You don’t Have to

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 8-17-2021

“Being forced, controlled and coerced is a lifestyle that humans are very much capable of adapting to. They can sustain life in chaos, and upon absence of it… find themselves lost.” -EaE

     Living in a world of unlimited options and opportunities but yet, confined by… rules, ethics, moral dilemmas, obligations, imaginary shame that keeps us torn. I often find myself wondering about these rules and restrictions. Where did they come from? Says who? Many have accused me of being rebellious, stubborn, thick headed etc. Call it an issue with authority from childhood traumas and military restrictions, but I will always question rules. Specifically, I find myself automatically triggered and questioning when a person poses a: “You must”, “you should”, or a ‘you have to’ in my direction. Mind you, I am not an angry person, but I will often counter. “Must”, “Should, and “Have to” are all very strong statements. Can we back them up? Do we have sense and logic behind these statements and demands on our peers and family members? Do we even think about where it all comes from? For the sake of the blog, I will break this down into categories and discuss the things we are programmed to feel we must do, that we actually DO NOT have to do.

      You do NOT have to:

  • Work a 9-5 until you retire and die

The fascinating thing about working in our modern world in the U.S. is the vast amount of options we have. Yes, we can work what we call the “9-5” type job with a pension that we must commute to until we are almost dead. However, there is entrepreneurship, online work from home, van life and more. Also, this means the methods to training for our respective jobs vary. It could be college, vocational school, crafting, military, sitting at home on a computer all day building an online business, traveling the world and blogging/ vlogging. That being said, when we are preaching to the youth that the way of the future is definitely college and a 9-5, we are doing a disservice. There are many options, and perhaps their skills and desires are geared more toward something outside of the conventional “9-5”.

  • Give friends or family money or constant help/ emotional support

We often tie obligations to our relationships with friends/ family and intimate partners. How can we not? These relationships require an intimate/ close knit type of enmeshment, but if we are not careful, it could become codependent and/ or even toxic. We all know that someone who constantly has a ‘fire’ to put out so to speak. The damsel in distress, the unlucky person that ‘can’t catch a break’, there is always an emergency. Then sometimes, it becomes ‘your emergency too’. Why? They’re your ‘family’, or your ‘friend’, you ‘must’, you ‘owe’ it to them. “They would do it for you’. It is absolutely okay to help our friends and family, but not at the detriment to our own physical, mental, spiritual health or financial stability. Helping someone is something we do when we have the resources and the motivation to give. Helping does not require us to deplete ourselves. If you are depleting yourself for someone, you are no longer giving them a helping hand. Rather, you are burdening yourself and resentment will likely build up and harm the relationship more.  

  • Get married

Marriage is a heavily romanticized notion and often preached as a ‘Must do’ in life. Preached as a significant milestone as well as a symbol of ‘growing up’ and taking your life seriously. Unfortunately, (especially due to serving in the military) I have seen many kids (I say kids referring to our brains under the age of 26 since that’s how long it takes to develop) get married and divorced. If I had caved to the societal pressure like I wanted to a couple times, I would have been married and divorced twice by now, at the age of 31. We DO NOT have to get married, and even more importantly, we do not have to get married young. The amount of changing our brains, point of views, wants, needs, traits undergo through the decades is quite fascinating. It also means, the promises we try to make and commit toward in our early to late twenties could fall apart by our thirties. We do not know what we are committing to and sacrificing, due to the fact that we do not know who we will be in the next five years or more. And sadly, divorces can be expensive and tedious. Happy hunting and choose wisely… if at all.

  • Have kids

The greatest sacrifice of all, yet it is preached as the next big automatic milestone, right after marriage. Heavily pressured even for selfish reasons such as your parent wants to be a grandparent now, your friends all have kids and want to see you suffer along side them. The sexist man you work with is judging you for not doing your reproductive duties as a woman. It is your duty as a grown up to raise and train the next generation, and if you do not you are ‘selfish’ and ‘self-centered’. The list goes on. To this day, it baffles me how incredibly hard, time consuming, mentally taxing and expensive parenting a child is. Yet, it is still so heavily pressured despite those sacrifices. Yes, there is also reward, love, and mind-blowing experiences, but it is NOT for everyone. I repeat, parenting is NOT for everyone. I absolutely respect parents, my hats off to them for their hard work and sacrifices. As a social worker, I also respect those that know they do not have what it takes to raise children, and the discipline to go against peer pressure and make the conscious choice to never have them.

