“To do just the opposite is also a form of imitation.”
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. While that may hold true for the imitatee, what does it say about the imitator?
Maybe not so much.
Thank goodness for the nonconformists who, in their zeal to buck popular culture, have gone in a different direction. Unfortunately, they’re all going in the same different direction. Someone should probably tell them that, in doing just the opposite, they’re essentially no different than the conformists — except they look weirder.
We’ve been given the phenomenal gift of no two individuals being exactly alike, and what do we do with it? We go out, find a crowd, and follow it. Instead of styling our home and wardrobe in a way that speaks to our individuality, we go out and buy what everyone else buys. If we’re the adventurous type, we may buy it in a different color. Ok, so, maybe we buy a it in a different shade of the same color. And then we exchange it for one of the same color before anyone notices.
Phew! That was a close one.
Given this rather sorry state of affairs, I’m thankful for celebrities. Imagine the mayhem that would ensue if the masses suddenly had no idea what to buy. Think of the havoc it would wreak on the economy if we failed to regularly update our look to coordinate with whatever the celeb du jour rolled out of bed wearing that day. Perish the thought!
I only wish that I could say I’ve never felt the pressure to conform. I’d be lying if I did. Fortunately, I learned a secret at a time when peer pressure is arguably at or near it’s zenith — age 13.
Nevermind that my mother had already told me essentially the same thing year after year, but what did she know? Not as much as a 14 year-old, apparently.
But, I digress.
One of the cool girls from the neighborhood stole up alongside me, and, for a brief moment, two worlds collided. I’m guessing that we both spoke more than a few words to one another, although, if we did, I do not recall.
Exhaling after a long draw, she looked my way and asked, “Why don’t you smoke?”
Now, that was a good question — one I didn’t know how to answer. Why didn’t I smoke? My father smoked. Unfiltered Camels. His fingertips had taken on a yellow-orange tint that was probably permanent. The worst was having to use our one, small bathroom after his morning routine. Your lungs, assaulted by stale, putrid smoke, would turn your stomach off of breakfast.
“I don’t know. I guess I just don’t want to.”
And then she said it. Her response knocked the world as I knew it completely off of it’s axis:
“I wish I could be more like you.”
Wait. What? Did I hear that right? More like ME?
Me? With my before-the-invention-of-product curly (frizzy, but wanting to wear it straight and feathered like Farrah Fawcett) hair? With my connect the dots game board face? With my plaid pants that not only came from Sears but from the husky department of Sears?
More like ME?
That’s what she said. And, before I could fully process what this all meant, the sidewalk ended, and we parted ways.
I’m guessing that what she saw in me and wished to emulate had nothing to do with my cotton candy hair and stylin’ plaid pants. It was nothing discernible to the eye. While I couldn’t fully appreciate it then, I do now.
My guess is that, at the age of 14, she had already grown weary of outward conformity at the expense of inward peace.
Sadly, in wishing to be “more like me,” she was, again, misguided. Wanting to become “more like” someone else is what got her into a dilemma in the first place. Her soul wasn’t longing to be more like me.
She saw a quality. If she had that same quality, she wouldn’t be more like me.
She’d be more like herself.
We’ve all encountered those who’ve had the courage to play the lead in their life story. It’s a divine experience. We sense that they’re living the life they were uniquely created to live. These individuals leave a lasting impression. Encountering them is a spiritual experience.
Far too many spend their years wishing to be like someone else — years that are nonrefundable. That, to me, is a tragedy of epic proportions. You — yes, you — are an original created to tell a story that is uniquely your own. If you don’t tell it, we will not hear it. This is tragic.
Refuse to live a cheap imitation of someone else’s life. Bravely step up to play the lead in your story. It’s only in ceasing to be like someone else that you find the best life of all: the one created for you.
And so it seems that, yet again, my mother was right after all.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2