Mainstream Counterculture

Living counter culturally takes a lot of effort. To actively believe in unpopular and contradictory opinions to the widely accepted norm requires a fortitude that I often feel I might not have, and is sometimes so draining that I almost switch back to the easy wave of giving in. This generation of hipsters and their preceding Beatniks have implanted in us the notion that counter culture is glamorous, that “standing up” for your own truth immediately garners respect and admiration. Like most everything else, the reality is a bit sloppy.

It’s a little painfully ironic to desperately want a shield of impenetrable confidence and for the comments or unsolicited (and solicited) opinions of others to truly have no bearing on my self-worth. I try so hard to believe that my ecosystem of Planet Barae is on its own orbit and I’m a sarcastic little badass, but the truth is that belief takes a lot of work. Relinquishing the need for approval and agreement is scary. How can I be okay with myself and my own values and ideas when so many people, including people I love, are convinced of their exact contradiction?

I have not arrived at the answer. And I think that’s because it’s a shape-shifter — constantly morphing and altering positions and appearances and teleporting a couple years — that “answer” is. I’ve become pretty convinced that there isn’t actually a destination. Most likely I’ll never really be 100% comfortable with my own beliefs when others are seriously challenging them, especially the ones condemned by society as a whole. And I can only imagine what serenity in my own skin feels like. It will require a lot of introspection; of spending time to get to know myself and actually appreciate what I have to offer; of chipping away at the constraining blocks that keep me yearning, reaching for validation. Look at me being all philosophical.

There’s a few different facets of this endeavor for me. There’s the reality-check of a college not welcoming me with congratulatory arms, challenging my buried belief that I’m the special one, and somehow the world is different for me. I need that challenge. It’s refreshing and comforting to know that really, I’m not special, I don’t have some rare qualities that make me stand out, I share the same obstacles and doubts of actually everyone else on this planet and if I took the time to look, I’d realize that everyone thinks they’re the special one. There’s the realization that some members of my family and friends still strongly consider health as a moral issue and are unclear how to support me, and I am really, truly allowed to stick to my own convictions and perhaps simply disengage in that topic of discussion with them. Those people remain valid, important, nourishing people in my life, on other fronts.

Sometimes pushing forward on my own route seems insurmountable. Sometimes I am convinced that the overwhelming evidence of the entire cultural environment surrounding me might be right, and who am I to assume the self-righteous position of truth-proclaimer? I’m no revolutionary. Yet I continue to be taught that I really don’t need to start a revolution (a la SNL-Bernie Sanders). The reassurance that not a single action of mine requires approval of any external source, arising from my own embedded spark and the sheer fact that I exist, is a guiding force that I am constantly working to embrace. Every thought and extremely socially unacceptable joke that will make no one laugh outside of my head is a reminder that I don’t even need to believe it, I am a badass whether I like it or not.

It’s gonna take a lot more work and a lot more effort to fully embody this truth. I don’t envision an endpoint and I’m excited to embark on some kind of life-long vision quest, though I feel myself tip toeing into the desperately needed unknown and I’m terrified. Even though I just proclaimed this whole idea to be a self-empowered, introspective enterprise, I think it is a lot more powerful and empowering to know others are on the same venture. I could use some advice. How are you living your truth?