve been given to make an informed choice. I brought this up as a lifestyle choice, but because it is a business it bleeds into consumerism, and we need to start considering our medical care in light of this. True medicine should solve the roots issues, not just mask the symptoms.
We like to associate comfort with our own benefit. I mean, how can they not be linked – right?
The thing is, we’ve often found the exact opposite to be true. I would be willing to put more stock in the link between convenience and harm. Remember, every lifestyle choice impacts a life and every dollar supports a cause. Choosing to inform yourself and take action on these matters can indeed be a very uncomfortable thing.
If you think you might be stuck in your own mystery line of conventional choices, simply begin by asking the question, “why?” Be informed of the cost of comfort, don’t be afraid to pursue the unconventional, and live freely! If you want to hear more, here are some stories of others who began asking why, and see for yourself where the journey has taken them.
https://avivaromm.com/celeste-fine/ – A story of a patient who advocated for herself and her unborn twins to save their lives.
https://chriskresser.com/rhr-unschooling-as-a-cure-for-industrialized-education-with-jeremy-stuart/ – A fascinating look at the conventional educational system and some unconventional options
http://heathandalyssa.com/rve-001-welcome-to-the-rv-entrepreneur-podcast/ – Story after story of people leaving conventional careers to travel and live unconventionally in an RV
https://radicalpersonalfinance.com/episode3/ – An unconventional way to think about finances and retirement