I’m Choosing Contentment Over Conformity
Parents. We all have them (sort of), we all love them (sometimes), and we all have to deal with their actions, asinine as we may believe them to be. I have to admit, my parents are pretty awesome. But, of course, they have their flaws, and they make plenty of mistakes.
My parents are devout conservative Christians. Obviously then, the church has been a large presence throughout my entire life. My father, in fact, is a full-time preacher.
Now that I am in my 20s, I’ve essentially taught myself out of religion. For a while, I would go along to get along. I believed that I could conform to my parents’ expectations and still, on some level, be able to live my life the way I wanted to.
That started taking a downturn, though, when I realized that most of the problems I had involved my willingness to go along with religion and sacrifice my own contentment for the sake of conformity.
Over the course of several months, I slowly worked up the courage to talk to my father, to try to work out a compromise concerning my involvement in religion. I was hoping that he would understand where I was coming from, and then I could be rid of religion and finally lead my own life.
Finally, the day came to confront him. I sat him down, and I told him that I no longer wanted anything to do with religion. I told him that I didn’t believe in it and didn’t appreciate feeling like I had to live essentially a double life just to please him.
His response was succinct enough: “As long as you’re living with me, not going to church is not an option.”
His reasoning? That he wasn’t “comfortable with it.”
So, I offered a compromise: “I will go as long as it doesn’t conflict with work–basically when I have free time. That would mean not attending either a Sunday morning or evening service, though.”
He replied that he would think on it.
However, the next time we spoke, he made it clear that there would be no compromise whatsoever. I would continue going to church. And I found myself right back where I started.
As of today, I think they’ve completely forgotten what I asked for all those months ago. They still force me to follow their religion, to follow their guidelines on how I look, how I act, how I talk, etc.
And again, I find myself conforming while sacrificing contentment.
It is with these thoughts that I recall, vividly, what my mother has told me on many occasions: “You still live in our house, so you have to live by our rules.”
In response, I can only think, “When your rules make your children miserable, when they force them to ignore who they are, when your rules place unnecessary strain on your children, is it fair that they have to follow your rules?”
Yes, I do still live in their household. And yes, I understand having to “live by their rules.” But, I just wish they would realize that by refusing to compromise their rules, by imposing their will over me with no chance for my wishes to be acknowledged, their rules are only causing more harm than good.
I’m at a crossroads now. I’m 21 years old, and I have some rather large choices ahead of me. Should I continue to keep self as an afterthought? Should I continue to live my life denying who I am in order to keep my parents happy? Should I sacrifice my contentment for the sake of conformity?
A few years ago, I would have answered “yes” to the above. But as I’ve grown up, I’m realizing something: Life is not life if I have to sacrifice my own beliefs, if I have to pretend to be the person my parents want me to be. Life is not life if I can’t be happy with myself.
I’m facing the realization that I cannot live my life like this, constantly sacrificing myself just to appease my parents and maintain our public image. At some point, I think my wishes deserve to be heard, too. And I’m afraid I will have to sit down and essentially force my parents to compromise.
I absolutely hate the idea of doing that, simply because I know it will hurt them. But, it’s time they start treating me like an adult.
Some may say that this is selfish, that because I still live at home, I should just continue to abide by my parents’ wishes.
I ask, though, at what point does it stop being reasonable to just conform?
To a certain point, we can and should conform, whether it be to secure a job or to simply keep pointless fighting to a minimum. But when life is at a standstill, when life stops being life, conformity simply isn’t an option.
I refuse to abandon contentment any longer in a vain struggle to keep other people–even my parents–happy.
This is my life, I’m the one that has to sleep with myself at night, and I’m the one who has to answer for the choices I’ve made in life.
Conformity or contentment?
I choose contentment.