Being Practical Isn’t All That Great

I hate that title. What I really want to say is “Being Practical” sucks.

Or at least the common understanding of that phrase.

I recently did something incredibly impractical.

It’s something that could take years to fix, will most certainly cost thousands of dollars, will create unforeseeable stress and frustrating amounts of work, has already caused physical pain and was against medical advice.

It’s wasn’t necessary. It isn’t easy.

There was really nothing practical about it.

And I couldn’t be happier. :)

What crazy, expensive, painful, ill-advised thing did I do?

I got braces.

Who has two fingers and a new set of braces? This girl!

Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious.
– Brendan Gill

Did you know I’ve agonized over this decision for over 10 years? The idea of spending thousands of dollars and seeing one orthodontist all in the name of vanity rubbed badly against my practical side.

Spending thousands of dollars and busting my ass to find cooperative orthodontists around the country to play my little game of Build A Traveling Medical File while we travel full-time rubbed against my orthodontist’s practical side, too.

But I insisted. I told him I’d take care of the hard part if he’d just play along.

I was freaking adamant against being practical until I got what I wanted.

Being Practical Is No Way To Live

Culturally, we make impractical decisions All.The.Time….decisions that are expensive, painful, and idealistic: like buying a home, having a child or falling love!

The big stuff is easy, though, right? It’s the smaller impractical choices we let get in our way.

Or at least I did.

You know what changed my mind?

Realizing just how many impractical choices have positively shaped my life:

  • I made the impractical choice to be a mother at 17.
  • I made the impulsive decision to become a massage therapist at 18.
  • I made the expensive choice to own my own massage business at 20.
  • We made the impractical decision to take Zeb out of school when he was 7.
  • And then we had the crazy idea to sell all our belongings and travel full-time.

Did you know the definition of impractical included things like “idealistic,” “illogical,” “wild” or “improbable”?

Most of life falls into that category!

A bumblebee’s ability to fly? Certainly improbable.

The amazing capabilities of a human cell? Definitely wild!

Traveling, creating art, making love, music, dancing, climbing trees, poetry, laughter, romance…completely idealistic.

Chasing dreams, following your instincts, trust: Absolutely the most illogical things you can do in such a volatile time as ours.

And well…..there it is. My reason for being utterly impractical: All of life depends on it. :)

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” – Cecil Beaton

Four Steps To Stop Being So Practical

I often get stopped by fear. And I often remind myself how to overcome it.

These are my four steps to making any wild, illogical, idealistic and absolutely life-changing decisions that I badly, desperately want (but am seriously paralyzed) to make.

They are the four things that get me from here to there, from fear to action, from stagnancy to growth.

It’s really rather simple. But, of course, incredibly challenging. Ready for it?

  1. Trust Yourself. Like Benjamin Spock says, you know more than you think you do.
  2. Know what you want and why and how. Because you’ll likely be doing some explaining and you’ll need a good plan.
  3. Take a really deep breath. Repeat this step often.
  4. Then focus only on taking the next step. Yup, just the next one.

Before long you might just find yourself living a wild, illogical, idealistic life of your own. :)

Join the Convo:

Why do you think we’ve become such a practical society? Or what’s been the best, most impractical choice you’ve ever made?

