If there is one lesson I would love to teach everyone I come in contact with it is this:
I know, you have heard that phrase a million times. So often it has lost all its meaning.
You think “Of course I’m going to be myself! Who else would I be?”
But, you know, that simple phrase carries so much more than the literal meaning. It means not hiding your true feelings, wants, desires, thoughts, and beliefs. It means not changing your image, pretending to be something else, liking something, loving something, doing something, being something.
The pressure to conform is one of the most powerful forces in nature. If you go along with the crowd you will be protected. This is true for everyone and everything on Earth. A pack of gazelles run through the African plains together because there is power in numbers when an hungry cheetah comes calling. And a pack of teenage girls hang together because it keeps one of them from being singled out for things both good and bad. A student sits at the lunch table alone and others wonder that is wrong with him or her. They must smell, or have issues, or people hate them, etc. The flow of speculations run wild and nothing has actually been done or said. But clearly, something is wrong! Nobody thinks that maybe this solo student just wants to eat their lunch in quiet and watch the world around them.
Of course, this pack mentality carries over into the adult world as well. Humans find power in numbers. Nobody wants to be alone because it leaves them vulnerable. Ever walk into a Pub and you are the only one there? Even if you weren’t planning on socializing that night, it is freaking weird! Why is nobody else there? Are they all off doing something else? Was there some huge event going on and you weren’t invited? What will people think if they walk into the Pub and they see you sitting alone at the bar? It is safer just to leave and find some people.
Imagine going to a major sporting event and you are the only one there! The chances of that ever happening are non-existent, but imagine it. Even if it is a World Cup match or the Super Bowl and you have the best seat in the house, wouldn’t it be incredibly scary to be in that huge stadium all by yourself? Now imagine the same event with a packed house and you are the only one rooting for the other team. Like being a Red Sox fan in Yankee Stadium, or hypothetically, a Mets fan in Busch Stadium the home of the St. Louis Cardinals. Take it from me, it’s not easy. Often the easiest route becomes giving up on your loyalty to your team and doing what ever it takes to fit in. Or, heaven forbid, get beer poured over your head. Going with the pack keeps you under the radar and, although it prevents you from any kind of personal success, keeps you safe and secure.
I tend to be a bit of an extroverted introvert. If you have ever spent quality time with me you know that I can be loud, silly, funny, and controversial. (Ok.. maybe not that controversial.. I’m just trying to create a daring image of myself to make you think I go outside the lines) Case in point. I am a character actor. I see the need for a type of character in a room and I try to fill it. I can be the political hot head, the George Carlin “What happened to the world?” guy. The Jerry Seinfeld “Have you ever noticed?” guy. I do voices. A lot of voices! Old man, Young kid, New York Jew, Hillbilly, Harvey Fierstein, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, Gollum, Judd Geizer: The Chupacabra Whisperer, etc. Whatever voice I think will get a few people to laugh, or at least myself. But none of them are me. I’m an Irish kid in his early 30’s who has watched a lot of TV and movies. And these characters are a cloak to hide the real me. I like peace and quiet. Just me, my thoughts, and the voices in my head (all nice, no worries). I am shy and always have been. I don’t make a lot of small talk and rarely speak without being spoken to. People freak me out! Ok, maybe not “Freak me out” but I fit right into radio because I could speak to millions (statistics pending) without actually speaking to anyone. I could play a character and not worry about any immediate judgement. Even when I am performing to a group of people, I turn off my eyes and just speak into the distance. The moral of the story is, if I let my true character out into public everyone would wonder about that weird kid sitting alone in the corner. And that, my friends, is something I would like to avoid.
I began writing this article on April 20th. Or as some people know it 4/20: International Cannabis Day. The day to go smoke a lot of Marijuana because some Twitter post told you to. I did some market research that day in Wal-Mart and Subway and I couldn’t help notice that people were walking and talking just a bit slower and more subs were being ordered than on the day the US Navy spends their tax dollars. It was clear that enough people in this country were participating, but when I asked a few people (Online, I’d never talk to strangers in real life) about why 4/20 is the day to smoke Pot, nobody could actually give me an answer. I wont take the time to explain the reason here because, quite frankly, I find it almost as comical as the celebration, but look it up online if you are interested. My point is, tens of thousands of Americans chose to get baked on April 20th because they wanted to fit in (and other reasons, I’m sure). If it were really about enjoying smoking Marijuana, then wouldn’t they just do it anyway? Why did so many people choose the day when they knew thousands of other people would be doing it too? Pack mentality and fitting in. Safety in numbers.
