The Right to Leave the Herd – Standing Alone

(Hello guys! My name is Jen, and welcome to my mind!)

Hello everyone,

This is surprisingly hard for me to admit, (which in itself upsets me) but I didn’t always like who I am.

I mean that sentence in the most subjective manner possible as I have found that in my most solitary moments I am content. I am someone who flourishes by being alone. I have taught myself over an ongoing time of chronic illness that to be alone by choice is as beautiful as a crowd of willing friends. Truly, I love nights in when I am simply ‘Jen to Jen’ and not ‘Jen to a best friend’ or the least ‘Jen’ I feel comfortable being around someone. I have found that I am most productive when alone and consequently most creative. To me, the downsides of being alone are minimal.

However, I am not a hermit. Indeed despite my blatant tenacity for pyjamas rather than a party, I have somehow gained friends, a boyfriend and a loving family. I am lucky, I know that, but today is not the blog where I remind you of your own luck. This is more to do with the fact that I have recently found myself attracting more and more people into my life.

The reason for this is undoubtedly my positivity which means that even on the bad days, I try to make shine brighter than the day before. From having these people in my life I bring us back to my original point. I don’t always like who I am with certain people.

And that’s okay.

I’d like to think that I know very definitively who I am. I am both Sunflower and Steel. I am loyal and caring. These things, all of my positive attributes, I have stopped denying or downplaying. Let’s be real – what’s the point when you know it’s true? You’re great? Shout about it! You’re hot? Post a selfie with confidence!

It is high time we had a generation of emboldened ‘lifers’ rather than diminished ‘existers’ who have been told that to deny one’s talents is charisma and to lie about your goodness is humble.

I am good. Golden, in fact. As are most people in this world. However, often different shades of golden do not mix well. I found that with some of my friends I lost myself when I spoke and before I knew it I would find myself laughing along with a cruel comment made at another’s expense.

For most of us, we face this daily with either our work company or our friends. Perhaps not to laugh would only lead to isolation and thus, more alone time. Well, maybe I’m alone in this but I would truly rather be alone in the world than compromise what I know to be true. And there is nothing truer than the power of positive words.

To be in the writing industry, for example, one replies on connections and politics. The industry appears to be riddled with false kindness, like many others. Oftentimes what is required is for one to fake what they think, believe in and enjoy for fear of rejection. We, as a species, have indoctrinated ourselves to fear being alone. This includes being alone in opinion.

I pulled the plug on this foolishness when I came to understand that happiness begets happiness and there is nothing enjoyable or happy about the putting down of another human being – even if you are enjoying the sense of inclusiveness and normalcy you achieve whilst doing so.

You do not require permission or a starting date to begin being the person you’ve always known distantly to be your ‘better self’. It will not become a competition with your past self as to the level of improvement you can get and just how ‘mindful’ you can be. You will simply be and continue to exist in a brighter manner.

At the age of seventeen I was grappling with being what I thought the ideal was and maintaining my principles without guilt. For once I did not wish to feel so entirely ‘politically correct’ as I have often irritated both my friends and family by asking them to simply be nice. If I could simply transform overnight into one of the other girls in my class who always seemed to be laughing then perhaps I could stop thinking about just who their laughs were directed towards.

The day I realised this was never going to happened was a day when we had what is called a ‘walking debate’ in my religion class. In essence the idea is that the teacher reads a statement and if you agree with said statement you move to one side of the room, and if not you go to the other. If you stand in the middle you’re admitting to being confused.

Typically, I love these classes as they didn’t require homework and I could talk to my friends as we wandered from one side of the room to the other. There were thirty of us, and to me this meant there were twenty-nine other people I’d rather be. So far the class had been unified in every decision as even at the age of seventeen we all just wanted to fit in to the point when taking a step across a classroom was preceded by furtive glances to our friends. ‘You agree? Yeah okay, cool, I’ll go with you.’

The teacher then read a statement claiming that homeless people should be able to eat a nutritionally balanced diet on the donations from those on the street. The statement said that homeless people should be able to eat well with their money they collect from the streets. Perhaps some of you will disagree with my choice but I immediately disagreed with the statement. However, everyone began to move towards the agreement side of the room. My friends all looked to each other and we sidled across. As I stood there with the twenty-nine other girls who agreed that homeless people should be able to eat a nutritionally balanced diet I felt sick. It was as though a magnetic pole was pulling me between what I wanted to say, and what I felt I could. I remember feeling a fear that I would embarrass my friends and myself, by having the whole class looking at me on the opposite side of the room.

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I felt physically sick as I crossed the room and stood alone. My teacher looked surprised, and god, I was surprised. The debate that continued caused my voice to shake. Indeed, once the class was over I went to the bathroom just to lock myself into a cubicle and breathe. Mercifully alone.

Since that time and now I have learned many things. Perhaps the most important of which is that there is no shame or agenda in being a kind person. There is nothing natural about enjoying criticism of another. I am not part of the ‘PC Police’ for telling someone when I am uncomfortable with their comments on another. It takes exceptional bravery to be inherently true to yourself. I wish I’d learned this earlier and I could have saved everyone some cruelly whipped comments from my ignorant tongue.

That day was the beginning of many courageous acts that have led me to now and led me to prioritize myself. I have learned that I lack the ability to mimick the judgement in my society regarding those of different nationalities or religions.

I do not write this to tell you all of my kind nature and ask for you to confirm it to me. No, I write this to remind myself as much as you, that you were born with the pride of being a human being. You were born and live with boundless potential that entirely encases everything you choose to do with your life. Potential begets opportunities and opportunities lead to the realisation of dreams. You were born with the power of the moon and stars combined. With that in mind, it seems only silly to deny yourself the right an opinion. Particularly opinions of kindness, tolerance and understanding.

I hope you might have learned in reading this, as I confirmed in writing it, that it takes exceptional bravery to defy the opinions of a herd, particularly when they’re family.

Another small push: I don’t believe in ‘good’ people or ‘bad’ people. Instead, I simply believeĀ  that we each have the right to ‘our’ kinds of people. Don’t be afraid to look for them, as I can assure you, they’re there.

Write soon,

Jennifer x

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