How I’m learning to break the rules
So I’ve finally realized why I like you freaks so much. It’s because you remind me in a very real way that a person can not toe the line, not follow the rules, not adhere to a dress code or a behavior code or whatever the fuck else… and still do just fine in this rather straightlaced society of ours.
Let me explain.
I’ve always been a pretty down-the-middle sort of a guy from all outside appearances. YES, I swear a lot and YES, I have some controversial perspectives on things and YES, I can be kind of “out there” in personality and sense of humor and whatnot.
But I have no tattoos. I have no body modifications. I’ve never dyed my hair an odd color, unless you count bleaching, once, in college, when I was “really crazy.”
Okay, so what? “Way to be surface level, Johnny,” you may be thinking.
But I’ve also never really bucked authority. I’ve never paid a bill late, or not paid it at all. I’ve never done something in a way that was patently WRONG according to every rule that our society has and then stood there and said, “Okay… so what are you going to do about it?”
And by now, you may be reading this and thinking that I have this perception of every reader of and contributor to this site as being a bunch of wild-haired, financially-welching anarchists who are ready to blow up the world. That’s not the case, but hear where I’m coming from: To this here rule-follower, who was always taught to do things in such-and-such a way OR ELSE, you are all reminders that the walls don’t come crashing down the minute one of those little arbitrary rules is broken.
The freaks of the world do things that are “wrong” by one commonly accepted rule or another.
The freaks of the world say, “I don’t agree with this. Let’s try it this other way, instead.”
The freaks of the world are more apt to ask WHY a rule is in place rather than just following it.
So this may all seem 1) really obvious and 2) naive and 3) like a super-shitty epiphany as far as epiphanies go, but for those of you who didn’t grow up in the world I grew up in, I’d just like to specifically enumerate some truths about the way “most people” believe. Really think about these, and really think about what’s behind them. Go deep. The sooner we can understand how to bridge the gap between freaks and line-toers, the sooner maybe this world can see some of that change we talk so much about.
Immutable laws of life:
RULE #1: You must act and appear in a way that others will like and accept.
Think really hard on this one. Because the knee-jerk reaction would be to say that the guy who wears a white shirt and blue tie to work is obeying this rule, whereas the girl with three nose piercings is not. But if the pierced girl’s circle of friends are all punks, then there’s a really good chance that she’s just adhering to the punk group’s rules about appearance and behavior, rather than simply doing what’s in her heart.
True individualism is wearing a white shirt and blue tie in a group of peers who have their faces tattooed, if it strikes you to do so.
True individualism is being in the Indie rock scene and admitting that you like Miley Cyrus.
Oh, and by the way, true individualism is also looking and acting exactly like the people around you — provided your motivations are truly your own internal thoughts and desires, rather than a sense of pressure to conform… even if what you’re conforming to is a dress code of nonconformity.
RULE #2: You must never, never, NEVER break an obligation… or else.
If you grew up in my world, you know that only a bad person would promise to do something and then not do it.
Sounds fair, right? We should all keep our promises. We should all honor our commitments. People who don’t are hypocrites. They’re assholes.
Well, that kind of thinking is all fine and good until you realize you’ve been doing a job that you hate because you told yourself you would. Or because you promised a spouse that you would. Or because you feel beholden to the company, that they’d be lost without you. Or because it’s what your parents want for you.
It’s all good until you realize that you’re stressed out of your mind because you’re holding on to a lifestyle obligation that is dragging you down, using up all of your time and not allowing you to see your family.
It’s all a solid concept, until you find yourself financially fucked like so many people in this recession, but you won’t cast off some ballast to save yourself because you’ve AGREED TO PAY. You look at a repossession as a horrible act, even though you’re drowning. A foreclosure is a massive failure. Bankruptcy is the ultimate tragedy. But if you let go? If you broke those obligations? Well, you’d be saving yourself — but you can’t do that because only criminals and super-assholes break their promises. It makes more sense to die a slow, painful death… while maintaining your integrity.
RULE #3: You must consume.
This, along with the tail end of Rule #2 above, has been on my mind a lot lately because I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of material about living life on a cash basis. Meaning: without using credit at all. If you can’t write a check or pull bills out of your wallet to pay for something, you don’t buy it.
Makes sense, right? Until you get deep into your head and you realize how deeply we’ve been programmed to consume.
We don’t need an apartment. We need a NICE apartment.
We don’t need books. We need a TV. Although, that’s not even right. We need a BIG TV.
We need an iPod.
We need a smart phone, because calls aren’t enough. We need email and internet, too.
I’m not advocating a stark life without any fun or niceties here, but I am saying: Stop and think about it. What if you didn’t have a phone at all? What if you lived in a stark space that was nothing other than warm and dry? Maybe you wouldn’t want to live like that, but could you?
Of course you could. And when you think about it, you know it without question. But on an emotional level, it never feels like that. So we buy and we buy and we buy and we buy. And we don’t even buy what we want. We buy what we are programmed to want.
Those are just a few rules off the top of my head. Dudes, I lived those rules. I still live those rules. We have our lives and our obligations, and then we have these rules that say what we’re supposed to do, and we accept them as immutable truth.
But I like freaks because they prove that you don’t have to play by the rules all the time. It’s not just your appearance, because I’m a freak in training and my appearance is pretty ordinary. What matters most is your attitude and actions. I do have a head start. I was a punk rock kid for a long time, but it’s easy to get sucked back in to the world of the normal.
Let’s take my hosts, the lovely Pace and Kyeli.
You’re supposed to pair with the opposite sex.
Well, what if we don’t?
If you were born a man, you’re a man forever.
Well, what if I’m not?
No matter what you do, you can’t get married that way.
Well, what if we do it anyway, and just don’t file the legal shit?
They’ve done so much “wrong.” But guess what? It all washes out. Life goes on. Nobody comes to the door to force them apart.
Then, after watching this example, you step back into my normal-guy shoes.
And you look at those two people, at their circle. And maybe, turning to yourself, you think about the dozen investment properties that you have in one of the worst markets in the nation, and you notice how you’ve been raping your future to find at least $2000 to throw at them each month, and you think of how the stress has to be taking years off your life. And you think about how, still, you have to find a way to keep them afloat because… because you made a commitment.
You have to.
Well, what if you don’t?
I’m just saying.
Johnny B. Truant is a generally deep-thinker who is somehow also a website guy specializing in WordPress. In fact, he’s so incredibly cool that he’s setting up self-hosted WordPress blogs for FREE until the end of December. You should totally read his blog and follow him on Twitter.
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