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45 Comments. Leave new

a few years ago, after my dad died, i gave away all of our furniture with the exception of our beds and the kitchen table (our family is me, a 16 yr old boy, 13 yr old boy and 7 yr old girl). this was furniture my parents had spent years collecting; formal living and dining room pieces, ends tables, coffee tables, sofas…the works. i offered the items to members of my homeschool group and then helped load them up and watch strangers drive away with the lot. i yanked out the carpet that had been making us sick, ran a mop over the concrete floor and threw down a few bright rugs and pillows. my mother went cuckoo bird crazy when she heard what i’d done (my parents haven’t lived together since i was 13 so i shrugged it off and moved on) along with the furniture, off went the microwave and the television. we planted a garden, pissed off the neighbors in our formally posh suburb by plunking down a few hens and gave up the super market for the farmer’s market. we slept when we were tired, ate when we were hungry and got along better with one another than we had in ages. certain people decided i’d lost my mind because my dad was no longer around to make sure i toed the line. i hadn’t lost anything. on the contrary, i felt like i’d finally found my voice. i love my dad dearly but knew for a long time that i had put the life i wanted on hold to be the daughter he needed. i quit the job that was slowly and some days not so slowly killing me (this meant kissing my health insurance good-bye :::gasp:::) i took a part time job that paid the bills and put food on the table with little to spare. around the same time my oldest son finally decided to leave public school and join his brother and sister at home. it was notnotnot a smooth transition time for him or me. what’s the rule…something like for every year you spend in public school you need 2 months to deprogramme and if they were bad years add a month…something like that anyway. we toyed with this curriculum and that until we discovered what each kid needed. one thrives as an unschooler, one attends co-op classes and swears his brains will leak out if he doesn’t make it to class while the third bounces back and forth doing her own thing. these last few years have been trying at times. i have had moments of paralyzing fear broken only by feelings of sheer terror- convinced i am doing the wrong things, that i’ve ruined them and that the ubiquitous judgmental “they” are right and i’ve gone off the deep end. i’ve had to sit with CPS workers and explain why we use cloth wipes(don’t for one moment think it’s not humiliating to have them photograph your pretty decorative basket of wipes for their files!), why we don’t have carpeting, why my freezer and pantry aren’t jammed full of processed food like substances when there’s a garden right outside my kitchen window and why my daughter doesn’t sleep in her own bed. then i remember why we do this. i take a deep breath. i listen to my kids and remember that the three of them are learning to be their own person, to trust themselves and that it’s never too late to be who you are.

Inspiring! Organic! Authentic! Go you!

Wow! You go, girl! Keep going, you are inspiring.

OMG, this comment was so amazing and inspiring!!!! I love it. :) Right now I am 44 and still living for my parents- but it’s going to stop. Now.

you all made me cry :)

Wow. I totally want to live that deeply and authentically. Thanks so much for sharing. I wish you fathoms of free, deep life after these bold steps. What guts!!!


Two Chicks and a Hen
March 5, 2011 6:44 am

You’re a true inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing that story. I’m also a single mom (with a two and four year old), and I’m also attempting to embark upon a long-term plan that involves part-time work, extremely frugal living, homeschooling, and most of all, truly authentic living. I can see that people think I’m nuts. Their weird looks sometimes make me question my choices, but most often it just helps affirm them.

I hate being practical, I really do. We live in this society that expects us to follow what is “socially acceptable” and if you dont your looked at like your creepy or your up to something. I want to be and although I still feel stuck in following certain “rules” I am making small steps to break free of that. Its a lot of hard work, but worth it in the long run. :)

..and your “grill” is beautiful!! :)

I loved this post!

The most impractical thing I ever did doesn’t seem at all impractical to me. It made total sense at the time and in hindsight was definitely the right thing to do but to everyone else it looked insane…

I dropped out of college in my senior year with no intention of going back. Moved to TN to live with my boyfriend while he was in school and started an organic landscape design firm.

I guess when I say it out loud it does sound weird, but it felt and feels right. That was 8 years ago? 9 years? Something like that. I really couldn’t have done it without my parent’s support. I have no doubt they thought I was crazy too but they trust me and believe we all have to live *our* lives, no matter what they look like.

All these years later I’m not exactly where I thought I’d be but I’m not too far off. I like where I am (although I’m not talking geography here). And I kind of feel like I’m having a resurgence. At 20 I was full of zest and a sense of possibility and didn’t really see any limits. And then life got more complicated and I learned a lot but also felt trapped. But now at 30, I’m beginning to feel limitless again. I discovered that most obstacles are in my head and they can be dismantled. Which doesn’t mean that choosing to overcome obstacles doesn’t have a price, but it’s powerful to know that whether I stay within the “limits” or move beyond them is indeed a choice.

