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What works for some people might not be the best for you.
Chapter 1 of All Natural: Being 100% You
– featuring @sarahpaine and @strangerarray
Go to school.
Do your homework.
Pass all your classes.
Go to college.
Get your degree.
Get a job.
Pay off your college debt.
Buy a house.
Work your whole life to pay off your house.
Clean your house.
Have kids (to clean your house).
Buy a minivan.
Take your kids to practice.
Throw your kids birthday parties.
Worry about your kids getting into college and how you are going to pay for it.
Worry about retirement and how you are going to afford it.
Spoil your grandkids.
Sounds like your dreams. Right?
Does anyone want to do this?
I am exhausted and a little depressed just reading it.
This seems to be the narrative that so many of us have been taught.
No one stated it quite that abruptly but they told us to follow the formula nonetheless. It seems that if you deviate from it then there is socially something wrong with you. Which is uncomfortable because fitting in is awkward enough already.
We are in our late early thirties and we have been married over eight years. We don’t have kids, but have been asked a million times if and when we would?
If you’re in high school the questions are: What are you going to do when you graduate? Which college are you going to? What major?
Or if you are in college: Are you doing an internship yet? What company do you want to work for? Are you going to grad school?
Or if you’re single: Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet? If so, are you going to get married?
And then like us: Are you going to have kids? Thankfully after about year six people have slowed down asking that to us.
Nothing is ever good enough for other people’s plan for your life.
This “American Dream” has existed for a while now. Is this the dream other people around the world have too? I’m asking because I don’t actually know.
I do know, however, that this formula is breaking down.
The internet has changed what we know and how we view the world around us.
We see other options and alternatives to the traditional lifestyle of “get a steady job”.
There have always been alternatives but now they are understandable and accessible.
We see people make a living blogging.
Or fund their idea on Shark Tank.
People fill their dreams by starting up a restaurant.
Some people go into consulting.
There is a rising desperation to find a “better” way of living coming from our culture.
I have read more or heard more about location independent work/being an entrepreneur/startups than ever before.
I would almost think it’s a trend except I understand the value in these alternative lifestyles that has everyone so excited.
We are looking for more fulfillment in what we do day-to-day. We were once taught to look through the lens of the working man or essentially the serf but are now realizing that we can look at the world as the innovator/creator or the king or hero.
Here is a more serious, although a bit random, question?
Why are books like Divergent or The Hunger Games so popular?
These books hit a nerve. One that we all feel inside of ourselves.
As kids we are asked: what do you want to be when we grow up?
What a weird question. Think about it.
What do you mean, what do I want to “be”?
As though what we pick as a career actually changes our actual being.
This concept teaches us to link our identity to our profession or our work. There is nothing wrong with wanting to connect to the people who do the same kind of work you do but your work is not your identity.
If we make our work our identity then, for many of us, our identity is linked to something that causes us stress and anxiety.
Let’s be honest…so many people just go to work every day because they need the money. They wouldn’t choose to go there if they didn’t feel as though they had to.
Instead of seeing yourself as a nurse or a lawyer or store manager, we need to see who we naturally are.
That is part of what we mean by All Natural.
As individuals, we are all unique.
We think that goes beyond that technically everyone is different because you cannot be two separate people. We know that there is more to being unique than that.
We all have a unique background that holds value to who we are today.
We know that our past experiences might shape who we are but they do not have to define us. We understand that life has nothing but curveballs and it will never be easy.
Yet we won’t give up, give in, or take no for an answer!
We want to be heroes.
We think in our own narratives that we can be and are special.
We know that who we are is important and should be shared with the world. But often times we are beaten down. We forget about our dreams. We surrender to the will of others. We get confused. We buy into the idea that we are just consumers. That we are just information to be gathered and harvested. That we are data.
Don’t confuse the data with the individual.
We want you to feel like you do not have to feel bad that you do not want to be the same as everyone else.
And the real truth is that nobody’s life is exactly that way anyways.
Life is messy.
There are moments in time where people can appear to have it all together. But those moments are snap shots and not the flow of everyday life. There is a constant flow of life between mountain top experiences and deep valleys.
