I had one HUGE problem when I was young. It was a pretty freaking big problem, too. Massive, even. LAAAAARGE.
This problem kept me from being my best self and living comfortably in my own skin and in this world. It prevented ME from being ME, and it meant that my will and desires were always subjugated to those of the people and world around me. What was it…?
It was a behavioral problem.
But it wasn’t quite like you’d imagine. Because when I say I had a behavioral problem, you probably think: “Ahh, I knew it. Adam was such a badass kid. Probably was getting into all sorts of trouble and causing all types of destruction. Probably him who broke my car window, the jerk! Probably broke ALL the rules like a total rebel.”
No, though. Not quite.
My criminal record is a boring read – like grandma/grandpa boring; like waiting at the doctor’s boring; like church preacher (provided he doesn’t actually assault children) boring. Besides a few attempted one-man invasions of small island nations, I’ve pretty much managed to avoid angering the law.
And so I wasn’t out raising hell and causing trouble when I was young and teen depressed. I wasn’t breaking curfews or cursing at teachers or picking fights. I wasn’t some reckless, no good, rebel of a kid at all.
No. It was the opposite, actually.
My biggest problem as a young, struggling dude was this: that I FOLLOWED THE RULES. All of them. Not just worthy ones, but every stupid and meaningless one as well.
I did everything as I was supposed to, and never as I wanted to.
Really, THAT’s the average depressed youth. It’s not the kids in gangs or in juvenile hall, in detention or suspension. Those kids get the attention because their struggle is obvious externally, but they aren’t the norm. The great majority of us are just regular do-gooders – struggling quietly, stunted by the influences around us; too weak and too scared to even TRY something that MIGHT get us in trouble; too weak and too scared to put our interests above the wants of society, or the threats that we are told will surely come if we become independent and strong.
Sweet, Sweet Memories…
I remember once as a kid going shopping with my mother. I was looking at stuff behind glass on a wall – walking as I looked – paying no attention to where I was walking. I eventually, of course, walked behind the cashier’s counter, which was simply one counter set a few feet off the wall, with no barrier to enclose it. The teen cashier then stopped me and told me I couldn’t be there and that I had to go.
No big deal right? Except that – to someone as weak and shy and do-good as I was – there was no other type of attention that was more horrifying than being singled out as wrong. I remember the embarrassment I felt. Legitimate freaking embarrassment.
When I was older, my mother took me to a basketball game – a Knicks/Bullets game in DC. It was probably during the week and the arena wasn’t all that filled. At halftime my mother wanted to go down to the seats by the player’s entrance so we could see these 7 feet athletes up close.
“But those aren’t our seats. But someone will see. But they’ll throw us out. But we’ll get in trouble!!!!”
I was horrified. And though it was amazing to see how massive someone like Patrick Ewing truly is, do you think I enjoyed the experience? Or do you think I cowered there in fear, horrified that we’d get caught, CONVINCED that simply standing there in front of the seats would get us in trouble; that it mattered AT ALL?
It was little things like that. A LIFETIME of little things like that. A lifetime of avoiding living, because of the fear of what comes with living.
Except it doesn’t quite feel like “little” things that at the time, in the moment, right? It doesn’t quite feel that important or that grave. It just feels like you’re doing what you’re SUPPOSED to do; that you’re doing what’s in the interests of everyone.
But in our smallest actions are proof of our deepest held ideals, and those who let even the most inconsequential of things manipulate their behavior and their desires, are surely those who will let life’s more difficult challenges control them.
What did my small actions say of me, then?
I did everything as I was supposed to do it, and never as I wanted to do it.
It was like a horrible disease – the NEED to avoid trouble, to fly-right, to be what others perceived as good. It was a total fear of what may happen if I did something – anything – against the norm or against the “rules”, of getting into any KIND of trouble, and any AMOUNT of trouble. It was my tendency to let others control my behavior – whether a person, a group, or society in general – to impose THEIR view of the world above my own, and THEIR priorities in the world before my own.
The desire to be what others expected of me. The fear of being the center of any negative attention or social pressure.
Do you think I’d ever get ANYTHING I wanted in life living by such ideals? Do you think anyone would ever be so generous to me, as I was with the power I so willingly gave to them?
Or would I simply get trampled on? Would I just be a stepping stone to someone else’s achievements and success?
