“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” – Albert Camus
Every generation has one, some have multiple. My own individual rebellion has undergone several face-lifts, but the core idea and identity has remained.
Remember those times sitting at the lunch table in elementary and middle school with every one laughing about a tv show or movie that they watched the night before. Of course you didn’t see it, but in an effort to be part of the crowd, you lie and laugh along. Then there is that one kid that calls you out and asks, “What happened next?” Remember that feeling of anxiety?
When I entered high school as the second youngest (thus shortest and highest voice) male, I was scared to death. My years before, in middle school, were plagued with ridicule and nothing short of the kind of bullying that would make national headlines today. I had nothing to my name in terms of teenage currency, e.g., popularity, athletics, friends, band or chorus, academics or honors, even the chess club didn’t want me (yes James, you were cooler than me.) At the same time, I was tired of trying to fit in. Worn out. Sick of lying to myself, pretending to be someone who I wasn’t. Let me rephrase, I didn’t know who I was, but I was pretending to know.
What made me different? What made it so hard to find a place in the social ladder, in the world as I knew it? I didn’t figure it out for a while, but I realized I hated being like everyone else. To the point where I would intentionally sabotage my chances of fitting in. How? I would sew my own pants with different color fabrics. I would wear suspenders, but not over my shoulders. I NEVER wore closed toe shoes and usually donned a pair of rubber flip-flops. I listened to music that no one liked, they couldn’t even pretend to like it if they wanted to. Later I realized that I had become, in a natural and organic way, counter-culture.
As high school came to a close, the culture started to change. People found out that my 4 years of not giving a shit about what they thought helped me to develop my own personality. So much so, the senior class voted me as “Best Personality.” I attribute this to the fact that every one else was hell-bent on copying personalities to fit in that they never (and may not even now) knew who they were. I faltered here. I took advantage and used my new-found popularity to live the life I had always watched from the outside. I dated my high school crush, ditched my old friends on our senior class trip and sat at the cool table at prom. Imagine this, a guy that sews his own pants with different color fabrics, wearing extra-small t-shirts from goodwill, and dyed hair (Red one week, Blue the next, then black and maybe blond) hanging out with the cool kids. I sold out.
Learning from this after graduation, I rejected the norms in every way possible. I never took my SAT’s. I didn’t go to a typical 4 year college, I went to a 2 year art school. I didn’t drive a used Honda, I drove a Saab (so ugly they are beautiful) and I totaled about 5 of them. I didn’t party like my classmates, I was straight edge.
But I didn’t know what I stood for yet. I didn’t have a purpose, an outlet or a reason for rejecting everything that everyone else did. So I started searching for one. I tried politics, that was awful, talk about having to fit into a mold. I tried a job, this was a better effort, at least I could afford my gas. I tried rejecting my own counter culture mentality. This lead me to going back to school. Which caused me to spend my money and lose my job. I was in the same place I was when I was a freshman in high school. Having nothing, confused as ever and facing a frightening world.
What did I do? I stepped out. I moved away from home for the first time in my life. Far away (12.5 hours.) I left my family and friends and found myself. When you don’t have something filling every single space in your life, good or bad, it forces you to look at what is really there. During this time, I developed my career, I found my wife, learned some things and actually was able to pin point my rebellion.
I define who I am by several different factors. I am always looking to smile. I think everyone deserves 1000×10 to the 10th degree chances at life. Love and compassion always wins. I want to help as many people as I can, even at the expense of myself and my resources. I don’t really care what you think of me, but I care what you value. I want to live a full life in every sense of the phrase; wealth (not at the expense of others,) happiness (possibly the most important,) and health. I rebel every single day against every and anything that threatens my way of life. I will never again try to fit into a mold or be defined by those around me. My rebellion isn’t a single solid theme, it is a morphing idea that can shift with the changing culture and mounting pressures on living a normal life.
I am “counter-anything” that wants to put me in a box.