We grew up trying to fit in didn't we? Trying to keep in with the 'right' crowd at school, without being an obvious hanger-on, trying to wear the 'right' stuff, and learn the 'right' words to say. So many instances when you've bought the labelled clothing, the right mascara, to be seen as the right 'kind of person'. So much effort to keep up with the latest fad or craze (when I was aged 8, it skipped from marbles to yoyos and then card playing) and attend events because you want to meet a particular person. It was about being cool, popular or perhaps just not to be picked on. By fitting in, you believe you appeal to the widest possible audience, that the most people like you, that you will celebrated as a mature, well-balanced individual and have a good reputation.
And that's great until you get into the big old world.
Because then it's all wrong.
The next thing is that you have to be different. To stand out, to not be another sheep in the market. And to do this you have to know what YOU want out of life. What?! So I've learned how to be what they want, and now I have to know what I want? That's a whole other universe! And didn't all the ones who were 'different' end up without friends? I don't want to be a nutcase who has some crazy message for the world.
Being different; challenging, unconventional and with a stance, is not about being rude and obnoxious. It's about going about life, creating your ways of changing the world whilst commanding respect. It's about sticking to your ideas, and politely walking away from that which is crap, unhelpful and, most of all, unethical. It's about being generous, idealistic, positive and determined.
You do this in YOUR way. You may be the quietest mouse and you don't know how to speak to people in person but you can get an agoraphobic out of her bed and talk to her via Skype for 10 minutes. Every week. Then she has taken a baby step towards going out and refers you to her friend who has anxiety attacks and soon you have a list of people who are eager for your gentle approach. You may have done ok at school lessons and your mum was a teacher, but you have not really leapt in any particular direction. Suddenly you find yourself thinking back to your school days and planning timetables; creating systems for teacher rotas that allows them to see into other classes, share admin burdens and gives them more time and space, their usual lament, a feature of your school days. Next thing you know, you're on the phone to your old science teacher to run ideas past them. Watch it grow.
Average is boring, crazy was dangerous. Now, unaverage is dangerous but in a way that questions the normal, accepted, well-reasoned. Danger is post-enlightened, post-post modern with a good creative twist to it.
I have a theory that a person does need to follow through the 'fitting in' stage before growing into her own ideas, be her own person. That you need to feel a part of the 'norm' to then be able to stand out against it. But then I read Chris Guillebeau and think, actually, probably not. We want to practise unconventional, we need to be unaverage to get on.