Individualism is the new existentialism, the once-quiet movement that swept through the sub-cultures of nations before becoming the saving grace of shallow mainstreamers. Everyone now professes to be an "individual," a person not under the jurisdiction of the laws of society. They express themselves through their choice of wardrobe, music, language, or any other outlet to the rest of the world to prove to us that they are "individuals." They look down their long, hooked noses at us because we are the "collective." I pity them. By calling themselves individualists, they have become the very thing they strive not to be: a label.
Individualism should be a personal movement. It shouldn't involve other people's opinion of you. At all. Do the clothes you wear make you an individual? If they do, then what makes you different from a Goth poser, a jock wanna-be, or, God forbid, a prep? If the only way you can express yourself is through your outward appearance, then you, my friend, are not an individual. Borg may as well come and assimilate you into their collective. Be an individual in your mind and psyche; let your thoughts and opinions make you different from everyone else.
But wait a minute. Being an individual is tough stuff. Not allowing other people to think for you means taking a stance on controversial issues. Being an individual doesn't necessarily mean being different from everyone else, but formulating your own thoughts and opinions. If they happen to be the same as everyone else's, it doesn't mean that you are no longer an individual. Listening to Avril Lavigne and Good Charlotte doesn't make you less of an individual because they are considered "mainstream" by your fellow individualists (oh, the irony). Hell, it probably makes you more of one. YOU decide what you do; don't let others dictate your likes and dislikes. Individualism doesn't mean immediately rebelling against popular culture just because...It means, well... it means whatever you want it to mean. You don't have to take my word for it. If you want to call yourself an individualist, who am I to define you? Do it yourself.
And how, pray tell, does this tie in to "Things That I Have Learned...?" Well, one of the things that I have learned is that you have to be your own person, even if that person seems to be pretty ordinary. (I've also learned that you cannot MAKE someone love you; you can only stalk them and hope they give in. . . but that's not really relevant.) Maybe Whitney Houston said it best of all, "I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows. If I fail, if I succeed, at least I live as I believe. No matter what they take from me, they can't take away my dignity.... learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all."
If someone doesn't like you because of whom you are, you can't blame them. But honestly, wouldn't you prefer to be hated for who you are than to be hated for someone you pretend to be? No one likes a poser. No one likes being called a poser either. So, everybody, just be . . . you. Not to bring out the Sesame Street values and state the blatantly obvious, but it really is that simple. If people decide that they don't like you, well, then, that's their business. In the words of Fall Out Boy, I won't blame you for being you, but you can't blame me for hating it. Pretending to be something that you are not only serves to add to your own stress, others' dislike of you, and ultimately, your own unhappiness.
So go ahead. Dare to wear your baseball cap facing forward. Instead of buying the $200 Pepe Jeans, buy the $9.99 no-brand jeans and decorate them yourself. Wear your basketball jersey inside out. But don't do it for me, or anyone else, for that matter. "Become the master of your own baton. For the future is in your hands. No, the future is in your HAND. Play with your own score sheet." And hey, if that doesn't work, we can always blame our parents for bringing us here. (Or sue their condom company.)