I was recently at a show in Brooklyn where I couldn’t quite see the stage, so I ended up watching two young men in the crowd secretly putting trash into a third man’s afro. Maybe they couldn’t see the stage either or, perhaps, this was just the better show but they seemed to be enjoying themselves. The afro was sort of a floppy mess with some gentle balding and the man sporting it wore a corduroy vest and bow-tie. I couldn’t tell if I liked the outfit or not because I hadn’t a sense of his personality. I didn’t know him, he was just some random person at a show. All I had to go by was the fact that he was the sort of person who wasn’t aware enough of his surroundings to notice a ripped in half playing card being stuffed into his hair and the fact that he looked marginally like a child molester. Behind him the two men were acting immaturely but also making my night richer because of it. How much more could they possibly get away with before it all fell apart and turned into a fight? It was like watching someone play a much more exciting and bizarre version of Jenga.
While impolite, it was nice to see someone shaking it up. I had become sort of accustomed to the stream of suits and ties going to work in the morning and business etiquette. Even some of the parties I had gone to, where everyone is supposedly more free and loose, I noted people playing roles. I have been privy to enough phony intellectual debates intermixed with alcohol and club music where rich people in penthouse apartments pretend to be poor artists. I was allowing myself to be sucked into this false reality and had hated every moment of it. But then I noticed two men enjoying themselves at the expense of a third. They had come to see the show, he had obscured it, and they weren’t going to let that ruin their good time. They emptied the paper clips and gum wrappers from their pockets and began making impromptu art on the back of his head.
That was the millisecond it hit me. I realized that, no matter what, you have to be yourself. Even at the risk of being a misunderstood weirdo or just flat-out disliked, you still have to embrace the genuine you and do what you want because it’s the only way to guarantee that you’ll ever be happy. As life goes on, it will lose a lot of it’s vibrancy if we let it. That process is expedited if you sink yourself into unfulfilling jobs or relationships. Businessweek’s Vanessa Wong posted probably the bleakest article imaginable in a column called “White Lies” that illustrates my point perfectly. Much of society is sort of set up to stifle everything authentic about you. It will reward you, seemingly at random, for being all of the the things you were told as a child never to be. Sometimes I watch old episodes of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood because it’s the only program where the host is both honest and earnest. What does it say about a society when the echos of a deadman, who spoke predominantly to children for thirty-one years, are the best place to get advice as an adult? Maybe it’s because our concerns don’t change all that much from childhood, we just mask them better at the behest of adult civilization.
I suppose society has set some rules in place with good reasons, but it always installs loopholes to permit exceptions. For example, killing has to go through the proper channels. You can’t simply end a life because you dislike the person it’s attached to but you can bomb an entire city of people to death once it’s agreed upon by a few important people that your tribes are fighting. Not that it matters anyway. It’s not as if there is universal normalcy between individual people, let alone entire societies. Everyone is someone else’s weirdo. Take me for example– the stories I share and the things I put out into the world are, at the very least, probably a little polarizing to some.
So, with that in mind, I have pushed back against the societal pressures that have tried to keep me from creating and doing all of the things that make me who I am. Let’s stop worrying so much about celebrity babies, arguing about movies, how much money we are making, what’s trending or what people are going to think about us when start saying and doing what we really want. Expect regular updates, new content and even some future You Monsters Are People goodies that you can flip through, wear, stick, use as positive propaganda or just leave on a shelf.
I’m finally going off the deep end, like I’ve always wanted, and I hope you’ll join me.
I learned it from Jack Kerouac last year: “Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads.” I’ve been through several identity crises through the years and finally, now that I’m approaching 30 and have been on my own for 11 years, I’m losing any care I had for what other people think of me. Some group of people or another is going to dislike you for who you are or pretend to be, regardless how you act. You might as well enjoy being yourself and flip a big ol’ finger to anyone who complains about it. The sad thing is, they’re all pretending.
…”trends and fads and popular opinion.” I forgot the most important part.
Love me some Jack Kerouac.
This is a hard battle. One i’m trying to help the people in my life understand.
Great post and completely get your point. I’m doing an experiment on how social networks have affected my life, both positive and negative, by leaving them aside for a month. It’s only one week into it and I feel renewed without know-it-alls trying to impose their thinking onto everyone. It’s awesome.
“Much of society is sort of set up to stifle everything authentic about you.”
What’s so insidious about it is that we (myself included) often don’t realize how much it happens and in increasing frequency. We’re like the proverbial frog in the pot of water that is slowly turned to a boil.
When I am old I sshall wear purple! It’s funny, I am turning thirty six in a couple of weeks and I feel more myself than I have ever been. You stop being as frightened I think. Look forward to joining you at the deep end. May I bring armbands.waterwings please? Y’know, just in case…
yay! Looking forward to it!
I totally get this. I think it’s amazing a) how much society runs on groupthink and conformity and b) how much we all fall for it, even when we try not to. Don’t know if you saw that brene brown clip from ted the other day but it had some similar thoughts on authenticity. If you haven’t it’s well worth a look. I work in a suit in a big corporation and find it endlessly difficult to balance not getting fired/being taken seriously with not turning into that guy from the movie ‘office space’. Great post, anyway.
Great post – I’ve been going through a transition of this sort for a little while myself. It’s absolutely freeing to write what I want to write and not concern myself with the small mindset of others. All the best to you in your pursuits.
Glad to have you back Posky – you were missed! :)
Posky, The deep end is warm at the moment, after all this heat. A good time to jump in.
We are on a similar wavelength…
I’m sad for afro man but looking forward to the end of The Cat Diaries.
I’m right here with you. And I blame the Death of Authenticity (it’s an epidemic deserving of capital letters…trust me) on Facebook. And Pinterest. And Twitter. And all things social media.
Except this blog. And my blog. And the other blogs I read.
i know what you mean. It seems like i just see a lot of regurgitated stuff on social media and photos of people’s weddings or children. It’s fine but it doesn’t make me feel as if the world is unique and vibrant.
Honestly, it kind of hurts my feelings that people aren’t out there going for the gold more often. At least we have blogs and podcasts to keep us sated in the mean time.
“I’m finally going off the deep end, like I’ve always wanted, and I hope you’ll join me.”
The deep end has always the most interesting and funnest place to be. ^_^
Mr. Rogers was and is a symbol of things that aren’t quite so fucked up in the world. He is missed, dearly missed.
The first 32 years of my life were spent pretending to be something I was told I needed to be. Imagine, me as June Cleaver, then look at me now, blue hair tattoos and piercings and a fondness for freakdom. My family is confused, but I am no longer miserable in a life that I was not meant to live.
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