Monday, June 27, 2011

Verandering or How I found happiness by rejecting nonconformity

"Wanneer ... jy ophou om my te label; En ek ophou worry oor wat jy dink;  Sal almal dan kan happy wees en ophou om te kla?"
— Karen Zoid

"For being different, it’s easy. But to be unique, it’s a complicated thing."
— Lady Gaga

I just had the most wonderful birthday weekend.  I hung out with friends, ate a giant steak, drank lots of beer, went clubbing, danced to loud & terrible music and came home late reeking of a night out on the town.  In other words, I had a blast!  I feel years younger than I am and none of that would have been possible had I not finally turned my back on nonconformity.

Yes, as a teen I was one of those.  You know, the black wearing, alternative music listening, pop music scoffing guys who never seem happy.  I would like to go "what was I thinking?" but the truth is, I know exactly what I was thinking.  I believe that we all want to belong, we all want to be a part of something greater than ourselves.  Hate it all you want, human beings are just hardwired for it.  But what if you don't fit in the way you would like to?  What if the popular fashion looks terrible on you and your hair just cannot look like that of anyone in a magazine?  What if you find popular culture and music shallow and meaningless and completely detached from the way you feel?  When you have difficulty fitting into the group everyone else seems to be fitting into just fine, of course the counterculture alternative is going to be attractive.  I get why I was attracted to the nonconformist lifestyle to begin with.  I was never that great at fitting in and at the time it seemed like the only group that would have me.

The thing is, there are some real problems with being a nonconformist as well.  (If you'd prefer a list based discussion - with cartoons! - that's going to be far more enlightening than my ramblings here check out this article on Cracked)  Nonconformity may seem like the freedom loving choice but in many ways it is as rigid as popular fashion/culture, if not more so.  As with any group you are presented with a list of "in" things and "out" things, things that you are supposed to like and things you are supposed to hate if you want to belong.  Worst of all, you don't even get to decide on what is "in" or not, the rest of the sheeple/popular kids/conformists decide that for you - when they zig, you have to zag, if they like it, you can't.  Them's the rules!  It took me a while to gather up the courage to say it but that's just stupid!

This is who I am:  I really do like many thing's in the "alternative" world.  I never had to pretend to like bands like Nirvana or artists like Tori Amos, I loved them in High School and to this day I'm a big fan.  Thing is, I'm also a big fan of ABBA and I don't think the one precludes the other.  I enjoy both Leonard Cohen and the Vengaboys - for very different reasons - and I don't see why I should hide half of my musical tastes in shame.  I do enjoy deep thoughtful movies at times but other times I really enjoy mindlessly entertaining movies and I don't think there is anything wrong with that either.  I listen to some bands I bet you've never heard of but I don't listen to them because you've never heard of them, I listen to them because I like their music.  If they become world famous next week I'm not going to brand them sellouts and stop enjoying them, how does that even make sense?  I like a lot of popular things too but I don't like everything that is popular either.  Why should I?  Liking things because they are popular or liking them because they are not popular are equally senseless to me.  The only good reason I can see for liking something is how much it appeals to me.  Am I wrong?  I am not alternative and I am not pop.  I am a very surreal, misshapen mix of all of that and more and these days I find far more joy in being myself than in trying to fit in.

I guess it's one of the few happy side effects of growing older but I find myself really not caring as much as I used to about how other people see me.  I certainly wasn't always like that.  For the longest time I cared all too deeply about whether the things I enjoy (or at least the things I admit to enjoying) would make people think I was intelligent enough or deep enough or interesting enough to be worthy of consideration and interest.  I would pretend to be into things that, in reality, I barely tolerated.  Likewise I had to hide things (like my deep love for silly romantic comedies) like it was a dirty secret.  Not anymore though.

From Steam Me Up, Kid - the most joyfully insane blog I've ever seen!  If you haven't checked it out yet you really should!

It didn't happen all at once and I can't really pinpoint an event that got the ball rolling.  Perhaps it was a consequence of just being surrounded by a better class of friend who accepted me for who I am, not who I had to pretend to be.  Perhaps growing older made peer pressure less relevant.  Either way, I'm grateful it happened because I've never felt more free.  If your opinion of me is diminished because I'm a fan of Lady Gaga then that is your problem, not mine.  I'd much rather have the warm feeling I get everytime I watch Love Actually than the imaginary approval of people that don't even know me.  Best of all, as I realized on the Tipsy Turtle's dance floor this weekend, not caring what you think of me leads to a surprising amount of fun and acceptance!

1 comment:

Tania said...

That is great! I so agree with you! I also got to a point where enjoying selected uncool Afrikaans songs no longer embarrassed me :-)