I like to consider myself an individualist. I like to do my own thing. I don’t appreciate being told who I am or who I’m allowed to be. I suppose you could say that I’m independent.
But how far does independence really go?
On the action-spectrum of life, with one end being community based and the other being solo, where are you expected to be? On a scale of just-for-you and for-everyone-else, what’s considered the sweet spot?
I like the idea of a lot of crazy fashion statements that I realize most people won’t also be making. That classifies those things in the solo, just-for-me category. Where does that leave me?
Is it considered self centered? Does it mean you’re drawing selfish attention to yourself? Or, in the age of the dare to be different posters on elementary school walls, is it seen as praise worthy, boldly going where few care to go?
It’s funny how those posters of the rainbow-spotted Dalmatians are meant to inspire our creativity and daring. We all know that if such a dog existed we’d be all over it, despite the mutually assumed “daring” and strangeness of the idea implied by the poster. It’s pretty sure fire that puppies, especially Dalmatian puppies, can do pretty much anything they want to and be accepted. As people, on the other hand, it is implied that we have to hold ourselves in check. We need to fit in. We can’t be too off from the mold or we need to be fixed.
What exactly inspires this fear of the different among humans? Why exactly do we feel the need fit everyone into their individual boxes, drawers, and closets, labeled neatly on the phone system so we know who to call if we need anything; why is it the norm to have only the norm within reach?
I suppose it has something to do with human nature. We like what’s comfortable. What’s “normal” is also “comfortable”. But of course this begs the question, why are things that we consider abnormal also things that we find uncomfortable?
It’s equally intriguing to me that we have, for the most part, all agreed to follow this rule. It’s an unspoken rule but we all follow it just as much as we follow the rules of the road or the laws of the land- fairly consistently. Those who break the law, suffer. A small, favored few get away with it, tempting some to join them, but the general public attempting that life always get caught and come running back.
I, personally, realize that it’s pretty easy to be pretty weird. I know people are going to judge me for it and I know some people are going to be rather harsh about it. I know this because it’s the way I’ve chosen to live my life. I’m not going to allow the public to sway my lifestyle. And I mean nothing against anyone who does so; rather I respect your ability to allow your identity its’ bending. Heaven knows mine is mostly inflexible, or else I wouldn’t be writing this post, now would I?
Sometimes we need to realize that something isn’t worth rocking the boat for. There are plenty of scenarios where an established “norm” is useful. The dress code at work. The schedule at school. The industry standard software in your field.
But other times it’s really important to remember how much a right you have to express yourself. Of course you have to know the consequences- because no matter how many multi-colored dalmatians a person has seen, most of them still have a judging tenancy towards some things- but it’s okay to be different. It’s okay to shake that constant pressure to fit in. It’s okay if a certain group of people don’t accept you. It’s okay if you have that one thing that you never seem to have in common with other people.
And it’s okay if you do want to fit in and find common ground, and be accepted, because you know what? Everyone does. It’s human nature. We’re social beings. We belong in groups… well, most of us do anyway.
But we can have common ground and acceptance and all those things without worrying about being a conformist- whether it be an unpopular opinion on a very big issue or a decision to wear orange lipstick, anything ‘strange’, or even many things ‘strange’, they don’t cancel out anything. If anything at all they make you stand out- and theoretically, that’s how you get a group of people to notice and accept you. Sometimes it even happens in practice, if you’re patient and a little bit lucky.
There will always be people who don’t believe in taking independence too far. There will always be people who like the idea of a colorful puppy more than a colorful worldview. Those people tend to clump together, and that’s alright, because it means more clumps for those of us who like to dream of pushing individuality to the limit to stick in and find the community we’ve been wanting-and we can all be comfortable with that.
So I guess that answers the question: Independence can take your pretty far. Community is important. So is feeling that we belong. And a dose of acceptance certainly helps things out.
But when you’re left to your own devices and it’s up to you to decide who you are and what you’ll become, independence can take you there, nine times out of ten.
That tenth time you’ll have to step in line and do what you’re told.
That’s okay though. Orders have their uses, too.