We encourage you not to seek constant happiness and not to avoid pain and sorrow.
When the pleasant things in life happen: drink them in. Someone you know may be having a wedding soon. Go. Have fun. Enjoy it. And then hold on to the good memories. It seems that you have to work twice, if not more, times as hard to remember good things. But if we asked you to list 10 bad things that happened to you, they probably would roll right off your tongue.
And bad things will happen.
But there is no sense in avoiding them. The key is using these trials as points for improvement. Think of it like getting an “F” on a homework assignment. The wrong way to handle it is to let your negative emotions take over. Get upset. Blame your teacher. Pout. Rather, separate your self-worth from you result. If you got an “F”, that means you just didn’t know enough about that topic. That means you were deficient in some way.
Think about that for a moment. If you went to the doctor and found out you were deficient in Vitamin D, what would you do? Would you get mad at yourself and start to have negative emotions? Would you get angry or sad that your body was not performing at peak levels?
Probably not. Instead you would go out and find ways to increase your Vitamin D intake. You were deficient (a problem). And you fixed it by taking supplements (a solution).
Now back to the failing grade. Your knowledge on that topic was lacking (problem). Then you go back and find out where it went wrong and study to fix it (solution). This is important to not internalize and take personal the negative things that you encounter in your life.
While growing up we all have done our fair share of impersonations. You have tried at a foreign accent (Michael is terrible at this and won’t even attempt it). You may have played dress up.
Michael thought he wanted to be a school teacher.
In order to do this he followed the rules.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
Somehow I had decided I wanted to be a teacher. I decided I wanted to help young people. I wanted to help them avoid some of the mistakes I had made in my life. Also I hated school and thought I could make it different.
To become a certified teacher I enrolled in the College of Education teaching certification program in addition to my undergrad degree. During the time there I had a few helpful classes and many unhelpful classes. Also doing this program delayed my graduation a year. For that last year I spent one semester doing classroom observation for 50+ hours. As if my last 16 years in school wasn’t enough observation.
Then the coup de grâce.
I was free labor for my last semester.
They call it “student teaching”. They recommend that I had no other jobs during the time. As if that was going to work. I had to support myself outside of working for free. Thankfully some very fortunate circumstances worked out for me.
At the time we signed up for student teaching we were asked our preferential school districts in which we wanted to do our time. I had recently moved out of my apartment and into my older brother’s house in the town where I was attending college. I did this because I knew I was going to be low on funds due to the need to work two jobs, one of which, the student teaching, was unpaid.
My first choice of school districts was the one within which I now resided. The closer the better because gas prices were getting higher all the time in 2007-2008. My second option was the school district that was my alma mater from where I graduated and was located in the area of my then part time evening job.
Anyways, when the semester started they handed out the assignments the first week of class to everyone.
Well everyone except for me and four other people.
Although not alone, I felt singled out. Out of 50+ students that needed assignments, I was in the 10 percent that didn’t get placed at first.
And so I waited.
Finally the best possible thing in the world that could happen did happen!
I got assigned to a school that was no more than 5 minutes from where I was living! It was amazing and I was truly thankful for it because it was a huge relief to have some place that was close and easy to get to, would not take up much gas to travel to, and was an assignment in a class I wanted to eventually teach.
It was a 7th grade Texas History class. And it was a blast to do my student teaching there.
However, student teaching is supposed to be like the teacher’s version of an internship. Or so I thought. And like real internships it does not necessarily lead to a job.
At the end of college I felt like the whole process was a trick because I then spent 4 years on the substitute circuit trying to get into the school system as a full time teacher.
One day I was at my current job and helping a math tutor get to one of the areas he needed to go to help the students. I had been talking to him for awhile and had explained to him how I was certified to teach math but was not successful in finding a teaching position anywhere in the entire state of Texas.
Believe me I applied everywhere! Anyone else apply to Eden CISD and call the principle?
Then he asked me something I had never given much thought to: “Why should they hire you?”
My jaw dropped.
