People still tell me how unique and individualistic I was as a kid. I am pretty sure this is code for weird and obnoxious, but I’m pretty okay with it by now.
Rather than being unique, I think I was probably attention seeking, as kids tends to do. I needed to think I was special, I was cool, etc., etc.
I did the same thing as a teenager, but in different ways. I learned that much of what made me unique in a small town in the mountains also made me a target once we moved to a much larger city and Nirvana landed on the scene. So, I made sure I fit in, but I tried to be unique by doing stupid things and telling stories about myself. I am sure more than a few people saw through this.
The thing is, most people won’t question my wanting to be different and be an individual and be unique. They may question how I went about it because it was disingenuous and contrived, but not the desire in itself. We accept that individualism is automatically a good thing and that it is natural.
Maybe I am running out of ideas after just 15 days, but I do wonder if we made a wrong turn when we decided that individualism is the norm for humans.
I read about old cultures and religions a lot, and it seems that in our earlier times as a species we were much less individualistic and more focused on the whle. Many times there weren’t even ways of thinking about about oneself as an individual.
Quick note: I am not one who romanticizes old cultures/tribal lifestyles, etc. I bordered on Anarcho-Primitivism for a while, but it doesn’t take much reading about tribal blood feuds, horrific medical care and 25-year life expectancy to realize we have it pretty good now.
My question is more about how we might be able to incorporate the good that comes from seeing oneself as part of a greater whole into our modern, and increasingly atomized, society. Sebastion Junger has done some really cool work on how our lonely society breeds PTSD in returning veterans and how Peace Corp volunteers fall into deep depressions when they come back to this country.
I hear it from clients all the time too. One of the most difficult things to help people with in Lubbock is finding a social group, especially if you are post-college or don’t like churches or bars. We stay inside our air-conditioned homes and watch televisions in separate rooms and drive in our own cars and listen to our own music through our earbuds.
Actually, that last one is good. People who play their music out loud where everyone else has to listen to it should be exiled into the wilderness to starve or be eaten.
I cannot say I do a good job of seeking out larger communities to belong to. I am a distinctly bad friend who never wants to do anything. I like to be home, inside, with my family, and that’s that. I am working on this, but it is difficult for some reason. I know it would be good to have a larger community and be more involved, but I resist it.
One thing I can say though, is that learning to see myself as part of a family, instead of as an individual in a family, has done wonders for me. I can honestly say that everything I do is for my family, and this makes everything much easier. It gives me strength and energy and makes everything worth it. When I do things for Barbara or Tyler or Max, they are easy. I don’t struggle with them. When I do things for myself, I do.
There has to be something to that.