Best, most impractical choice I’ve ever made?

I chose to leave my family: a husband of 14 years or so, a wife of a few years, a 10yo daughter (who I intended to take with me, but we decided that wasn’t in her best interest), and two step children.

It was a HUGE choice. It hurt people. It was the right thing for ME. I didn’t even KNOW how very right it was until I was out of that environment. I am a much more authentic person now than I could have been there.

Tara, I’m a big believer that taking care of your teeth improves general health and quality of life. This step may not be as impractical as ill timed. It’s probably going to be tougher to maintain them while traveling, but you’ve discussed this with your orthodontist, I’m sure. Good luck with them. No more caramels, popcorn, and gum for you, sister.

Debra, I’m so sorry for your loss of a beloved father. And, btw, all parents have some level of “fear” that we are doing the best we can for our children. I don’t know if the fear is about how we are raising them as much as it is, what does their future hold. I don’t know how to circumnavigate the concern for their future. Breathe, and take one step at a time.

Leigh Austin-Schmidt
February 21, 2011 9:07 pm

So you didn’t say why. What made you choose to straighten your teeth. Pain? Better chewing? What?
Or is it just vanity?
I can deal with that.
How will you visit your ortho on the road? Are you paying in installments? Will you visit other orthos for maintenance or going back to this one?

Inquiring minds.
Love and peace,

February 22, 2011 9:46 am

Partially for vanity. I want straight teeth again. Partially to correct my bite that contributes to my TMJ and upper cervical pain.

I won’t visit MY ortho on the road. I’ll only see HIM when we’re in Las Vegas and I only paid him to put on the braces and per visit.

While on the road we’ll be finding orthodontists that will work with my ortho’s plan and keep my chart updated (which I’ll have with me) and I’ll pay them per office visit. We’ve already found a couple happy to do this at places we know we’ll be (although many weren’t). This is what will cause the biggest headache and be the most “impractical” of course.

But where there’s a will there’s a way. :)

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Hannah Conrad-Reingold
February 22, 2011 12:03 am

I’ve made some impractical choices, and I plan on making many, MANY more.
I plan on trying to make fantastic love with a boy I know, moving out, starting a business, possibly starting a family (soon), traveling, living in Mexico or Jamaica, not going to college, co-housing with my brother, and letting my parents move in when they’re old or sick.

Oh, and my 14th birthday was on Saturday!

This is so awesome! Following our heart can be impractical but I am beginning to think this all a part of the master plan on learning how to feel alive!! Which I guess is why people say listen to your heart and not your head… We are selling our house and losing thousands of dollars in the process. But our heart says it is time, and we are ready!!
Tara, I hope it’s okay to mention a giveaway I’m doing. It’s completely impractical financially but in my heart I know it’s a good thing. Please stop by if you have time :).

being sensible is drilled into us, all the time, part of our societial requirements to get us to tow the line, in order to maintain governmental and economic stability. It’s pretty apparent though, through the endeavours of communities such as that you are creating here, and via the mass protests and actions being taken around the globe, that these communities and this practical behaviour is being abandoned, in favour of people living free and choosing for themselves to live authentically.

Good luck with the braces – to my mind, if it’s what you want, it’s not hurting anyone else and it’s do-able, why not ?

Love this. I am a practical, pragmatic sort of gal but the most life affirming decisions we make are, as you say, the most impractical.

Choosing faith. Having children.

We’re about to get really impractical and leave a good paying steady job to give our family more creative freedom. Gulp. And what you say about making those decisions is so right. I love no’s 3 & 4. I’m so overwhelmed when I look at the big picture some days but if I focus on the task right in front of me I can do it.

Sometimes the impractical thing looks pretty practical. Part of me says we should sell our house, get down to basics, change our life completely because bad times are coming. But that part of me is based in fear, and the fact is every time we think it through we don’t WANT to sell our house right now. There may come a time when we have to, but right now we’re living our really normal lifestyle and making it just fine. And we’re really happy with it. as long as I can keep the fears at bay I’m happy, that is. Finding your place, listening to your gut, that will lead us well every time, I think.

