October 9, 2012

I sent a birthday card to my granddaughter.  The envelope said that extra postage was required in the U.S.  Since it was not an odd shape or large, I couldn’t understand why extra postage would be needed.  I put on one first class stamp.  It came back to me saying more postage was needed.  So, I asked the postman why.  He didn’t know why, but thought that the fact that the envelope had told me from the beginning that extra postage was needed was explanation enough.  I re-sent it in another envelope that was larger, but not too large.  However, the “why” of it kept bothering me.  What I finally decided was that the envelope required more money because it was neither too large, nor too odd-shaped, but was smaller than standard.

Life, in general, emphasizes that what is standard rules.  Go outside of standard at your own risk.  And yet that is what I have done many times in my own life.  What is not standard became more or less my standard.  At a time when it was odd, I got married in my senior year of college instead of after graduation.  I was moved by the logic of Zero Population Growth and my experience as a social worker with foster children to choose adoption over creating a baby.  In the short-lived experiment in the 1970s of allowing white parents to adopt black foster children, we became a mixed-racial family.  A decade later, Meryl Streep as Mrs. Cramer in the groundbreaking movie, “Cramer vs. Cramer,” and I were among the very small minority of  American women who divorced and left their children with their fathers.

I certainly didn’t match the average world traveler that wandered the planet for almost two decades.  I was solidly middle-aged and rather poor with a pack on my back when I made my own challenges and learned how to face them within a variety of cultures, especially in Asia.  I wasn’t an explorer who discovered places for the first time (although I was the first foreigner that some Chinese villagers had ever seen), but neither was I  following well-trodden paths.  I learned that I could avoid crowds by not following the crowd.  In my own style, I thrived even in cultures where following the standard way was considered the only, the most important, the best way to live.

Now I live in a retirement community.  I buck the tide by not making medical care my major concern.  I don’t take the standard medications and standard tests that the majority of seniors take.  And I get my 8 hours of sleep at a very non-standard time.

Yes, there are risks.  And there are losses that accompany not adhering to the standard.  I don’t have enough money to be considered eccentric.  And I’m not quite strange enough to be considered crazy.  I am, well, odd.

I feel a certain kinship to people like Izhar Gafni of Israel who has invented a 95% cardboard and 100% recyclable bicycle.  People told him it couldn’t be done.  It is cheap.  It is light.  It is practical.  It is odd.  But it works well.

Comments?? E-mail Suellen at ZimaTravels.com

%d bloggers like this: