The following is a speech I gave to my school about what I believe the daunting task of becoming an individual demands and why it’s important. Some context: I attend a prep school and we are required Junior year to deliver a speech to the high school about anything we choose. This was my topic.
“I want, more than anything… to be the same as everyone else. If my life were a movie I’d want to be referred to in the credits as Guy 2. Now hold on. Have any of us ever really said anything like that? Don’t we inherently want to be individuals at some level? What I mean is that we should develop a relationship with ourselves and stay true to them because in doing so we follow our own desires and become truly happy.
So, being original doesn’t mean doing everything different. Go ahead watch vampire diaries, play fantasy football if it’s something you want to do. Take Academy’s dress code, does it stifle originality? We all come here dressed in uniform and when it gets cold outside we throw on our gray patagonias, Academy logo included, and our letter jackets, but are we not all still individuals here to pursue our own goals? Not sure any of us would be willing to say we are losing our identity because we have to wear a polo.
How about when choosing a career? It’s easy to see the originality in being a musician. But let’s take a more typical profession. It’s not as if any of us will be the first doctor in the world. But would would all the extra years of med school be worth it if we don’t want to be doctors?
Being original has nothing to do with our uniqueness. More so with doing what we want. The question is now, how can we be sure of what we want. Discovering what life has to give us is not an easy thing to do. It’s not really the same as going to the store and picking a few snacks for movie night and trying to determine whether you are in the mood to chew it over with twix or taste the rainbow with skittles. Life is tricker. The best advice I’ve heard, just try different things until you find something you enjoy. If something is genuinely boring to you then there is no point in pursuing it. Keep trying new things until one thing strikes you then chase that with confidence and ambition. Finding what we like and don’t like is not all about experiencing the world. It’s also about figuring out who we are.
Here’s something about myself. I don’t buy into social media so much. You won’t catch me flexin’ on instagram, or swingin’ on vines, the only reason I have a twitter is to tweet at Max Bechtel about it being a #White Christmas and even if I were on tumblr I wouldn’t give you my URL because it’s a secret. I do have a Facebook and I’m all about Snapchat so call me a hypocrite, but none of it really holds my attention. That’s because I see it as a component of conformity. It’s a place where everyone you know and don’t know can influence you. We should resist being molded by others if we are to find what we really want.
When we conform we sacrifice part of our individuality. There are a number of ways that we all do this that we may not even realize. That’s why understanding the reasons for our actions is so important. We need to discern what we want from what other people want. It’s in this way that music, Rock in particular, has become a love of mine. In my opinion Rock stars write songs and act out because they hate being told what to do. To paint a picture Nikki Sixx used to set himself on fire. When Slash got tired of being lectured, he flipped his teacher’s desk over and got kicked out of school… again. Come on now, we all have to admit that is kind of awesome. There’s something undeniably original about acting out in extreme ways. Not that I’m about to walk into any of my classes and flip a desk. It’s just the idea of being free that is appealing. The other best part about Rockers is that they don’t give a… dang about what anyone thinks. They get up there in tights and sparkling clothes while headbanging and are like, “You wish you were us! Fight the power! Rock on losers!” But originality expressed as youthful rebellion comes at a cost. Parents and teachers may question our sanity.
This theme is evident in one of my favorite movies, Fight Club. In Fight Club, the main character discovers himself by destroying the things that once controlled him. Those things being material possessions and “the man.” Please, I’m not up here advocating that we burn the school down. Just that we think for ourselves. And not in a macho “guys don’t need directions when driving” way, but to make our own decisions independent of outside influence without damaging ourselves. The whole point of Fight Club is to prove that neither society, nor material things have the answer to true happiness. What I take from the film is that true happiness is found rather in relationships with other people and yourself. That realization is part of growing up. The plot of Fight Club draws great parallels to this time in our lives. Right now we are all caught in an epic stage where we mature into adulthood, and we should make the most of it.
But are Rock N’ Rollers and Fight Club really the best examples to follow? Simply put, no. While they are both examples of following our own path, they demonstrate extreme violence and self destruction. Their acts of rebellion are fantastical and unrealistic in the context of our lives. Rock N’ Roll is a serious drug culture and after reading Slash’s biography and “The Heroin Diaries” by Nikki, one thing became apparent. Their attitude of being free-spirited and wild is genuine, but the drugs and life-risking stunts they pull are due to the fact that, by their own admission, they don’t like themselves.
There is a fine line between rebellion and originality. The difference is whether or not we can learn to accept ourselves. We stop trying to defy the sources of conformity in our lives and rather start building ourselves by creating things we are passionate about. But first we need to be honest with ourselves.
Taking a look in the mirror, I recently asked myself questions like “Am I trustworthy? Am I a good friend? Am I a good older brother?” Well, I hope so, because AJ is stuck with me in any case. Accepting criticism does not mean you are losing originality or conforming. Acknowledging and fixing weaknesses help us accept ourselves and invite others to open up as well. Then the people we trust to see our imperfections become close friends. And we value them because we can’t exist completely in our heads and we also need someone to tell us when we are wrong in a caring way. It’s easy to lie to ourselves, but other people will be the first to fault you. It all stems from getting to know you. The decade we spend from the time we enter high school to the time we become real adults is defined by how we turn that youthful rebellion into responsibility, and how we relate to ourselves and others. We have a brief window where we’re still young enough to be free but old enough to follow our dreams. By doing these things we can seize this opportunistic period and make the most of it.
The reason any of this matters is that it leads to ultimate satisfaction later in life, but it also keeps you smiling along the way. Maybe you’ll relate to this, when we don’t maintain a healthy relationship with ourselves we lose sight of who we are. When you lose yourself in the crowd it’s impossible to have originality. Originality is fundamental to a good life. If we stay true to our own path somewhere along the way we find fulfillment.
Our choices now will affect us for years down the road and shape what we end up doing. So whatever it is you do be sure it’s what you really want and tread boldly. You will be both original and happy. And for the sake of originality, thank you.”
WOOHOO FIRST COMMENT! Individual = Self. You’re high you’re low. you’re great you’re weak. You’re this you’re that. You’re everything but yet nothing. What is this entity that you think you know so much of. Is this the real you? Did you create this image? Are you living as this entity that you randomly thought of? Are you imagining the self, or just accepting your current existence as your “fate”? Yes your choices in life is all but yours, and eventually “shape” you, but who represents these choices? And Is it bias to the cravings and judgements in your enviroment? So what is this self you’re trying to explain? Or maybe there is No-self?