From the beginning, you were born You. Face it, there’s no one else you could be.
You were born with that cowlick, those green eyes and your father’s gait. You can try to fix them or change them, but in the end, you can’t.
The same thing goes for the inner you. From an early age, you develop thoughts and feelings and approaches to things; compassion, kindness, curiosity, steadfastness. You’re artistic or you’re scientific, or you’re both. Embrace it. Make it yours. The more you try to change the bedrock, the more the world above cracks.
Life during our early teens provides a time where a lot of us begin the struggle with who we really are. We try to control how others perceive us and fight for understanding and acceptance. We evolve quickly, intellectually, and physically, but don’t possess the emotional maturity yet, to really accept all that’s going on.
During that time, a lot of people are unforgiving to those who don’t fit in. Influential people, including teachers, friends and family pigeon-hole us. With our friends, we’re like little packs of wolves. It’s primal. There are alphas, betas and omegas. We ache to fit into our chosen roles, in our chosen packs and struggle with each other for position and hierarchy. Some of us exist on the peripheral, sometimes happily, sometimes not. But we find our way.
We emerge from that, transitional and challenging time in our lives, as young adults, and we’re ready to hit the work force. We look around for those same safe structures. We hope to fit in in this new chapter. We find, though, in some cases, unsurprisingly, we don’t. The group likes stability. The group likes hierarchy. The group likes status quo. And you don’t. You like excitement, and risk, and creativity. You push, and the group, well, they push back. Hard. At this point, a couple of scenarios can play out: You settle in and stay with the existing pack, or you separate, and look to form your own pack. Some remain lone wolves. Any path is a good one, as long as you can grow on it, and you don't run someone else down as they travel their own path.
Some of us get to a point where fitting in is just exhausting. Not to mention, it’s not fair. But, I got breaking news for you kid, life ain’t fair. Who created what “should be?” And why should I, or anyone, have to color within someone else’s lines? Well, the answer is, you don’t. But it takes us time to figure that all out. It takes acceptance of what is real, and courage to act.
You continue to evolve your You. Face it, there’s no one else you can be.
So, we cleave from the safe group, and there are a number of consequences: Some in that old group admire you, and look to you for leadership and support. Some, look at you with jealousy and disdain. Others look to suppress you, marginalize or even eliminate you. Song as old as time. And here you are, just doing your thing, continuing to become You.
I have an insight that I wish I had the capacity to understand 35 years ago. Nobody really cares that much about what you have going on. No one. Regardless of what people purport, they’re really mostly only looking out for themselves, their paths, and their immediate circle. It’s how everyone is. So, you can wear your geeky glasses or baggy pants or blue hair to your heart’s content. BUT, and there is a big but…the minute you try to reshape someone else's personal apple cart, the one they’ve so carefully and precisely assembled, and stacked and balanced...that’s when you feel the wrath. Their cart can be a thought, or an idea, a hierarchy, or a way of life. Their cart is their “them,” and it’s personal.
So, my advice, after 40 years of this continual evolution, is simply this: you don’t have to upset someone’s apple cart to be You. Different carts can exist in our world. Embrace different, and make it work for you. Hell, don’t sell apples, sell passion fruit! Be that weird guy who brews beer in his garage by day, and writes code by night. Be that gal who, despite rabid advice to the contrary, leaves the safety of her comfortable day job, and runs, confidently into her dreams. Make your side hustle your main hustle. Be that guy who everybody says is wrong, or an outlier, or crazy…until he’s not. And, let the other guy do the same.
Defy your doubters and create, dream, be and do. Embrace adversity. Embrace life. Embrace You. Some of the world will judge. It’s an easy habit for some, but it’s a sad, closed state in which to live. Wear your You proudly, BUT you must allow others do so as well. It means everyone won’t always agree with you or each other, AND it means you won’t always agree with some of the rest of the world, but it is so worth it.
In the end, you will die You. Face it, there’s no one else you wanted to be.