I have written my views on why we feel the need to fit in and the importance of staying with a group. Now, what can be done about it? I’m not saying finding people with similar interests isn’t a positive activity. It is a fantastic idea! That is, unless the group you are trying to fit into is not the group where you belong.
I was a jock at heart, I just lacked a lot of the physical ability to be one on the outside. I played Football (poorly), Hockey (poorly), and Baseball (extremely poorly). I was Captain of the Cross Country team and was quite a good runner, but because of my physical limitations due to my Ankylosing Spondylitis, I was never as good as I could have been. But, that was okay because I still enjoyed doing the best I could do. The person I was not was the party animal. I would go to loud obnoxious parties in college and I would put on a good face, but I hated it! I never ever felt comfortable in a mass of people and loud music. The corner table at the Pub with my friends and a glass of Guinness or Stone IPA was more my comfort zone. Eventually I became true to myself and if going to a loud party was the only way I could socialize, then I just didn’t socialize that night. It wasn’t worth the discomfort.
I would encourage anyone who reads this to evaluate where they truly feel at home. If you are quiet, then don’t pretend to be loud. If you are a reader, then don’t pretend to be a Reality TV fan. If you are gay, then don’t pretend to be straight. If you want to be in the musical then audition for the musical. Don’t worry about what other people might say. Be the person you want to be! If you want to test your limits, then by all means test away. If you like it, great! If not, you will have a comfortable place and identity to call home.
I don’t claim to have all the answers. I don’t even pretend to. I don’t even think having a PhD in Psychology means you have all the answers. Is this blog post a cover-up of who I really am? Probably. But, maybe not. I’m just trying on the costume of someone who writes these kinds of things. Maybe I want people to read this and think I am intelligent and insightful. It’s human nature to hide your true self. I don’t think anyone can go a whole day without tweaking a personality trait or interest a bit to impress someone, or at least fit in. But, I think it’s worth a try.
“Pretending to be someone else is exhausting” – Anonymous (Or, maybe I made up this quote to make people think I’m the kinda guy that likes quotes)
The hottest new trend in America right now is being busy. People walking down the street saying “Look how busy I am!”. Calling friends just to say that you can’t talk because you are too busy. I’m not joking, I have witnessed this. I was at a Starbucks one time and heard the guy behind me calling everyone he knows and starting each conversation with “Sorry, can’t talk long, I’m really busy today” I, for one, was very impressed by this man.
Today I am sitting in work with a sign on my back which reads “If I am not already doing it, It will not be done today” I am just too busy today. I have my list of tasks that need to get done today and there is no way I can possibly add anything else. I am actually typing this blog post one or two sentences at a time as I load the “House of Hair” radio show into our system for the weekend. I get a minute between segments while they are saving and I choose to fill that time with writing.
I wrote about this before in my post “The Case for the American Siesta” but as a culture we always need to be doing something. We are so afraid of down time. I imagine for many of us, if we aren’t doing something we feel like slacker losers. I know I do. I can’t just watch TV. Unless it is an action movie where the plot can change in a second, very rarely do I ever just sit and watch. I get out my iPad and I write, or check e-mail or play “Simpsons: Tapped Out” (I love that game) Like the goat looking over the fence, I always have this feeling that there is something good to find out there and I must be always searching for it.
But don’t we know living like this is killing us? If you are always working, thinking, searching and talking you are not resting. And if I wasn’t so busy, I would take the time to find some facts and figures that show that doctors report we are losing more sleep and are becoming more mentally unstable and depressed. Facts or not, I imagine nobody would really dispute me on this. We live in the age of ease where everything is done for us, yet we are more stressed out than before. Ironic, don’t you think?
My message for you all today is this weekend, take some time to relax, be quiet, think and totally unplug. Sit outside and watch the birds and rabbits. Listen to the wind and the rain. Pray a little, but mostly listen and experience God. Because if we are constantly talking, thinking and filling our time, how will we be able to hear Him and the world around us?
