“To thine own self be true.” Polonius gives this advice to his son in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Ever sine reading that in high school, I have done my best, as far as I understand it, to live up to that saying. I have always tried to be me as much as possible, not conforming to what the world expects me to be.
Except when I had to assimilate. On the football team in high school, I had to adjust my playing style to fir the expectations of the position I played. Adapting to the role and using newly acquired skills to adjust to what I needed to do. Then more so in college as I learned to play in a different system, adjusting a to a faster game, becoming adept at new skills needed for new positions.
Adapting isn’t the same as conforming is it?
My college coach once told me that some people march to the beat of a different drum, but that I had “my own dadgum parade”. Yes he said dadgum. That’s the way you swear in a Christian institution that prohibits swearing.
He was referring to my general person, my unwillingness to flow with the fashion trends of the late eighties, my willingness to be different from most of the college population, to definitely deviate from the standard appearance and personality of my teammates. Part of that was that I didn’t have the money to buy the same clothes, part of it was refusal to get the Top Gun haircut that girls all thought was so hot.
Part of this was trying to be myself, to tailor my appearance to what I liked. Part of this was a conscious attempt to avoid what everyone else. i was conforming to the antipathy of what everyone else was conforming to. I created the counterbalance to what the masses flocked to by flocking away.
Then over the years, I have toned this down or amped it up as I felt I needed to keep the attention of the current girlfriend. Yep, I was that guy. I wouldn’t conform to society as a whole, but bent willingly to the whims of the woman at my side.
Bills came and job to pay the bills. then the need to get a better job to get more money to pay for bigger bills. It became a ridiculous cycle.
But jobs require adaptation if you want to keep getting paid or get paid better. Workplace cultures drive assimilation. I found myself conforming in new ways to new circumstances while trying my best to remain me as much as I could.
I needed frequent self reflection to try to be certain of who I was, who I wanted to be and keep that piece clear as I learned to play new societal roles.
New ways this manifests is in my writing and speaking. As I learn to grow in both, I find that my skills need to develop, to evolve Sometimes this requires that I do things that I am not comfortable with. Trying different tone and cadence. Am I still being true to myself as I do this? Am I strengthening my voice? Or am I making it like someone else’s.
I like that I am growing and changing. I like that I have some things that are always there as part of me. Reconciling these feels difficult at times and simple at others. Self reflection plays a key role in this. This blog plays a key role in that.
Can I move forward, change and grow and stay true to myself at the same time?
Today is a new day, so I will see how it goes. same for tomorrow and the day after that. Adapt but not conform; stay the same while changing; that is a mystery each day brings and an assessment for each night.
If I can’t accomplish that, then I am not me. And if I am not me, then it is a wasted day, a day that I didn’t connect with eternity.