When I first landed my food-writing gig (during my last year as a lawyer), I had one particular group of friends who I thought would be really excited for me. They were my "foodie" crew. We had bonded over our mutual obsessions with cooking and eating, and regularly found ways to indulge together. We all read the same food blogs, watched Top Chef on the regular, and were always trying out the newest restaurant and/or latest food trend. So when I got the job, I couldn't wait to start bringing them to the restaurant openings and media events, share the free food with them, introduce them to the chefs and restaurant owners I was getting to know through my interviews.
But when I told them about it, they registered barely any interest at all. And I was pretty crushed to discover that they weren't even reading my column. Our daily conversations about our latest restaurant or recipe finds ground to a halt. I stopped getting invited out to dinner or to our weekly Top Chef viewings. Not too long after, they faded from my life altogether.
It has been pointed out to me that there was likely some jealousy at play here. Ok, fair. But as I made my way further from the path they had chosen and into the wilderness of my own choosing, I realized that there was something deeper going on. That gig was the first step in my long and winding journey outside of the box and onto my own unique professional path. And with each subsequent step I took, more and more friends faded from my life.
And eventually, I came to understand one of the hardest, ugliest, but most important lessons of my journey outside of the box:
When you choose to step off the well-traveled path, you can't expect the people who are still on that path to support you.
At least, not right away. Once you're a proven success, everyone will be on your side! And they'll claim they believed in you all along.
But in the beginning, when you're scared and struggling and need their support the most? Forget about it.
Pay careful attention to the people who DO stick by you during that scary period - they are the ones who truly believe in YOU. The rest have placed their faith in the familiar, the tested, the pre-determined boxes, the well-worn paths. And they have more faith in those things than they do in your ability to succeed on your unique journey.
And you'd better believe that they're going to let you know. It may be through outright, vocal expressions of doubt and disbelief in your choices. It may be through sly cut-downs hidden in between supportive words. It may be through passive-aggressively fading from your life. It may be through any number of micro-agressions or gas-light-y statements that leave you feeling bewildered and alone, but not really sure why.
There's likely one of two reasons behind their behavior.
1. You are traveling into uncharted territory, and that makes them nervous.
They have no basis upon which to support you, because they have no idea if you're going to succeed. You're choosing the unknown, and therefore the unsafe path. So, in all fairness to the people who care about you, there's a good chance that the reason why they're discouraging you from taking this path is simply because they are looking out for you. They want you to stay safe, and that means staying on a path that's already been forged and tested.
But here's the problem with that way of thinking. It disregards the fact that we are all totally unique - we have different superpowers and passions, and are meant for different things. And in order for us to each live our own best life, we have to carve our own unique path that is perfectly designed for each and every one of us. Your path may look similar to someone else's, it may even overlap here and there, but no two paths will be identical. And that's OK! In fact, it's not just OK, it's the way it's supposed to be.
2. They feel your choices cast doubt upon the validity of their own.
Because you have raised the possibility that their choices may not have been the "right" ones. It has been my experience that, unfortunately, humans often view choices as binary. Right or wrong. This or that. Black or white. My way or the high way. You get the picture.
Which means that if you're choosing a path that is radically different from someone else's, then only one of you can be "right."
But rather than undergo the uncomfortable process of entertaining the possibility that there may be some merit to your choice - and thereby forcing themselves to question the "rightness" of their own choice - 9 times out of 10, they're gonna opt to just tear you down instead.
This, my friends, is total bullshit. Because life is not binary, and neither are our choices. You can be a lawyer and I can be a yoga teacher and we can both be "right." Because there is no objectively "right" or "wrong" way to live one's life. We all have our own unique purposes to fulfill in this life, in our own unique way. The sooner we all start following our real purposes instead of subscribing to other people's ideas of who/what we're supposed to be/do, the happier everyone will be.
Unfortunately, that's not the way most people see and approach the world. And that's why, when you make a choice that drastically differs from one they've made, they'll either try to talk you out of it (don't let them), call you crazy (you're not), or just fade out of your life (let 'em go).
Have you experienced this phenomenon before? Tell me about it! Drop me a line at alia@firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a DM or comment on my Insta.