Hi, Rookies! This month’s theme is ACTING OUT. Perhaps a better way of greeting you would’ve been, *screams, stomps, slams bedroom door, scoops up iHome, puts on “Hungry Like the Wolf,” ventures back into the world wielding a machete*
This month is devoted to interruptions, nuisances, and causing a commotion—sometimes for no reason other than celebrating adolescence’s angst and freedoms, but sometimes for the good of humanity/sake of your SANITY. The other night I looked at a book of glam rock photography while listening to all my David Bowie records, and it just made me feel so stupid for not being more fearless. It’s not that I sulk around repressing some deep desire to wear glittery eye shadow, but it is very easy to conflate GROWING UP IN THIS CRAZY WORLD with JOINING THE RAT RACE of, um, having low self-esteem? Constantly making compromises and censoring yourself?
I am wary of coming off as obnoxious or opinionated or in possession of any personality whatsoever. I don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable or suffocated or imposed upon. But a full realization of this goal looks like: a chunk of air in a human-shaped outline formed by dust particles. It feels like: sinking into a La-Z-Boy that is not even that comfortable, then slowly folding into its brown flannel buttcrack and dispensing the occasional self-deprecating joke until I have vanished completely.
In less buttcrack-y words (there’s the self-deprecating joke!), here’s Eleanor Roosevelt:
It’s your life—but only if you make it so. The standards by which you live must be your own standards, your own values, your own convictions in regard to what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is important and what is trivial. When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else or a community or a pressure group, you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.
So I am not even talking about urges to wear eye shadow/burst into song/go streaking as much as I am the tiny concessions we make on the daily: not raising your hand when you really do have something to say; wearing something a little less loud; letting a friend get away with yet another passive-aggressive remark. Not because we would otherwise be causing harm to anyone, but because we are comforted by the security of acting the way we think people want us to act.
The thing is that you are not actually “protecting” other people from anything that would hurt them. If someone gets secondhand embarrassment by your non-hurtful acting out, they are probably very insecure themselves and trying to Whack-a-Mole anything that might make them look uncool. And, when you get that worried about how you look to other people, you end up looking at yourself so much that your insecurity is so dominant that you actually become very separate from the people you are trying to connect with (how many times have I stared blankly at someone who is sharing their life with me because I’m running through every possible thought they could be having about my hair?). More Eleanor:
It is easy to slip into self-absorption, and it is equally fatal. When one becomes absorbed in himself, in his health, in his personal problems, or in the small details of daily living, he is, at the same time losing interest in other people; worse, he is losing his ties to life. From that it is an easy step to losing interest in the world and in life itself. That is the beginning of death.
DO NOT DIE/BECOME LESS OF A PERSON/VANISH INTO THE BUTTCRACK OF THE LA-Z-BOY. Being comfortable, confident, and visible can be so tricky that it is radical acting out. Even more rewarding than the security of being quiet is the security that you build by listening to your gut and taking risks and eventually knowing in your bones how it actually feels to Be Yourself: no more disconnect between who you wanna be and what you actually reveal to people, but one big Snuggie of selfhood that cannot be wrong, so long as it is real.
We’ll also get into more extreme methods of ACTING OUT this month, like breaking the law (see above video), promiscuous sex (and figuring out why it’s considered the same thing as acting out, like, “Didja hear about Jenny? She got her ears pierced, and it hurt a lot, and now she’s coping with the pain by sleeping around and throwing her life away!!!”), taking a stand, and wearing EXCESSIVE amounts of glittery eye shadow. Like, so much.