The curse of the conformist

I must be taking this writing lark seriously as for the first time in my life I’m actually doing something about a deep rooted passion. I’m attending my first Writers festival. Or to be more precise, I’m stuck with (or is it stuck to?) 11 other tardy attendees in a sweaty 6 seat “latecomers” box watching some salacious soliloquy shite that has been raved about as ground breaking by the experts supposedly in the know. Knowing I could do better. Knowing I would do anything to be able to leave. And knowing that I won’t. Not a chance of me leaving until the end. And why? Because I’m a conformist.

It’s my dads legacy you see. Poor old sod. I’m now in the “seasoned” bracket career wise and past half way in the life stakes and he’s been dead for 20 years, yet here I am still banging on and blaming him for my own failings. Genetics has a lot to answer for. He was the ultimate company man. A stellar human being, made from the right stuff and honourable to the core. He built a solid and safe corporate middle management career from nothing – the only child of a family who had very little other than each other and dreams. A one company man for almost 40 years. Put on the downsize scrapheap at 50. Yet he found a way past that to do his own thing. In fact, he revelled in it – loving the freedom. One of his few quotes (a man of few words) that still rings in my ears all these years later from this normally non emotional man, yet said with real feeling – “I WISH I’d done this sooner”. Sadly and suddenly dead at 57. And now here I am – just turned 50, out of a job, pondering my own innovative options for the future and wondering why the hell I didn’t listen and more importantly what the hell stopped me.

And obviously the answer is myself. Of course the beauty is that it’s never too late to change anything. Plus it’s never too late to shake off the conformist curse for good. ‘Cos I’ve always felt a real affinity for – indeed at times almost worshiping – the bold non conformist. Best summed up by a brief and doomed relationship in my twenties with a feisty girl who occasionally insisted on ordering dessert first in a restaurant, followed by a main or a starter, or even another dessert. Whether this was to confuse and bemuse the staff – which it did – or due to a genuinely messed up duodenum I was never really sure. Perhaps it was to impress me – which always worked – as I looked on opened eyed and chuckling adoringly every time, at the sheer audacity of doing something a conformist like me would never dream of. Even the eighth time.

Sitting here and reflecting all these years later on “why the buzz” I guess it was because it was so refreshing. Albeit a little bit scary at the same time. Which brings my right back to my current predicament. At the moment scary is beating refreshing by a stretch, and I need to turn the tables. Because it shouldn’t be that scary, being released into a jobless non corporate real world, surrounded by v-log after v-log encouraging me to grasp the bountiful opportunities associated with the gig economy and working from home. It’s not like I’m the first to encounter it.

In these turbulent times it’s a risky thing to “come out” as a conformist. And I fight against it tooth and nail. But perhaps there are some things you can’t change. Maybe that’s why a corporate career was so appealing to me in the first place. Onwards and upwards without really being sure why. And probably too fearful to really ask yourself the question in case you don’t like the answer. Or more likely that you can’t see a way to achieve what the answer tells you to do. If this rings any bells with you then fear not. At least by recognising it I have a shot at doing something about it. You can too.

I have a theory. I believe that everyone is a Shakespearean H-cocktail mix – part Hamlet, part Henry V. It’s just that the measures vary greatly from person to person. The thinker and the doer. The tragic and the heroic. The conformist and the non conformist. Whilst I wouldn’t want to lose the balance and intuition that my innate Hamlet-ness gives me, it is time to grasp the mettle and charge up my Henry. Watch out France. It will be refreshing for sure. And I do know one thing I’m certain of. I’m done with writing festivals. Not my thing. Writing however, is. Hope you like it.


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