Self-righteousness drives us to change the world around us. We become blinded by a greater sense of obligation to the world in which we occupy that we lose sight of the world that occupies us. Perpetually running away from home towards a future that grants us no solace, we can’t escape from the confinement that our insecurities create. We chain ourselves to demons but renounce their existence, praying that they’ll go away on their own accord as long as we ignore them. These wounds are self-inflicted, but we point the finger at those who will always be there. These bruises serve a purpose; they push us closer into the arms of apathy, making it easier to cut ties with those who love us more than life itself. The blind lead the blind as we lose ourselves to the convenience of detachment. It’s much more comforting to forget and rewrite our past than to confront and accept it. It’s so effortless to ignore and criticize our family than to reach out, rekindle and salvage all that remains. We drown ourselves deeper into the waters of oblivion and have long since forgotten that blood is thicker.
My grandmother raised me for the majority of my upbringing and for many years thereafter. I loved her more than life itself; I am in many ways an extension of her. She was the kindest person I have ever known; to this day I have yet to come across another whose unwavering purity parallels hers…though I remain patient and steadfast. When she left me, I succumbed to anger and escaped into the arms of withdrawal. I became numb to the world around me, and grew deeper into solitude. My relationship with my mother became damaged during this time. I judged her based on the relationship she had with her own mother, which was toxic to my juvenile eyes. For my own emotional catharsis, I blamed my mother for much of the pain that my grandmother endured in her last days. I, like most delusional youth, assumed that I could somehow “improve” my mother…in a process that was unbeknownst to me, I used precociousness to disguise pompousness, and personified a holier-than-thou complex that kept me antisocial for the remainder of my adolescence. I acted as if I roamed this earth longer than my mother. As if I carried her within me for 9 months, sacrificing my own aspirations to work 2-3 jobs to provide food and shelter for someone who couldn’t even value or appreciate such sacrifice.
Dysfunction is inherent to every family – this goes without saying. How one handles this dysfunction speaks volumes of their inner and outer workings. Those who avoid their family at all costs are only running away from a past that they will surely perpetuate in their own lifetime. Peace and closure can never be obtained in the absence of forgiveness or understanding. Animosity is toxic and contagious; holding on to it was destroying me from the inside. I have learned to let go of resentment and have grown to accept people as they are, not as they ought to be in my eyes. I have learned to refrain from judging my own kind to some higher order of conduct that I set for myself and project onto others. Only he who is without sin may cast the first stone, and I am far from virtue. My condemnation, my naivety, my immaturity…among a plethora of other characteristics rooted in weakness…stunted my growth as a man. As secure as I led myself to believe, I was too lost to comprehend the true meaning of family and everything that it stands for…loyalty. The unconditional commitment to the livelihood of another, loyalty is the most irrational, unexplainable and yet fundamental oddity to every family. Understanding and appreciating its worth is pivotal to developing a strong social support system. Our family exposes us to it, but it is entirely up to us as individuals to internalize it.
I would like to think that my family has changed significantly over the years, and that I was the catalyst for such change. The truth is that my family hasn’t changed at all, nor will they ever. It was I who changed; I have learned to forgive, to accept, and to respect. I have learned to appreciate, to cherish, and most of all – I have learned to love. I see now that they did the best they could, and I couldn’t be more proud to carry on their legacy…our legacy. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are all merely seeds in our family’s garden. No matter how far our branches may stretch, we can never escape our roots.
“A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”
– George Moore
I have found what I was looking for in the home of my upbringing; I have discovered what I need above all else. Always and forever, my family is my everything.
We all like to think of ourselves as idiosyncratic, unique and rare. We’re taught from an early age that no two people are the same, that no one else has our exact same fingerprints, and that we’re all truly one of a kind. We get offended when we’re compared to whatshisface or whatshername, quickly listing at least 5 things off the top of our heads to defend our identities and characteristics from being categorized or shared.
Case in point: I’m commonly referred to as a “hipster”. This makes absolutely no sense to me. For one thing, I’m not pretentious (I’m one of the most humble people I know!). I’m neither vegetarian nor vegan (bacon makes everything better). I hardly have any facial hair, I exercise regularly and I believe in good hygiene. Also, not a fan of PBR.
But I could totally see how people come to that conclusion. I’m pretty eccentric. I live in a gentrified part of town close to Silverlake. I shop at thrift stores, my pants are apparently always too colorful and tight, I listen to obscure(ish) music and wear Buddy Holly bifocals (and use the term “bifocals”). I tried really hard to avoid watching Portlandia, just to have one less thing relating me to hipster culture. I failed. But all of that happened before I even knew or heard of what a “hipster” was. And by virtue of saying that, I am a hipster by default. But it was all an accident, I swear!
I’m a first generation American. That’s a euphemistic way of saying I grew up with hand-me-downs and ugly clothes from the Salvation Army. My parents’ sense of fashion came from India in the 1960s, which basically guaranteed that I remain a virgin for life by preventing me from getting to first base…ever. I remember going to school with the ugliest outfits in class, hating then what I’ve grown to embrace today. Apparently, the things that made us weird when we were kids are now cherished and sought after by people trying desperately to separate themselves from the status quo.
They, like the rest of us, are all conformists to some system or another, whether we’re aware of it or not. For most of us, the first system we’re exposed to is school. It’s there where we realize that being different is a great way of getting brandished as a weirdo or an outcast or simply being fodder for bullies. So we learn to relinquish our pristine, untarnished identities for the sake of our social development. As we do so, we succumb to preconceived notions of what is and isn’t cool, as defined by what’s currently mainstream and trendy. We’re blasted by signals from every channel in this world, trying to automate our thinking and behavior, thereby forgoing any need for individual thought or creativity. Some rise to the top of this conformity, becoming pillars of popularity, blissfully unaware of their sheep-like nature. Others try their best to jump on the bandwagon, though fall short due to barriers outside of their control (“This isn’t Abercrombie! I hate you Mom!”). The rest of us reject this process altogether, acknowledging that such a system may be convenient initially, but ultimately detrimental to our identities.
And therein lies the fundamental characteristic to being a hipster – one who marches to the beat of their own drum. Taking pride in one’s identity, embracing individuality and being indifferent to the mainstream and the underground alike. Expressing skepticism towards things that rise quickly to popularity. Expressing oneself creatively without any regard for external approval or scrutiny. A friend of mine’s former roommate once said:
“I’d rather be fake and have someone like me than be honest and have them not like me”.
If you find that to be completely absurd and ludicrous, then you adhere to hipsterism to some degree. What you’ve come to vehemently hate is really just an imitation, a shell, a fad. It’s become commercialized, and as such will be forgotten tomorrow and replaced with some other sub-culture, bastardized for the next generation.
I know that I’ll be labeled a hipster simply for writing this post, but I’ll continue to remain in denial, blissfully ignoring all the telltale signs and instead defending myself to friends and other hipsters alike.