People with alternative lifestyles are people who think outside the box. Some of us are forced to think outside the box early on because of the ways in which we differ from cultural norms. For example, I was raised Jewish, and I can recall as far back as kindergarten wondering why I was told to believe one thing when almost everyone else I knew was being told to have different basic assumptions. This led to my questioning the tenants of religion, and of what I was ‘supposed’ to believe in general, before I was even in grade school!
People who are gay know from a young age that they are different, and start questioning the world based on their sexuality. People who aren’t suited to the standard mold of monogamy at some point realize this and question the societal image that everyone needs to find one soulmate and never have deep intimacy or look sexually at another person again.
Carving your own path has benefits and costs. A benefit is that you are free to create a life that is uniquely suited to you, a unique individual. Nobody is exactly like you, or has had the exact experiences that you have had. You as a unique individual, having those unique experiences, create your memories and the building blocks that your present and future are built upon. The more freedom you have in your ability to imagine and pursue a life that is more specifically suited to you, the more engaged and fulfilled in life you have the possibility to be.
When my husband and I bought our home, we went all out with the customizations. We are part of an intentional community that is made up of 2 bedroom apartments, but we wanted to have a family, with four bedrooms, so we combined two apartments to make a larger space. I also painted murals on the walls, and bought Ikea furniture that exactly fit the living space. Since the two combined apartments had two kitchens, we turned one kitchen into a fifth bedroom that we rent out to a wonderful housemate. We love our home, and especially that we get to live with good friends as our neighbors. The community we have is something we have that we really value, which most people in suburban cities miss out on.
A downside to all that freedom is that when you go off the beaten path, you don’t have the cumulative wisdom of society to build upon. Over the centuries people have experimented with many different ways of doing various things, and they’ve collectively learned what sorts of things do and don’t work, for the goals that they’ve set out to accomplish. When you’re choosing your path on your own, there are probably going to be assumptions you make that don’t take into account realities that our ancestors dealt with, that will bite you in the butt by not heeding.
One problem with our wonderful living space, which we didn’t realize ahead of time is that our one remaining kitchen isn’t really big enough to have five rooms worth of people sharing it comfortably! We manage, and in retrospect we’d still make the same choice, to convert the second kitchen, but the cramped kitchen is an example of a consequence we didn’t see coming. Likewise, the murals drawn directly on the walls, instead of on canvases that can be moved, and the Ikea furniture being earthquake safe bolted to the walls, means that we can’t redecorate very easily. After a few years I would like to redecorate, but I can’t put furniture in certain places or it will block the murals, and it would be a real pain to move the furniture in the first place. The bolted furniture and the unmovable paintings are something I probably would change in retrospect, although they’re not a big deal.
Carving your own path requires more thought and figuring things out becasue you’re doing things in a new way, so having friends, mentors, psychologists, coaches, and other people to help you figure things out is really important. If we had hired an interior decorator when we designed our living space they might have foreseen some of the issues that we didn’t.