Transcending Social Norms with BASE Jumper Jessica Maviano

We often think that if we follow social expectations and norms that we will be inherently happy in life. There is some credit to this because these expectations and norms exist for a reason. But before you trod down the beaten path, you owe it to yourself to think, "is this the path that I am truly wanting to follow?" 

She Went Wild community member, Jessica Maviano, is a BASE jumper and skydiver based in Utah and we were lucky enough to catch her in between adventures to share her thoughts on transcending social norms.

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The beaten path - go to college, start a career, climb the corporate ladder, have a nice car, have a nice home, get married, have children AND THEN, we will be happy in life. There is nothing wrong with this life and there are people that will be genuinely happy with this path without any lurking hollowness.

But the problem is; the clear-cut path may not be your own path. And if you think of the tallest and most beautiful mountains, there is often no beaten path to their summits. To reach these peaks, the journey requires a degree of mountaineering, and that’s what life requires of you. Because if you're not on your own path, then whose path are you on?

It is a confronting question because social norms and expectations place a massive amount of pressure on us, often without us realising. We may start to believe that we are not successful because we are not married by a certain age, don’t have kids by a certain age, haven't started our career soon enough, or that we are too old/young to change the direction of our path. I used to panic that if I didn't graduate college as quick as I could than I wouldn't have enough time to become established in my career. I changed my degree half way through and graduated 8 years later. The truth? I haven't once used my degree in the way it was intended. Part of this pressure I felt stemmed from social expectations, but also, from myself. I had to actively remember to release myself of this excessive pressure and remember that at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is my happiness. And I am the only person that will know what path to take in order to nurture and protect my happiness.

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BASE jumping and skydiving, although outside of social norms, make me happy and they have taught me a lot about life. Moving past social expectations to live a life that’s best suited for me was one of the first lessons I learned. I quickly discovered that moving off the beaten path meant that I was going to face some barriers. 

One barrier may be your very own friends and family, who may question what you're doing if it's something so outside of their own expectations and experience. Depending on your cultural upbringing, this may be the largest barrier you’ll face.

There are two ways to deal with this barrier. Broaden your circle of people and find new communities who share similar dreams so that you find those who do support you. In the process of finding those who support and inspire you, you will build positive reinforcement to the direction you want to lead in life.

Unfortunately, you may also need to let go of toxic friends and/or family. We tend to think that only friends can be toxic, but family can be toxic as well. Culturally, it can be a taboo idea to separate yourself from family, but the price you pay to submitting to this standard is your well-being.

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In my early twenties, I made the decision to no longer allow toxic family members to be a part of my life. The decision was terrifying, but I still do not regret it. The sexual and emotional abuse from my family did not help build any positive reinforcement in pursuing my own life and it negated any support I received. I had to let go of the social norm that “family is blood” and “family is everything” in order to find a greater happiness. 

Skydiving and BASE jumping have taken me all over the world. I have met people from every walk of life and I’ve had memories etched into my heart that I would never trade for anything. I have found a family and a passion. All of this started because I thought, “that looks fun”, and so when my friend invited me to do my first tandem skydive, I didn't pass up the opportunity despite being terrified. People call me crazy, and yes, I understand that what I do is really outside of social norms…

But the only thing that’s more crazy to me is seeing people live a life of mediocre happiness, at best. So, once again, please ask yourself, "whose path are you following? Is this the path that I am truly wanting to follow?" 

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Follow Jessica on Instagram at @jmaviano