The Large Effect of Your Little Actions
Realize that it is THIS weakness we allow that leads to the weakness that will effect us a lifetime – the kind that will result in our lives wasted in the crappy circumstances and monotonous lives we see in the average adult we’d do anything to avoid becoming.
And that’s what this bad behavior does. That’s what 99% of us allow.
Because every day, we surrender our enjoyment and desires to shit we are told, and little words on signs. Every day, we avoid experiencing what we want because of what we are taught to fear. Every day we’re told to ignore our desires and needs through threat of punishment which does not exist or does not matter.
Every day we put the interests of OTHERS above OURSELVES.
But that’s not what strong people do. That’s not what independent and confident people do.
Those with true self esteem hold their ideals and pleasures above others’. They hold what they want as a value more important than what others want of them.
And it shows in little, little ways.
They have no problem laughing out loud in a quiet church when someone whispers something funny. They have no problem shouting some snarky remark at the movie screen of an otherwise quiet theater. They have no problem going to the front of any disorganized and cluttered line.
They have no problem being the center of attention or social pressure, no matter how negative.
Because they don’t care.
They just have fun. They have fun BEING themselves. They do what they want because they want it.
And that’s how it is supposed to be. That’s how it is naturally before the world shapes us in its image.
Do you think lions wait their turn for the returned kill? Do you think they stand there and let others get the last of the meat because they arrived first, or because some clever member of the pride placed some sign on a nearby tree?
While the world obeys signs and rules, the strong do what they want. While others put their interests in the hands of others, the strong take their interests in their own hands. While others submit their ideals to the world, the strong hold their ideals as indivisible.
I’m reminded of this by 8 am everyday
Every morning I drive to work. My office building is on a large private property surrounded by a forest the company owns as well. The road to the parking garage is probably nearly a mile long through its twists and turns, all of it private property too.
One day, the building people decided to aid the walkers who do not exist by propping up a lighted stop sign along the road where it crosses one of the walking paths the company owns and maintains.
Every morning I watch people stop their car because of a homemade lighted sign nailed to a post of wood.
I don’t because there is no reason to. I don’t because it doesn’t fit my wants. I don’t because I know that a stop sign not put up by the government is not a stop sign at all.
At all times I do only that which benefits me, and follow only those rules where it is in my benefit to do so.
This doesn’t mean I only do those things where I receive enjoyment, or pleasure, or something tangible because of it, but also those things where the actual consequence is a risk I’d be stupid to take, and therefore the thing is made into something I want to do anyway.
I don’t kill because a lifetime in prison doesn’t serve my interests. I don’t steal because 10 years in prison doesn’t fit my desires. But do you think I care about a “Quiet Please” sign on a wall, or a “Turn Off Cell Phones” warning in a movie theater? Do you think I care about a fake stop sign erected on private property?
The Lesson Learned
I’m not saying be a jerk or a d**k. I’m not saying be rude or obnoxious. I’m saying simply this:
That so long as you live, never feel guilt for doing as you please and as you want. Never surrender your desires to the imagined or threatened consequences of another’s “rules”. Never apologize for being yourself, so long as you did no wrong in being it.
For years now, I have realized the following:
A rule not written is a suggestion. And suggestions don’t mean anything to me when what I want means more. (CLICK TO TWEET THIS)
I refuse, therefore, to follow a rule blindly; to do as I’m supposed to do simply because I’m supposed to do it. Because I know that the only thing in life I am truly and unquestionably “supposed” to do is be my self and enjoy my self. I refuse, then, to do anything that I do not want, or anything that is not in my best interests to do.
Like a strong person. Like someone with self-esteem. Like the lion in the jungle. Like Adam in the Garden of Eden.
The irony is not lost on me, then. Following these ideals and my own personal rules, you bet your @ss that I’d be enjoying some serious apple had it been me in that Garden.
Luckily for us, though, the many stupid things we’re told to obey every day haven’t been spoken by God, nor likely to doom the human race (which would suck).
If you are weak in mind and heart, then, find where it is in your life that you have suppressed your desires and wants. Find where you have followed the rules of others over your own ideals.
Be yourself instead. Do what you want instead. Anything else is truly a sin – a sin against your will and desire to be yourself. And nothing’s more important…
Leave a comment, yo!
If you’ve made it this far, certainly you have something wise or humorous to share. What are the crap rules you encounter every day? What rules will you never again follow?
Comment. Share the article. Enjoy your day…