My original plan to take the week off from blogging was simple: I had a lot on my plate, my energy was tapped, and I’d run out of things to blog about. I’d earned it, considering I’ve had a solid updating schedule over the last five months. Just a week off to focus on Day Job and personal deadlines, and not feel guilty about it.
It seems I chose to get all philosophical instead.
The week before, I’d been using my daily 750 Words to type up a sort of 90s version of my Walk in Silence riff — just writing about the various things that had gone on in a rollercoaster of a decade for me personally. As with the 80s riff I’d posted over at the WiS blog, this was partly about the music but mostly about me purging things out of my system once and for all. By purging, I mean this: writing it out for the final time, coming to peace with it, learning from it. And then moving forward.
I finished up that riff on Monday and briefly thought: what am I going to write about for my daily 750 Words now? I thought about it some and realized that the overall lesson I had to learn from my life in the 90s was this: stop trying to fit in where you so obviously can’t and don’t want to belong.
It’s a general statement to be sure, but the reasoning behind it makes sense. It started way back in my senior year in high school, actually; there’s a reason I half-joked to one of my friends with the following: “It’s hard to be a nonconformist when there’s no one else to be nonconformist with.”
I said that knowing full well how oxymoronic (and moronic) that sounded. The reason I’d said it was because my closest friends at the time, who were all a year ahead of me, had all left for college. They’d all been on my wavelength, something I hadn’t been able to find with anyone else, to such a degree.
I started riffing on that with my Daily Words. It reminded me of something one of that group had written sometime in 1989 along the same lines. He’d talked about being a nonconformist — not so much in a political sense but as a personal decision — and what it took for that kind of mindset to thrive. Like me, he grew up in a somewhat conservative small town where rebelling against the mainstream didn’t take all that much effort: listening to college radio, liking weird things, wearing odd clothes, and giving up all intentions at trying to fit in with everyone else. No mohawk, piercing or tattoo necessary, unless you wanted to go that far. [To my knowledge, none of us did at the time.]
One of his points kind of resonated with me after all these years: it’s kind of hard to be a nonconformist in a vacuum, because the energy behind that mindset tends to dissipate. Why rebel against the mainstream when the mainstream doesn’t care about you either way? And on the other end of the spectrum: if the only reason you’re rebelling is to be among your own kind — other nonconformists — you’re kind of missing the point.
My mistake in the 90s was that I was trying so hard to achieve the latter. I was looking for a surrogate crowd to take place of my old circle of friends. [Remember, this is well before the Age of Social Media, so the only way we could remain in contact was by phone (too expensive), by weekends off (too iffy due to different schedules), or by letter writing (too much of a pain in the arse and a super slow turnaround).] That itself was a dismal failure, and while I did end up finding a great group of friends a short time later, it wasn’t exactly the same. I always felt a bit out of place. And would continue to feel this way throughout the rest of the 90s.
So. What’s the point of this current riff? What’s with the sudden resurgence in fascination with nonconformity? Well, I would be lying if I didn’t say it might have a little to do with the current presidential administration. In an odd way, too me, he and his cronies are a shocking parallel to the jocks and the popular kids at school. They weren’t always causing harm, but they certainly knew how to fuck with people’s heads, and they could not deal with the square peg. Or they’re the eager followers, willingly ignoring reality and/or other people while desperately trying to claim their role as part of The Gang.
Part of it is also me revisiting my fascination with nonconformity, but on a more stable, creative and positive level. It’s no longer about rebellion just for the sake of it (“What are you rebelling against?” “Whadda ya got?”); nor is it about achieving a reactive response. As I’ve said before, I’m trying to avoid falling into the reactionary trap; I’ve wasted far too much time and energy playing that game.
The nonconformity I started riffing on, and what I’ve been contemplating lately, is really about relearning how to ignore outside influence that I don’t need or want. This is more about shedding all the extraneous bullshit in my life, the distractions and the irritations that derail me from what and who I am, and who I want and need to be. I’ve already figured out who I am at this point; I just need to make a more concerted effort to be that person.
This is why I’m the kind of writer that I am, writing stories in the way that makes sense to me creatively, publishing them in the way that makes sense to me creatively. I’m the kind of writer who will hear certain ‘don’t do this’ writing advice and immediately think, well, why not? And then follow up with an attempt at proving it wrong. I go with what my soul sings to me.
In the end, with this bit of recent insight and clarity, my long-game plan is to regenerate a bit (to borrow a Whovian term) and return to that True Self I’d had in my head for years but hadn’t been able to achieve.
“When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.” – Doctor Who (11th Doctor, Matt Smith)