I often feel the pressure to conform in my life story and find myself being who others think I should be instead of who I am. I was inspired by an analogy while attending a “Art of non-conformity” book signing by Chris Gillibeau in December of 2010 (and its taken awhile to sink in). In Chris’ lecture that evening he used an analogy to describe the problem with conforming through a cliche’ children’s tale. “If everyone was jumping off a bridge would you follow (to your peril) or would you choose your own way to live?” He mentioned that we often learn the moral of free-will as children but then forget it as adults. His solution was to adapt this lesson to adult living and embrace non-conforming free-will.
Chris’ metaphor deeply resonated with me and I tried to extend the metaphor by asking questions to myself such as:
If people “jump off of bridges” to conform what does the bridge symbolize?
What does the water under the bridge symbolize? Put another way, what were all my friends and peers jumping into?
What does the land at the entrance of the bridge symbolize?
What does the land of the exit of the bridge symbolize?
These questions made me realize that this metaphor resonated with me so much because the bridge represented all of the doubts, fears, and transitions that were plaguing my life and the lives of my friends and peers. I was depressed and I wanted to cross the bridge to see if I could improve my life on the other side but I was scared. Institutions like schools and governments tell us there are lifeboats below the unsteady bridge of doubt that are much safer. Institutions instruct us to jump off the bridge and into these lifeboats to keep our routines, embrace certainty, and live a predictable life. The problem is, once you are in the “safe” lifeboat you have to conform to stay safe otherwise you risk “rocking the boat”. Put another way, if you “rock the boat” and don’t conform to the herd you risk tipping the boat over and drowning all of those around you.
I realized I needed a forum to explore the problems and solutions to crossing all the bridges of change in my life. Writing seems an ideal way to distill these ideas and provide a focusing lens for all of my unfocused emotions. And so it begins…