Sunday, January 29, 2012

I'm starting with the girl in the mirror

Sometimes I wonder if it looks like I try too hard to be different.

I think this is a problem that a lot of people face. We start to realize that we're watching the same movies, reading the same books, quoting the same memes and dancing to the same music and then decide that just to reaffirm our faith in our own tastes, we'll pretend we're into something completely offbeat and random.

It's like that scene in Garden State where Natalie Portman's character does a ridiculous dance and sound to make herself feel more original.

We feel we're falling too much into the space of normalcy and decide as a release to do something we think will make us special.

But what about when doing things to make yourself stand out actually makes you fall back into the cycle of unoriginality?

I've spent years cultivating my personality. As I've mentioned before, I've gone through several different stages in this process, all with the ultimate product of who I am today.

I don't think I generally fall outside the mainstream. My interests are particularly based in childhood interests, silly girly pop culture bits and pieces and random deeply emotional or darkly comedic content. And none of those things are considered going against the zeitgeist.

But just because I don't strive or necessarily attain any form of false individualism does not mean I am exactly typical either. Instead I fall into this nebulous realm that resembles either and both categories.

And perhaps I am biased, but I believe that is the best place to be.

When people spend their time trying to be unique, it seems to take over their lives. They shy away from popular culture, insisting that listening to some song with 20,000 hits on a YouTube uploaded version is better than a multi-million times viewed Lady Gaga video. They watch and read forms of media that label themselves as "off the beaten path" so that they can maintain this persona. And worse, they spend an excessive amount of their time talking about how they're so weird for being different.

It's a case of misappropriated irony. They expend so many words laughing at themselves for being strange that the line between piety and arrogance becomes thin and sometimes nonexistent.

On the opposite side, some people will drown themselves in what is fashionable, taking a page from A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator and, like the Squalors in that book, begin labeling everything as "in" or "out." By surrounding themselves by what is well-received by a general audience, they never find out what they actually enjoy, entirely dependent on the feelings of others to gauge their own reactions.

So that leaves the rest of us, the people who will listen to that new Katy Perry song and give it a fighting chance of making it onto our iPods. But also those people who will go out to see an independent movie, not necessarily because it looks offbeat and alternative, but because it resembles something we know we might enjoy.

It's all about personal preference. By becoming one-sided, by letting ourselves fall into either the world of the unknown or the world of the overplayed, we lose our sense of self. We identify with those around us, either by trying to maintain a distance from them or by getting as close to them as we can, and consequently: we never look in the mirror.

So as much as it pains me, I have to stop worrying that people will think what I do is affected. The only way to really let me be me is to halt the outside influence. If that makes me different, great. If that makes me the same as everyone else, fine too. I can only really tell if I look at myself.

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