  • Forgive anyone

There is a myth that we must forgive in order to set ourselves free. No, we do not. We never have to forgive. As a matter of fact, we are better off not forgiving some people and pushing/ keeping them far away… forever. Some good examples include our abusers/ assaulters, toxic/ manipulative family members/ friends/ intimate partners that kept using us. Those shitty coworkers that made an already unbearable job even more unbearable for years and years. The correct quote, from my experience is: “We do not have to forgive, but we have to accept.” Accept the pain that was inflicted, accept and acknowledge who is harmful. Create the boundaries and take proper precautions so that it is likely not to happen again. Sometimes protecting ourselves requires us to NEVER forgive some people. Sometimes it’s even our own flesh and blood. Or that person we knew since we were young that we thought would be in our lives forever. Or the person we thought we would marry forever. Despite popular belief, forgiveness is not what set’s us free. Acceptance set’s us free. Learning/ accepting that we do not need anyone besides the person in the mirror, as well as the ones who supplement our lives vs destroy our lives. That sets us free.

  • Stay up to date

Anyone that truly knows me at this point, knows that I have a heavy aversion to the news. I have filtered roughly ninety percent of it out of my life. This includes newspapers, TV, social media etc. Being a trauma therapist in Brooklyn during 2020 should give some good ideas as to why. Serving in the military and seeing firsthand what the government does as well as what they hide from people is another. Watching friends/ family bicker all day on social media in vicious cycles over things they rarely have control over all the while raising their blood pressure and damaging their emotional wellbeing, another. Due to this conscious decision to clear my head of media, I was often given the line of “You must stay informed” or “it’s a privilege to not have to know”. My first counter is, one, I actually have found that I can still live and breath despite being uninformed. Two, I absolutely agree it is a privilege as well as a right to not have to know, and I practice this privilege on the daily. It has worked wonders; my PTSD and depression symptoms have lowered significantly.

  • Stay accessible

Yes, the majority of us have smart phones and social media. However, that does not mean anyone has the right to intrude on our solitude and personal time at any given time. Due to our unlimited amount of options with technological communication, there has been a shift in social dynamics as well as expectations. The dynamic and ‘norm’ is that we are all connected online with various media outlets, the expectation is that we keep up with appearances and connections. That our profiles stay updated, that we respond within a ‘reasonable’ amount of time since we surely have our smart phones on us. And if we don’t? Then it may be assumed we do not like that particular person we are ‘ignoring’ or that we don’t care enough. The reality is, every individual has a different level and preference of time they spend on their phone and social media. Everyone has a right to choose how much accessibility people have to them at any given time. We do not have to be accessible 24/7. If your loved ones are pressuring you to stay connected 24/7, then it is likely that they fell victim to an expectation reality mismatch due to this new online media phenomenon.

  • Stay censored or pretend to be okay

Toxic positivity, stigmatized and taboo mental health topics, people heavily rooted in their personal cognitive dissonance all result in a pressure for us to stay quiet. Just ‘stay positive and never speak up’ even when things bother us. We have a freedom and right to emotional/ verbal expression. We have a right to love our country, community, jobs and social norms or we have a right to hate it and speak against it. That is the beauty, and often we lost sight of this. I would rather hear someone scream in disagreement at the top of their lungs, vs live in a culture where everyone is forced/ pressured into congruency and similar thinking. Our mind is our most precious asset, if someone has control over it, that takes away our most powerful freedom and form of expression. It’s okay not to be okay, and it is okay to disagree with the ‘normal’ pattern of thinking exhibited by your peers. Have at it!

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

3 thoughts on “You don’t Have to

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