We should not be afraid to challenge the norm.

Bhavik Shah
8 min readJan 24, 2019
Photo by Juan Jose on Unsplash

As the years progress, the more natural it becomes to start wondering about how your life should and will work out. We all start analyzing our life in such detail, dissecting each element to ensure all the right steps are being taken, at the right times. It may not necessarily be perfect, but in a way, it will be a perfect for us. We “know” what we want, and hope the steps we are taking in life will take us to that ultimate destination. As long as we continue to persevere, the outcome will be positive. Losing hope is not an option, and hard work will become success. This is the monologue that we keep on rehearsing in our heads over and over again. We repeat this mantra after each key milestone in our lives, after each rejection, after each disappointment, after each unpredictable surprise that life gives us. But what if this mantra is based on a false foundation, and all we are doing is living in a cloud of misguided delusion, becoming more confused than ever? Are we ready to accept this truth? Are we ready to fight back?

If you made it past this convoluted and ambiguous opener — well done! You have passed this fictional test I just created. Gold stars all around! In all seriousness, let’s break this down. In a previous blog, I had written that society forces us to choose an identity, and in many cases forces us to categorize ourselves because it keeps the consistency and normality of the masses. Everyone may not agree with my statement, but for those who do, let’s take it down one step further. We attend schools/universities, attain good jobs, try to become successful in our fields, and eventually look to settle down with partners and create families. That’s the formula that has been given to us. If any of these do not work out the way we want it to, we ache — causing various anxiety highs and even depression lows. Is it the end of the world that we do not have our career path figured out by 25? Do we really need to be married by 30? Must we have children in order to enhance society and build a new future? Personally, the answer is I do not know. How am I expected to know? How can I be confident in giving these answers, in the same way of explaining the color of my skin? These questions stem from the realization that perhaps the hopes/dreams that have been fed to me for almost 31 years is only one perspective. The real question is: What is the other perspective?

With me so far? Good, good! Let’s continue. I have been haunted over this ‘perspective’ question for the last couple of months, truly questioning in what I want out of life, and how can I successfully achieve my goals. My career was not my decision. Practicality forced my hand at the age of 18 that led me into a career I merely tolerate. Every time I think about making a change, I am blocked with insecurities in how I can progress in a new field, start something fresh, and potentially lose the credibility I’ve established already. How can I sacrifice the stability I have now, for the mere hope that the new path will bring me joy? Will that joy ultimately live its course, and burn out like a candle? Unfortunately I do not have the answer to these questions, but I do know now why I ask myself these over and over again. Change is scary, and as adults we become more and more frightened about it. I see kids and their fearless attitudes towards everything, yet I am scared to touch the subway pole because it may give me the swine flu. A drastic example, yes — yet explains my point. I am too afraid to make any change that goes outside of my comfort zone, because as children we have been taught this way. Who starts life over in their 30's? That’s just silly, some would say. Others would call it reckless or even irresponsible. We should know what we want to do by now, and sure slight deviations are allowed, but not massive overhauls that would disturb your own internal ecosystem. Even if we are not happy, our current safe path serves the purpose and if the jig saw piece needs to be crammed into the wider puzzle, then so be it — because that is just how life is.

To be frank, I am exhausted in listening to these rationales and accepting this fake ideology. I have given myself so much anxiety and stress overthinking that I am unable to make a change. I would like to believe that life has taught me various skills, and one of them is to be sensible. With that sensibility, comes the decision to take a chance on myself, risking the comfort and safety net that has hindered my creativity for so long. I am at a juncture in my career where I have two directions: continue on the path that I am on, or make different paths stumbling my way onto the path I was meant to be on. I am slowly realizing that path will only become a reality if I start to channel my curiosities and interests, dating back to the days of my childhood. Remember those days where we used to actually dream? The days where we used stay up all night believing in our own strength, and abilities to accomplish any goal? Life does get in the way of those dreams, and sometimes they even disappear. By no means am I delusional and still think I can be an astronaut, yet I do owe it to myself to explore what creative outlets I can still pursue. It may be more difficult than anything I have done before, but why sit around being resentful? The most successful people of our time have always created their own unique path, and were not tied down to what society thought about those decisions. I am beginning to see the benefit of this mindset. It may be very well that the creative path may ultimately lead me to the same stream of normality that many others arrive at. The key difference is the experience in between, and the life lessons I will learn along the way. How can we truly experience those unknown joys, outside of the societal constructs we have built, if we never knew they existed as options? I do not believe that growing older should limit us — it should empower us. As we become wiser, our appetite for knowledge and thirst for adventure should increase. Ignore the voices of doubt and criticism, even if they do come from a good place of security and practicality. I want to welcome my 2nd act, 3rd act, and even a 4th act with open arms.

If you’ve made it this far, then you definitely deserve a medal! The second part of the ‘other perspective’ is the notion of finding a partner and settling down. It almost feels second nature to think about this, once you have your career sorted out. Every now and then, I have met people who are so happy with being single, or at least appear to be. I have questioned their happiness, and how they can actually be content without someone substantial in their lives. Are they faking happiness? Do they really enjoy being single? Do they not want to settle down and live a ‘normal’ life? These questions stem from the original blueprint that is drawn out for all of us. Settling down, having children, buying a house is what we have seen for generations and generations. My parents did it. Their parents did it. Slowly, all of my friends are doing the same, leaving me to be one of the few that is still single and searching. Over the last couple of years, I felt a sense of loneliness because I envied what others had. It seemed relationships came so easy for some, where friends would constantly have partners, as I still maintained the infamous third wheel status. I ached when I played with their children, as I constantly wondered if I would ever be fortunate to have my own — share my wisdom and experience with a new human. How much longer will I be able to sustain this single livelihood? When do I get to experience the ‘normal’ stuff? These questions plagued my existence far too long, until I came to one realization: I am feeling an emptiness in my life, based on a plan that has been presented to me long before I had any say. I never consciously planned out my life at a young age, deciding where I will be at every pivotal point. I never consciously thought about settling down, choosing a partner, falling in love, and everything else that is romanticized in our world today. I just followed my family and friends. I followed that blueprint, as we all did. I pursued dating, with my best foot forward. I was optimistic and very hopeful at times that I had finally found someone to share my life with. As things came crashing down, I was filled with self-doubt and constantly struggled with confidence. “Perhaps it was something I said, or something I did.” I struggled with the difficulty of finding someone when I had so much to offer. However, I was not ready to face a harsh reality. Am I meant to follow? Should I be upset at all that I have always been single, and have not experienced the ups and downs of a relationship? Do I even want that?

I am in no way questioning the existence of love, and the power behind it. The query is more centered around if we had control to create our own master plan, would we have chosen it to be this way? I fully understand society does not operate on this level, and I am poking holes at a well oiled machine that has been functioning quite well for ages — yet if I don’t do it now, I may regret later. I strongly believe the pursuit of love should be based on one’s individual decision based on their morals and values — not merely based on the fact that it is “normal”. I now respect those single people for being outliers, as they have chosen to challenge the standard approach. They may still want to find someone eventually, but it will be based on their own decisions. A blueprint designed by them, for them. This is the approach that I will now follow as well. I do not have all the answers at the moment, and still am living in a cloud of confusion most days. However, I do have the spirit to continue to explore and challenge where I see fit, ensuring that my goals and dreams are in fact mine. I encourage you to do the same.



Bhavik Shah

Award winning Mental Health & DEI Workplace Advocate. Exploring new curiosities, while challenging social convention. Contact me at www.bhavikrshah.com