|Be Yourself - A message to my kids (and anyone else who is interested.)
||[Mar. 5th, 2012|02:56 am]
Right you two, I plan to be around a long time. Let's just get that straight right now. However, I'm a practical man... no, stop laughing... I'm a practical man and... stop it... I believe in planning for the future while trying to live every day like it's your last.
I'm not good at it, but I try really hard.
If I could only give you one piece of advice before I died, the distilled version would be this - be yourself.
The much too long, overly drawn out version would be
Don't be what others think you should be, be yourself. If that happens to line up with what someone wanted you to do, don't fight it just to spite them, that's self-defeating. You know the truth and that's all that matters, no matter what they think.
Don't be afraid of what other people think. Some people will always hate you no matter what you do, so you may as well be hated for being who you really are.
If you work hard at fitting in, try hard to not make waves, are afraid to speak up for fear of being disliked or making someone angry, you will only disappoint yourself in the long run. But standing up for yourself or what you believe doesn't give you the right to act like a dick.
If you want to do something, do it. If you don't want to do something, don't let people push you into it. In either case, try to use some common sense, don't hurt others needlessly, and look after your body as best you can.
Real friends will support you, voice their concerns when they are worried, and will take 'no' for an answer. They will let you be who you are, love you for that, and still be willing to tell you you're being an arse. You should listen to those people. You don't have to do as they say, but they have earned the right for you to listen and seriously consider what they are telling you. Being yourself means also allowing yourself to accept when you have made a mistake, and trying to make it right.
Compromise isn't giving in, or losing yourself, unless you allow it to be. Were there no compromise, you would never be allowed to be yourself. Other people would tell you how to think, what to wear, how to live.
Being yourself means letting other people be themselves, encouraging them to stretch, take reasonable risks, do things - all the allowances you want for yourself, they want too. It means being respectful of other people's fears, needs, and choices. The price we pay for living in a semi-civilised society is that we do have to make allowances for one another. But there is a difference between acting in a way that allows you to live within a community, and being a slave to its entrenched ideas.
There are a million, million ways to revolt against what is expected of you. You will find your own, here are some of the ways I've done it -
I wore a Little Mermaid backpack. I was a man, men aren't meant to wear pink backpacks with the Little Mermaid on them. I wore it because I wanted to. I like the Little Mermaid, it was a good backpack, and wearing it not only gave me somewhere to put my stuff, it was bright and cheerful to look at and it made me happy.
The only reason I don't wear one now is because I wasn't able to find another one, and these days I need a differently constructed sort of backpack. If they made good quality Little Mermaid backpacks (not Disney Princesses... yuck!) with extra pockets and good camera storage, I would have one now.
I wear odd socks. Have done for years. I like it. Why should I have to wear a pair? I like colourful socks. I also like long, red and white stripy socks. Again, being a boy person, I'm not meant to like long stripy socks that go up past my knees.
George Pal was a fabulous film-maker who wore red and white stripy socks on special occasions. No one who has ever told me I shouldn't wear odd socks or that I'm strange for wearing long stripy socks has done as much to make people happy as George Pal - so what they think doesn't matter in that regard.
I like to make people laugh or smile. It's part of who I am. For me, no matter how much bad stuff has happened, if I make one person smile or laugh, that's a good day. I set up stupid jokes that hardly anyone ever gets to see, on the off-chance the moment will present itself. If the moment doesn't present itself, I don't force it, because otherwise it's not about us having a laugh, it's about me thinking I'm cool or smart. But those little set-ups give me a lot of fun and joy in the planning alone.
One example - I occasionally keep a penny in my wallet, just so if I'm given the opportunity, I can say 'Penny for your thoughts?' and after we've chatted, give the person a penny. I have done this twice in ten years, but both times it made them smile and laugh, and made the world a little more odd and wonderful.
I'm loud and silly and rude and obnoxious. Not everyone likes that, that's fair enough. There is a time and a place for my silliness, I try not to hurt people, or offend them, but I stay true to myself and make judgement calls. I sometimes get those judgement calls wrong. If I do, I apologise. I shouldn't impact on another person's good time in a negative way.
That said, I've also learned that there are people out there who actively wait to be offended and upset. They look for stuff to distress them, and they twist and they turn things until they find the angle they're after and make it all about them and their pain - the pain they've dug so hard to find. Once I know who those people are, I don't listen seriously to their complaints any more. I don't aim to hurt them, but I don't avoid it either. I refuse to feed professional victims.
