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Non-conformists change the rules PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, November 14, 2010 10:49 AM

Conformity is something I think about often; more with each passing year. Living in a small town, particularly after going away to college in a bigger city and being surrounded by a myriad of diversity, a plethora of dissenting opinions and countless inspiring, colorful individuals who weren’t afraid to express themselves causes anyone who has the audacity to be “different” to stand out that much more. (And I’m not knocking small towns — just making an observation.

In the words of John Mellencamp, “But my bed is in a small town and that’s good enough for me.”) Personally, I’m a fan of diversity. Even if I don’t agree with someone, I find it refreshing when people have the confidence and conviction to be themselves instead of adhering to some arbitrary standard as dictated by societal norms.

Oscar Wilde said of conformity, “A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.” I tend to agree with this sentiment. How tragically mundane would life be if we were all the same; if every person you met played “follow the leader,” not bothering to think for him or herself? Nothing would have ever changed over the years. Women would not have the right to vote. We would still be keeping slaves, and, God forbid — prohibition would still be in effect.

It is the non-conformist who changes the rules. Revolutions begin with the discordant inclinations of someone who is not afraid to march to the beat of a different drummer and do so unquietly. I applaud anyone who has the cajones to do this. The question, I suppose, is how to stay true to oneself and resist conforming while maintaining a place in society — a job, for one thing.

Even those who don’t consider themselves to be “rebels” have found it a challenge to conform to the rules in some of the establishments where they have worked. Okay, so maybe that’s an understatement. For example, in my case, I have a philosophy on life that is somewhat contrasting from many people. If I’m ever “in charge” of anything, meaning I could hold meetings, I’d forego the whole “board room” approach and we’d all lounge in beanbag chairs while discussing the business’s future while taking notes via Lite-Brite. This may be why I’m not in charge of anything.

So when do people “be themselves” and when do they determine they need to reign it in a bit in order to, essentially, survive in society? I think the answer’s probably different for everyone. For me, knowing I need a job means that, for one thing, I’ll remove my nose ring, which is against my workplace’s dress code. While I loved that cute little diamond, it isn’t worth the cost of a job. I think it depends upon the strength of a person’s convictions and what he or she is willing to sacrifice for the sake of maintaining a certain level of comfort, which for me, entails a paycheck. My nose shall go unadorned.

All in all, I think it’s a lifelong struggle for many people to retain their individuality while simultaneously acquiescing to the “rules” enough to remain a productive member of society. At the same time, I think of my favorite e. e. cummings quote, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” Back to Oscar Wilde…
It’s commendable to be a red rose.

Sara Berelsman lives in Delphos with her husband Andy and their daughters Adele and Eleanor. She teaches college English and psychology courses and loves red roses.


Last Updated on Thursday, February 28, 2013 11:24 AM

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