On Growing your Way
Recently I’ve found myself in a few conversations centered on the same subject: who people really are when no one’s looking. This subject has come up mostly with my younger friends just entering their 20′s (i.e my sister and her friends, students I’ve given lectures to, young friends in the tech scene) and I wish I had taken the time to think about it when i was in my early 20s. I think it’s important to grow your own way and be the person you want to be, not the person everyone else thinks you should be.
Consider that most of us, on any given day, dress or act a certain way in public to “fit in” without rocking the boat. It makes sense; it’s a lot easier to blend in because you’re less likely to get hassled by others or be the subject of gawking onlookers’ judgement. You can ride the public transit system or walk the streets in peace knowing that you can exist without impinging on anyone else’s equally pedestrian existence.
However, I believe that within every one of us there is an artist, a scientist, a writer, a sexpot, a game changer, an inventor, a dancer, a fighter and, in some cases, a genius. It’s painful for me to watch someone stifle their true nature to fit in to such a degree that even behind closed doors they worry about what label they will bring upon themselves because, secretly, they enjoy some sort of activity or pursuit that others would find strange, abnormal or taboo. When we force ourselves to fit the mold that society puts pressure on us to adopt, potential and growth are stifled and we are that much further from our next giant leap in culture, science, enlightenment and acceptance.
It seems the only time people cut loose a bit is in the bedroom, but a lot of the time, it’s more of the same. To me, it’s ludicrous to think that two people can’t shed society’s expectations, or take a break from the usual folkways and mores when the door is locked. Pierre Trudeau said it best (although he was referring to the state specifically – however it can be said that the state sets the tone for a lot of what we think is right and wrong)
“The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation… What’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the criminal code.”
Consenting adults should be able to escape from it all when it’s just those in the room. I guess the point is, if you can’t be “naked” when you’re naked then do you even have an identity at all.
The implications have a wider scope when applied to the double standard that the sexes face on a daily basis. Why is it that a man can be promiscuous and liberated while women get all kinds of labels should they want to live that way as well? It doesn’t make sense in an increasingly secular society. In my days learning the ins and outs of the criminal code as a criminology undergrad it became blindingly obvious that most of the common law that we take for granted is rooted in the bible or the Ten Commandments. Just about all mala in se offences are straight off of the stone tablet and the vast majority of mala prohibita offences are extensions of that.
I always find it fascinating when I see people staring and shaking their heads at a person who walks by dressed in a way that expresses their true selves. You must have experienced it at one time or another. Someone in neat pants, functional shoes, who carries pens in their shirt pocket is labelled a dweeb. A person dressed in black who has dyed their hair is a goth or a freak. It goes beyond fashion sense and into self-expression. When most of us were younger (say, high school) we probably got the chance to explore our more unusual sides, but why does that have to end once we enter the work force? If hiding your true self away is what growing up means, I never want to grow up.
Take one look at anyone who has changed the world in a profound way or brought about social change (good or bad) and you will notice one common factor among them that is anything but common! Each of these brave men and women dared to dream and dream different, to BE different. Why do I say brave? Well, because being different invariably means you will get in all sorts of trouble, be called “crazy,” and take all matter of crap from just about everyone. Most people don’t like change, but without change, there is no progress. To be a leader is to grow your own way and to be strong enough to endure the consequences. Albert Einstein did it, Hugh Hefner and Larry Flint did it. Rosa Parks, Pierre Trudeau, Barack Obama, Johnny Rotten, Gandhi, The man in Tiananmen Square, Raoul Wallenberg, Oskar Schindler…. the list goes on and on, spanning centuries. We could not ignore them and they changed everything.
So, when you step out of your home and are under the gaze of others, will you grow your own way or are you happy to go with the flow? Here’s to the crazy ones.