Rebecca--bending birches
February 22, 2011 6:11 am

love it…and you look SO stinkin cute!

I love that you got braces! I guess it may be a little impractical, but I’m sure you’re going to love how you look when you get them taken off and that’s priceless.

I typically am a practical person, however I do a lot to make my life more complicated because I can’t seem to bend to the mainstream. For instance, we live right next to the best public elementary school in town. Right next to it, we share a fence. Yet, once I started researching education, I fell in love with this Montessori school in our community center a handful of blocks away, so we send the boys there. Everyone who visits our house says, ‘you know, you could send the boys right there and it would be free!’ I know, I know, but that would just be too practical! :)

February 22, 2011 7:38 am

I’ve always associated “practical” with “obedient” – and there is very little in me that obeys!!! Yes, there are some things that make sense in both the short and long run to attend to – and seem “practical”.

We shouldn’t be reckless or careless, especially with our health – but I am adamant about living an authentic life. So my sense of authenticity often comes across as reckless or careless to others who don’t get it!! Who knows? I sleep well at night knowing I am living a very different kind of life than those around me and I am okay with it!!

I think your braces are an awesome idea. You are beautiful and an inspiration!!

Hi SedonaMichelle, It’s refreshing to see someone out in the blog-o-sphere that is from N. AZ!


Step #2 ( Know what you want and why and how) has always been the hardest for me to articulate. I want many things, I’m not always sure why, and how is usually the hardest to wade through…

I like to move often. Very impractical. But I love it. I love making the new dwelling my own. Then, off to another dwelling to make it give up it’s secrets.

I also got involved with both of my son’s fathers very quickly, impractically, and magically, because now I have two wonderful sons.

I also love that smile! Good for you!

Probably one of the most impractical things I’ve ever done was sell and give away all my belongings and move from IN to CA while 4 months pregnant. I had little money, no place to live, no job, and left my 4 kids behind with their father.

The experience has opened me up, healed broken bits, and helped me face many of my fears full-on. I am much happier and more at peace.

And, I have a wonderful little 12 month old traveling companion now, as I do another impractical thing: move from CA to NC with little money, no place to live, and no job (YET).

I create my reality and reality is GOOD. Yay!

You ask why we’ve become such a practical society. I don’t think our society is practical at all.

Being buried under mountains of debt to have all sorts of things we don’t need but impress others is not practical. Desiring a $20,000 vehicle that gets horrible gas miliage and costs a bazillion dollars to repair over a good solid $5,000 model is not practical. Working ourselves ragged at 80 hour a week jobs that we hate is not practical. Living in enormous homes where we barely see the other people in our families is not practical. Never seeing our children and spouse because we’re too busy slaving away to buy more that we don’t need is not practical.

Ok, that was a lot of rambling and I appologize but I would argue that there are very few things that are practical about the way our society opporates right now.

I’ve made plenty of fabulous “impractical” decisions, but when I look back on those I don’t think they were really impractical, they just looked that way from the outside. Also, I love your braces. Good for you. Wanting straight teeth is nothing to be ashamed of. :)

February 22, 2011 10:48 am

I like rambling. I also like the passion and conviction in your words. :)

And I agree.

I think it comes down to what we decide to call practical and impractical.

It’s all about perspective. I like yours, personally. :)

I love this! What I especially love is that you take one of my personal arguments for staying in one spot (what about important things like doctors) and you found a way to make it work. Very inspiring. Thanks!

Pushing Past the Fear « Sustainable Nomads
February 22, 2011 2:18 pm

[…] Being Practical Isn’t All That Great – one of my nomadic mentors, The Organic Sister, tells it straight about why practical or playing it safe won’t always get you what you want. […]

I love, love, love this post!