It is a six letter word but it should qualify as one of those four letter words. I hate it! It makes me cringe like when I hear one of those words. But, sadly, my life is full of it. A life long list of should haves and should have not’s. Things I wish I could go back and try again and things that I wish I could undo. Some things I had control over and some things were accidents.
Yesterday I did something that rocked me to my core and totally ruined my day. I don’t want to say what I did. It is too horrific to mention. But it was a total accident and one that I will work hard to never repeat. Now, I know it was an accident and in the long run it will probably not rock the Earth off it’s axis, but I am still full of regret over it and the thought will probably haunt my dreams for a little while longer.
But what can I do about it now? Short of having a Delorean or the time traveling powers of “Heroes” Hiro Nakamuro, there is nothing I can do to fix it. Or fix any of the other accidents, mistakes and awkward moments of my life. They are in the past, lost and gone forever. But I know I am not alone in not being able to forget. And in some cases it absolutely eats me alive.
But we must remember that God does not want us to live with regret. Philippians 3:13-15 says:
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
God knows that we can not focus on His Kingdom if we are constantly bogged down in the past. You know who wants us to regret? The Enemy. He has a plan to keep us worried and tied up with our sins and mistakes. If all we do is think about that we begin to look down on ourselves and start to doubt our worth. Don’t doubt your worth, because God has amazing plans for you and He needs you on top of your game.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
The second reminder is that if something happened, it is by God’s will. It might not make sense why God allowed something regretful to happen, but as I always say, it is not our job to understand. He made it happen for a reason and it is our job to grow from it.
Be joyful followers of Christ. Our Lord and Savior has a plan for us and is always giving us these teachable moments. Keep your eyes focused on the Lord and never regret about the past.
I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, please let me know if you do, but I sometimes compare my Christian faith to the movie Groundhog’s Day. The movie in which Bill Murray, playing weather man Phil Connors, is forced to live February 2nd over and over again until he learns the true meaning of Groundhog’s Day. Or something like that, we don’t really know why Phil is doomed to repeat the same day over and over again. I read an article that revealed that a gypsy cursed him because he is kinda a jerk, but that never made the movie.
Throughout the move we see Phil go through different stages of dealing with this curse. At first he rejects it, then he abuses it by robbing an armored car, then he really rejects it by committing suicide over and over. Phil finally starts getting the point in the later days and starts trying to improve himself and using his new skills to help people. Phil has figured out that he will continue repeating until he has righted his wrongs. Unfortunately for Phil one or two good deeds are not enough to lift the curse and it probably takes him weeks of being good before he finally wakes up on February 3rd.
So I tell you that story to tell you this one.
Phil really has no idea why he is repeating Groundhog’s Day and he really has no idea what he needs to do to move on to the next day. He just does what he thinks might work and hopes for the best.
Isn’t that how so many Christians live their lives? God gave us a list of do and do not’s, and we do our best to stick to them. Sure, we may stumble from time to time, but we say we are sorry and we try to do better the next time. And for many of us, we feel that we are stuck repeating one crappy day after another. Jesus promised us a life to the fullest. All we have to do is look to him when we make our choices and things will turn out great.
Sometimes, however, no matter how many things we do and choices we make, that full life seems to escape us. We start thinking we are doing everything wrong. Maybe we need to stay away from bad movies, maybe we need to not laugh at that dirty joke, Maybe we need to give more at Church and maybe we aren’t praying right.
The last example is my personal favorite. I start thinking that my prayers are weak and God doesn’t know how serious I am. So I yell out, I rant and rave, I stretch out my time and give up my Saturdays. If that doesn’t work I start thinking my prayers are too self centered. He doesn’t want it to be all about me, so I add in other people and world peace. We all do crazy stuff like this because we think that is what He wants, but truthfully we are clueless.
And that is the fact, we will NEVER fully understand God’s mind and most of all his time. He has a plan and he has a schedule, and there is nothing we can do that is going to force his hand. No matter how much we offer, how hard we pray, and what we promise to do, if it is not in his plans it will not happen.
So instead of driving ourselves crazy over how we can unlock that Godly treasure chest we need to sit down and pray for peace and understanding and then completely let go and actually be peaceful.
As long as you set your eyes on the Lord, He will show you what you need to see. And when you have your mission, you can finally move on to February 3rd.