To think and act against the fashion of the day is the beginning of wisdom.
It is said that to get to the source you have to swim upstream. Salmon swim that way to lay their eggs and to maximize their offspring’s chances of survival. Other fish too swim from the ocean to the stream where they wait for little insects to fly by.
Dead fish float downstream but it takes a live one to swim upstream.
Humans often make decisions not to settle for the obvious but to go counter to prevailing opinion. Often, this works out well.
I can think of three occasions where I had to make a choice between the beaten track or taking a different road. The first time was when my younger daughter was born premature and stayed at the hospital after I went home. At that time, the fashion was to bottle feed babies and that is what the staff did. They told me that because she was apart from me for a couple of weeks, I would not be able to breast-feed her. I ignored them.
I thought babies should be breast fed. After all cow’s milk was intended for calves, not humans. So I pumped my milk to keep it flowing and as soon as my daughter came home, we switched to breast feeding. My baby was happy and I was happy to live without sterilizing baby bottles. Swimming upstream gave me a good result.
My second little rebellion against convention happened when I discovered a book by Rudolf Flesch called Why Johnny Can’t Read. Flesch was critical of the way reading was taught in schools using he visual method instead of the phonetic one. Children were asked to memorize whole words instead of breaking them down into sounds. This method relied on memory instead of logic. Remembering each word by the way it looks is much more difficult and less efficient than recognizing the letter combinations that sounds are built with and then being able to do your own combining.
So, going counter to what was then current in schools, I used the techniques in the book to teach my younger daughter to read. By the time she entered kindergarten she was quite proficient at it. Her teacher was astounded when one day she drew a picture of butterflies and printed the word correctly at the top of her drawing. She pointed out to the teacher that words that end in “ly” have their plural in “lies.”
My third example occurred much later in my life. For 9 years around 1970, my husband David’s job took him to Africa to introduce the concepts of trade unions and credit unions to African workers in Senegal. At the time I was pursuing a career at the University of California Berkeley Library. I loved my job, I was good at it, and I was on track for a promotion.
The expectations of the day and of my husband’s employer were that I was to abandon my career because a wife was supposed to follow her husband wherever he went.
I realized that I was not going to sacrifice my job, erasing all that I had achieved, and losing my retirement benefits as well. I remained at my post.
Because we both had long vacations, we usually spent the month of August in Europe and I cobbled together enough holiday and vacation days to spend Christmas time in Dakar, Senegal.
My moral…Sometimes, you just have to think for yourself.