No More White Picket Fence

Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 2-28-2022

You feed a bunch of people a fantasy, you create a herd of people chasing a ‘dream’ that leads to disappointment. If you feed everyone the same fantasy, you neglect the concepts of diversity and individuality. Then you push the masses through the same customs and teachings; you will create narrower minds. You will set many up for lifestyles not suited for them. The American dream? The white picket fence? The Nuclear family? The One? The Happily ever after? The dream job? It’s all a facade. There is no ‘ideal’, there is no perfect, there is no ‘one size fits all’. So, why do we pretend that there is? Why are the younger generations still growing up to be told ‘what they should want’, ‘what they should strive for’, and ‘what they ought to do’ with their lives?

There may be things that society needs on a macro level that points toward a certain lifestyle: Working americans, married americans, breeding americans, busy americans, americans with a sense of purpose, with drive, with a ‘no excuses attitude’. But, that’s just the macro level, and it does not mean it serves everyone individually. If you ever found yourself being told that ‘you want something’, that you do not actually want, then you understand exactly what I am talking about.

Filtering Out

I had to filter most people out, my mind was getting crowded and clouded. If you ask for advice, you will likely receive so many conflicting viewpoints you may be left more confused than you were before. If you ‘only follow your gut’, you are left at the mercy of your narrow mindedness. That being said, humans need mentors, but we need the ‘right’ ones.

-You should not go in the military -Go to college instead! -Don’t go to college, you arent’ smart enough -You should be a psychologist, not a social worker -You should be a psychiatrist -You should be a nurse -Don’t own property, it isn’t worth it -Don’t buy a house now, wait a while -Get married -Have kids -Stay single -Diet more -Diet less -workout more, but not too much

Q’s: What advice is getting regurgitated to you on the regular that you can do without? What is useless? What is not serving you a purpose? Are these habitual advice givers even aware of your story? Your wants? Your desires? Do they care to be aware? Are they simply feeding you a template that they believe works because it worked for them? Supposedly.

Recognizing the Facade/ Listening to your intuition

The facade, the ‘screen saver’, the ‘picture perfect’ life. That damn “white picket fence” lifestyle. It’s all an illusion. It’s actually nothing more than a guess. It’s people trying over and over to emmulate what they see in movies, books, magazines, pictures and maybe the occassional role model that seems to have ‘it all figured out’. Is it a good template to even go by? It really depends on who you ask. Also, do we want what we want because we actually want it? Or because someone told us ‘we want it?’ All the married patients I had over the years that admitted in mental health sessions that they regretted their marriage. All of the parents I talked to over the years that regretted their decision to have kids. All of the people I have talked to that regretted their career choice… what in the world was going on?? I had to dig deep to really be able to admit to myself, that at my core, I do not want kids. I am a biological female and have lived as one. So naturally, my entire life, people told me I should have kids. People told me I will want them, I should want them, I’ll change my mind one day, and/ or “I should have them regardless’ when I expressed not wanting them. Lucky for me, I’m in a country that will not physically persecute me for going against this ‘norm’. I also have had the opportunities to make a living for myself: military, college, jobs, money, purchasing a home. But, I do get shamed and misunderstood nontheless. That, I can live with.

Q’s: What ‘norm’ do you not fit in with? What efforts have people put into trying to push you toward a path you did not want to take? How did you stay true to your own intuition despite the social pressures to go against it?

The ‘Strength’ and ‘Want’ based perspective

Two important things: What is this individual good at? And what does this individual want? That’s what we should likely focus on. In social work, this is known as respecting an individuals ‘Right to self determination’, and using a ‘Strength based perspective’. The answers to those questions will likely give us the answer on ‘how this person can possibly contribute’. How said individual could alter their lifestyle to suit their wants/ needs while also helping others. Imagine if schools helped guide us through this? Imagine if most parents did? Imagine living in a world where the moment someone see’s that a child has a talent and a genuine interest for something, we encouraged it vs discourage it. Even if it isn’t the stereotypical profitable subjects, like art for example. But sadly, fear and rigidity get in the way of this, all … the …. time. Imagine if someone tells you “I don’t want to dress like everyone else”, or “I don’t think I want to get married”, or “I don’t think I want kids”, or “I don’t think I aspire to own a home”, or “I don’t think I want a conventional job, I want to build a business”, and instead of trying to argue, we simply said: “Okay”. Maybe they will change their mind, but maybe they wont. The point is, it’s their right to choose.

Q’s: Have you ever caved under societal pressure and regretted your decision to do so after? What was it, and looking back, what would you have done differently?

What’s the Big Deal though?

The issue I have with preaching to the masses to aspire toward the ‘white picket fence’ lifstyle is two fold. It 1- Ignores diversity and the many talents there are to be had in this world. In turn, we may be neglecting some true gold mines. If we do not nurture talent/ drive, it may dwindle out. And 2- It causes a large number of people to feel ‘abnormal’, in that they will not fit into everything that is being preached. This causes shame. It’s okay to live in ‘the norm’, and it’s also equally okay to not fit ‘the norms’. What’s not okay, is pushing people into a lifestyle that they do not want to live and lacking empathy when said person realizes they have changed their mind. Let’s be mindful of everything. Mindful of what we want. Mindful that others may not want the same things. Mindful not to regurgitate poor advice, especially when we have limited knowledge of someone elses’ situation/ needs. Mindful that we are allowed to decide our own paths, change our minds as needed and redirect as needed. The white picket fence is nonsensical, there are many different ways to live life.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

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