‘But you can’t drop out now,’ my friend exclaimed when I told him I was leaving university, two years into an English degree.
‘Why not?’ I replied.
‘Because it’s not – it’s not the done thing.’
Whenever someone tells me I can’t do something because ‘it’s not the done thing‘ I cheer inside because I know I’m putting my own needs above my fear of not fitting in.
And then I go ahead and do it.
I dropped out of uni because I was feeling deeply unhappy. The course had been a disappointment and I didn’t feel I belonged in that world.
I might have been wrong about the belonging part, but to this day I believe I was right to ignore the done thing and put my own needs first.
Don’t get me wrong – if you truly desire what society / your school / family / friends expect you to do then that’s fantastic. Happy days!
But if you don’t, it’s time to give the done thing the elbow and start putting your thing first.
Maybe in your world the done thing is to go to university but deep down you harbour dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, Richard Branson stylie. Do it. Listen to your inner calling, enrol in the University of Life and start building your thing.
Maybe the done thing amongst your friends is to get blitzed on drink or drugs every weekend but the loss of control makes you feel vulnerable and scared. To hell with putting yourself at risk for the sake of fitting in. Find your fun your way without risking your health and well-being.
Maybe the done thing in your family is to forge a high-flying business career but the thought of breakfast meetings and quarterly targets and sales quotas makes your soul shrivel. Create a career doing whatever makes your heart sing. Forge your own path. Create your thing.
Maybe the done thing in your relationship is to squash down your feelings and censor your thoughts but sometimes you can barely breathe for the repressed emotions. Speak up now. Honour your feelings. Say your thing. Loud and proud.
Maybe the done thing seems to be living your life on social media 24/7 but the incessant scrolling is making you anxious, the haters are making you depressed and you’re getting pout-ache from all the selfies. Take control of your online life. Manage your social media in a way that feels positive and light. Do your online thing.
Maybe you dream of writing a novel but you’re worried that what you want to write won’t fit any of publishing’s pigeon-holes. Write the book that makes you come alive. Write your thing, your way.
[Side note: When you write your thing your way your writing will be way better for it.]
The truth is, when you do anything your own unique way it will be better and you will feel happier.
The trouble with the done thing is that it’s been done to death.
All too often, the done thing is the dull thing. Or the painful thing. Or the feel-the-life-force draining thing.
So, the next time you feel dull or uninspired … or downright unhappy, ask yourself:
“Am I doing my thing … or am I squeezing myself into the done thing?”
* This post was inspired by a close friend of mine’s recent decision to opt out of the done thing and do his own thing instead.
It was inspired by the courage he’s shown in swimming against the tide.
It was inspired by the joy that now shines off him as he figures out his thing. His true thing.
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