How dare he insult me with this demeaning question! In my mind I bowed up! Why should they I thought? Because I am certified and therefore qualified to do so. I FOLLOWED THE RULES.
But in reality I gave him some vague non-answer, “Uh, I don’t know…” But I did not forget this interaction and my underwhelming response. No wonder I never got hired I thought.
I had no reason why anyone should have let me be a teacher.
I didn’t know my why and I was relying on the fact that I followed the rules and therefore felt entitled to a job.
That is what was told would happen. That is what I believed.
Part of my problem with not having my why was that I was unsure of who I was and what I wanted to do. I had vague goals of helping others and making a difference in young people’s lives. I found out later I can do that in several other ways. However, at the time I was struggling to determine things like my teaching style.
As a student teacher I had the opportunity to sort of test the waters with different approaches. I had at the time already worked with kids at a drop off play-care place where there was not really structure but a chance to play make believe with the kids. Also I was a volunteer for a while with the kids Sunday school class at my church.
I had yet to work with middle school aged kids but felt confident in my ability to do so and wanted to do that once I graduated. When I got to the classroom my mentor teacher was super kind and eased the kids into a transition from her teaching for about a week with me helping and then to me taking the reigns.
Leading groups of people is a tricky thing.
I had ideas of what I wanted my classroom to look like, how we were going to proceed, what pace we would cover the material and so on and so forth.
Then life happens.
A room full of about 30 thirteen-year olds will change your plans pretty quick!
I made adjustments and tried out different things. I was searching for my teaching style and who I would be as a teacher.
It was almost like putting on costumes. I would try to be super strict. I would try talking loud (not yelling). I tried being a guide and assistant. I felt like I tried just about everything we discussed, read about, or could imagine to find what was the “right” way to be a teacher.
Then I stopped trying.
I was trying to be someone else instead of just being myself. And it was not working.
I decided to just do the things I knew to work because I did them before. I talked to the kids in my normal voice. I handed out materials in the way I thought was best. I did things my way and was being my authentic self. No more costumes.
We think you need to define success for yourself.
As we just discussed you are unique. In order to be All Natural more you have to understand what makes you tick. What gets you going? Is it money? Because at first blush most people will say: “I’ll do more if you pay me more.” Which may be true. But truly not everyone is serious about that. If you were to be real honest most people would rather “I’ll do less if you pay me more.” Now that sounds like what I would want.
Money has a long history that we do not care much to discuss it in great detail. Just know that the use of money has been around for thousands of years and it is not going away.
However, the ways in which we use and deal with money are constantly changing. Briefly U.S. Dollars used to be referred to as gold specie standard. This is a fancy way of saying that for all the dollars in the world, there was enough value of gold to “cash in” the dollars for the gold. Hypothetically. Some people would like to see the U.S. Government move back to this standard because they don’t have “full faith and credit”.
Realistically money now is just data.
When is the last time you saw your paycheck?
If you are like most people you have it directly deposited. The numbers in your account go up. Then they go down. But you don’t actually have any cash (usually). But that does not mean you do not have any money.
In fact, there is a new currency that you may have heard of called “Bitcoin”. Bitcoin is a computerized currency that is not linked directly to any nation-states. This may be a big problem or the best thing since sliced bread depending on who you are and what your objectives are.
I used to get depressed when our bank account was low and elated when it was a big number.
But being emotional about a number is silly.
You may have heard the popular expression that “Your net worth is not your self-worth”. And we believe that is true. The key is not just thinking that but living it.
That means not getting emotional when you are in a tight place financially. It also means on the opposite end of not being too happy when you have more money than usual. You can enjoy it; just don’t believe that it is you.
The point is that there is no need to value money above all other things. We will talk more about this concept in Chapter 2: Establishing Your Currency.
Have you accepted that What’s Good For Others Might Be Killing You?
We have established that you truly are unique, valuable in your own right and deserve to be comfortable with who you are. We have brought up why it is important to define success for yourself. And we have shown you that there is more to life than the “American Dream”.
Next week we will take a look at how we all can enjoy ourselves more!
Created by Michael Paine
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