Choosing joy over conformity

We just completed the final walk thru of our new (to us) house.  In two days it will officially be ours.  Our sanctuary, our burden.  I walked around inspecting every nook and cranny feeling more and more overwhelmed by the minute.  Hadn’t I just sold a house and downsized to a 100 square foot RV because I was sick of the responsibility of homeownership?  It’s actually been a year since then but all the responsibilities and expectations that accompany the security of a roof over your head immediately came flooding back.  The next door neighbor that spent a half an hour spewing her opinions of what she expects from her neighbors felt like all of society pressing down on my shoulders.

I walked around the house feeling as though my thoughts had been hijacked by the status quo.  Every thought in my brain revolving around the word “should”.  We should paint those rooms a better color.  We should replace the old floors and molding with something new.  We should update the appliances.  We should replace the outdated curtains and fixtures.  We should scrape, clean, shine, polish, dust and vacuum every surface in this house.  We should start shopping for furniture being that we have almost none.  We should start getting quotes for this, that and the other thing.  Every “should” sending me deeper in to a spiral of anxiety.  Every “should” making me feel as though my money and time were being stolen out from underneath me.

So I sit here, with all these thoughts freshly brewed in my head thinking…what is going on with me, I was not forced in to this purchase.  I wanted this house.  Why am I freaking out?  Because all those “shoulds”… they don’t belong to me.  I WANT to do XYZ…that is a thought that I own, it’s of my own devise.  SHOULD, on the other hand, is conformity and societal expectations trying to force their way in to my life.  The real challenge is seeing the difference.  That’s great if my neighbor thinks my trees should be pruned a certain way, by no means does that mean I have to do it.  Maybe my friends will laugh at me for having a house that has hardly any furniture in it but I have everything I need and that’s all that matters.

For every new piece of furniture, new appliance, every piece of decor and every new fixture, money must be earned to obtain them.  To earn that money, time must be sacrificed.  And time, as I’m fiercely aware, is our most precious commodity, our most valuable resource.  If those things will bring me joy or make my life easier that’s one thing, but if the sole motive is to conform to the expectations of the world around me, I can’t think of a better way to become stressed, jaded and unhappy.

Conformity is a slippery slope.  It’s easier to have everyone tell us what we should do rather than seek out those answers for ourselves. But after a year spent living on the road and being disconnected from the standard way of living, I’ve been reminded that we all find our joy in different places.  Just because stainless steel appliances make you happy, does not mean they do or should make me happy.  It’s up to us to decide if acting on all the SHOULDS is the way in which we truly want to spend our time.  Because once our time is given, we can never get it back.  Societal expectations never quit.  There’s no finish line or award that says you’ve made it.  So shouldn’t our priority be to spend our time and money in a way that makes us proud?  In a way that feels meaningful to us, regardless of what others may think?

I have a choice to make when I move in to this house, just as you do every single day.  Conform, live reactively and hope for the best or wake up everyday with intention, asking ourselves with every decision if that act or that purchase will get us closer to or further from the life we desire.  The more we ask ourselves what brings us joy, the more answers we have to steer us in the right direction.  Answers that will put us on a path that we can be proud of.  I don’t know about you, but for me, I want nothing more than a life I’m proud of.

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By Michele


Hi, I'm Michele, a nomadic wedding photographer and lover of the great outdoors. I live on the road full-time and document my adventures daily. This is my personal blog where I share and record my thoughts on living simply and intentionally with less stress and more joy. Check out my wedding and portrait photography at


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