I don't hide who I am. If I went into politics tomorrow, all my dirty little secrets are right here, waiting to be poured over by journos and opposing politicians. I wouldn't let that stop me, in fact once or twice I have even considered moving into politics, just so I could be spectacularly unsuccessful in it by being open and honest.
One day you'll be on the 'net, playing around on whatever social media is the new big thing. While you're young, I would try to exercise a little caution and sense. That doesn't mean don't be yourself, but you may wish to limit how much of yourself you make public.
Remember how I said some people will always hate you, no matter what? It only takes one or two vile and vindictive ones to stir up the sheep against you. Sheep are good and mostly harmless, but a big group of them can and will senselessly run right over the top of you.
Also some workplaces will look you up online. They may even try to freak you out in an interview by telling you they looked at your website. My whole life is here, and I've twice faced down an employer who tried to worry me by bringing up my website, but I'm old enough not to care too much.
That doesn't mean that you should be too scared to voice your opinion, or stick up for yourself and what you believe in, or even just be yourself - it means that until you feel ready to look people in the eye and face them down about all your life-choices, you should choose your battles. Set yourself up with a separate discreet online persona until you're at the point where what your enemies, employers, and anyone else things won't hurt you so much.
Only you can decide when that is, right or wrong. Either way when you do, embrace it!
I like to dance naked in the summer rain or the morning sun. I don't do that sometimes because, even though I think they're silly, some people might be upset by my nudity. While I think a naked body is not something to be offended by, it's not fair to subject people to mine at times and places where they have no reason to expect it, or when it's inappropriate to the occasion.
That said, I do it at least once every Nullabor trip. Anyone who travels with me knows to expect it. I like to get photos of myself dancing naked because it's silly. Those photos will make some people laugh, will make me smile and remind me to have fun, and may inspire other people to take their own small risks. If I have to have sit naked in my wheelchair in fifty years time, and have someone else push me around in circles on the Nullabor, then that's what I will do.
And I'll still take photos!
If someone travelling with me can't deal with it, they don't need to travel with me. Nudity for sex and nudity for the sake of enjoying your body and skin are two different things, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Neither is bad, but the difference in purpose behind them is important. One is done for sexual gratification, and the other is about appreciating the greatest thing you will ever own, your body.
Some of the biggest problems we have in the world stem from people telling us our bodies are ugly, disgusting, dirty, or wrong. Those people think of the naked body only in terms of sex, and I pity them for it. They will never experience the joy of dancing naked in the sun or rain just for the sake of it.
I hug and cuddle people I like. Every person has value in and of themselves. I don't have to know what that value is, it doesn't have to be of any use to me, and indeed I shouldn't try to exploit someone for what they can do for me. But I try to let people know I value them. I call them gorgeous and spunky because to me, they are. I compliment them when I notice something nice about them, or something cool or interesting they're doing, or when they try to move out of their comfort zone.
I don't hug people I'm not comfy with, or who I know or suspect don't like to be hugged. It's hard, because my very first instinct on being introduced to someone for the first time is to hug them.
Some people are also distrustful of those who compliment them. There are those that use compliments and affection to use folks and get things from them. People know this, or have been hurt this way in the past, and may distrust you. There's nothing you can do about this, beyond being consistent, kind, honest, respectful, and not using people.
My last example and bit of advice kids is this - if you are consistently hating your job more than 50% of the time, quit. Hopefully you'll find work in an area you love, but if you don't, don't allow yourself to be trapped in a job you hate, or where they treat people as sub-human.
No job is worth that. It takes up too many hours of your day. It's a hell of a lot easier to find another job if you're not being physically and emotionally drained by a poisonous workplace. So quit.
A bad workplace will destroy your mental and physical health. Hell, it can also kill an otherwise healthy relationship with someone you love and who loves you. So quit.
That said, don't be stupidly picky when it comes to looking for new jobs. Too many people get caught up looking for the perfect job. Sometimes you will discover that the job you didn't want is actually the place where you will shine. Don't be afraid to shoot for the moon, or clean toilets, and always treat your workplace and workmates with respect, no matter where you are.
That's it, my loves. I've turned another night's insomnia into another over-long rambly post.
Some people will love me for it, some will see it as me being a wanker. The important thing is I did it because I wanted to.
It's who I am.