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Gimbling in the Wabe – An Interesting Little Experiment
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Gimbling in the Wabe – An Interesting Little Experiment

Last week, I was trolling around on the internet (as I am wont to do), and I came across an article from my local newspaper stating that more college graduates are living at home with their parents than ever before.  While the article itself drew no judgmental conclusions, the headline, taglines and promos all put […]

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Last week, I was trolling around on the internet (as I am wont to do), and I came across an article from my local newspaper stating that more college graduates are living at home with their parents than ever before.  While the article itself drew no judgmental conclusions, the headline, taglines and promos all put this information in a negative light, as if adult children living at home signaled some kind of failure.

awHELLno

I vehemently disagree.  While I did not return to live with my parents after college and both of my children did, the world is a very different place now than it was back when I graduated.  Plus, I am not my parents, and my children are not who I was at their age.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one to feel this way – there have since been numerous rebuttals to the article.

Then, just the other day, a Facebook friend was incensed with an article entitled “24 things women over 30 should not wear”.  She, in turn, linked to a “refreshing counterpost” which pretty much said “go take a flying leap.”  (Highly, highly edited content, that.)

I had also seen that offending article, but, having given up any personal relationship with fashion decades ago, had completely ignored it as ridiculous click bait (which it was).  However, I did get sucked into reading another article, entitled “To the Women Over 40 and the 20-Somethings Who Write About Them”  that I totally enjoyed, maybe because the woman who wrote it looked a tad bit like me, and maybe because she sounded a tad bit like how I wish I sounded.  (Hey, I said I gave up fashion, not my own brand of vanity.)

That made me think about how often we are inundated with “shoulds” being tossed our way as though they were gospel.  Often this is done for advertising purposes, or to generate internet traffic to a site, or even to scam unwitting responders, but sometimes it comes via an avalanche of individual comments, or even one-on-one/face-to-face encounters, of people stating something with absolute authority with which I simply cannot agree.

So I decided to write about it.  I opened up a Word document, and typed:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with adult children living with their parents.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with women over 30 wearing hoop earrings.

But then I stalled.  I didn’t want to argue these cases; I merely felt that I needed to put my “aw, hell no” out there, to counter the most ridiculous of the “shoulds” that are so prevalent in this day and age.  Pretty thin stuff for an essay.

So I decided to undertake an experiment:  admittedly one without any scientific value, yet one that I found strangely enlightening.  For two hours, which included some internet surfing as well as watching the national and local televisions news, I looked for assumptive assertions that ran counter to my own beliefs.  Nothing specifically political, nothing overtly topical, just a statement which I could categorically reject.  Then, I responded with a statement of my own, starting with the phrase, “there is absolutely nothing wrong with…”

No explanations.  No “buts”.  No “unlesses”.  No rationalizations or qualifications or clarifications.  Simply, “there is absolutely nothing wrong with…”

I was amazed at how many responsive statements I came up with in such a short period of time.  It really hit home just how aware we need to be of all those messages that chip away against our core beliefs and values, and to not give them validity simply because they show up in our Facebook feeds or in the shows we watch or the newscasts we listen to (especially not because some craftily created advertising wants us to believe that having that car or drinking that beer or using that credit card will bring us happiness).  How we need to constantly step back and say, “No… I’m not going to listen to this, and you can’t make me!”  The tricky part is to do this while staying open minded to the thoughts and opinions of others.   But that’s a whole ‘nuther kettle of fish.

Here are some of the responses that came to me during my little experiment:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with adult children living with their parents.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with women over 30 wearing hoop earrings.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Crocs.

There is absolutely nothing wrong for cheering for the losing team.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with making a weekly trip to your local comic book store to check out the new releases.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with drinking the last of the milk straight out of the carton.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with not being able to decide if you like cats or dogs better.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with believing you are a proud American even if you don’t copy/paste the Facebook post daring you not to agree.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with believing that actors ARE real people, who are simply doing the jobs they were hired to do.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being startled that a woman of color is portraying Hermione Granger in the new Harry Potter play, and then realizing that it really doesn’t matter.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with reading the escapist fantasy novel you want to read, rather than the literary fiction book that you “should” read.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with not owning a smartphone, or, in fact, an iAnything.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying “no” without going into detail as to why.

There is absolutely nothing wrong to admitting that you used to see things incompletely or incorrectly or far too harshly and then looking at those things – and so much else – with new, hopefully unclouded eyes.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with voting your conscience in the sanctity of the voting booth regardless of who you say you voted for outside of it.

There is absolutely nothing wrong for standing up for your own beliefs and for allowing others to do the same.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with change, even though sometimes it feels that way.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with been content with your life, not because you have given in to being “settled”, not because you have given up, but because right now, right here, you are exactly where you want to be.

Stop and listen a bit for yourself, read, surf, look around you, see what you are taking in.  How many “shoulds” do you need to reject today?  How often do you need to declare, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with…” even if the only one who hears it is yourself?

~ Sharon Browning