The craziest, most impractical thing that I’ve ever done was to quit my full time IT job to knit for a living. It was rash, hasty, and the very best freaking decision I’ve ever made. I’ve never looked back and I’ve not regretted it for a moment :-D

Oh, you look so cute with braces! I, too, recently have made an impractical choice. Though I’m not announcing it to the internets til a few more things are finalized. It will result in a huge lifestyle change and a lot more work for me, but I think the results will be more than worth it. Even now, I want to fall back on the easy choice to just stop. So glad to read your words and inspiration! (Also, my man totally needs braces- his wisdom teeth came in awhile back and completely messed up his entire mouth- but I don’t know that he will ever do it.) I’m interested to hear how your process goes.

Good luck!

I love this! I’m 46 and I’ve thought about getting braces because my bottom teeth have always bothered me.

Oh my gosh.. i am a new follower of your blog! I adore you!
this was perfect!
Love the braces!

and what could be more organic than Henderson, NV…twinkies maybe?

February 23, 2011 10:12 am

Just about anything! ;)

I got braces in my twenties, because my parents couldn’t afford them when I was younger (I paid for them myself). I wanted straight teeth, I wanted to smile and not feel self-conscious. People gave me a hard time about it because I was older, but I plowed through it and never regretted doing it. To this day, people tell me how nice my teeth are. So it’s worth it!!

My family (hubby, myself and three teens) are on the edge of making some intense choices of our own, and it’s so scary. We live in a small town, and it’s pretty, and very safe- and oh so boring. My husband has a really good stable job, we have health insurance, etc.. and I’m able to stay home. But we all hate it here and feel like we’re not really “living”. So we are trying to make some decisions to get out of here and find a place that fits us better. We are very green-minded, free thinking, and feel that being here is not allowing us to be living an “organic life”. We want our kids to feel free to be themselves and not be made to feel ashamed that they don’t fit into the mainstream. It is so scary to give up the higher income and stability- so many what if’s. But what if we stay and live out our lives in a place that isn’t a good fit?? What regrets will we have then? We loved your e-book- it was amazing and inspirational- thank you so very much!!

How exciting to step into actualizing some small personal dream! I think you’re completely inspiring. Am mulling over your e-book and wondering if I should go for it.

We are in the middle of a very impractical decision, but we have never been more confident (and somewhat afraid but very courageous) about anything! We’re selling it all and hitting the road too, but we’re not unveiling all the details until we launch our blog next week. We’re very very excited!

Ms. Adventuress
February 24, 2011 11:55 pm

Brilliant post!

My gargantuan impractical steps (horrifying all) were ultimately the most practical steps of all. (Thank goodness!)


The Very Next Thing | Organic Living Ideas and Discussions | Green Eco Friendly Products | I'm Organic for Earth Friendly Gifts
February 26, 2011 3:05 am

[…] Being Practical Isn’t All That Great from The Organic Sister […]

I loved this post. I was a teen Mom too. At 18. I have to agree with you that a lot of good things have come from my impractical choices. Pulling kids out of school and day care and living on one income for one. Teen pregnancy is hard, very very hard and I would never take my daughter back, but that is one impractical choice that should have maybe been waited on. There is so much that we can learn and do during our teens and early twenties. Of course having a child at that age is also a learning process. Bucking the system is great but we have to be careful that we also don’t get our selves in to trouble while doing it.

February 27, 2011 1:27 pm

I can hear that for some such a choice can be the wrong one.

But for me I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have my son when I did. It was probably the most practical choice of all, despite what “conventional wisdom” says.

It makes me sad that such conventional wisdom makes early parenthood out to be a sad, detrimental or “wrong” thing. What message does that send our children when we say we shouldn’t have had them yet? (What message does it tell young mothers when we cease to celebrate their motherhood?)

There were no mistakes. Challenges are not a bad thing, but a phenomenal thing. They are the reason we grow. Where would we be without them? And learning is not relegated to our teens and twenties! :) We can continue to grow and experience throughout our entire lives, and now with these beautiful people with whom we’re sharing our life.

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April 10, 2011 2:24 pm

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