Stop Calling Us Nonconformists

They keep using this word.

“You’re a ‘noncomformist’,” they say.

“Nonconformist.”  What a bizarre word.

As if it’s my identity.  As if not a negative is a positive.  As if “anti” has some sort of substance to it.

And, worse, as if I choose it.

They like to say these things when they criticize me, usually.  When they criticize the other “nonconformists” of the world.

The people that don’t fit, that don’t fall neatly into categories, or that dress, speak, live, differently than the people surrounding them.

And even worse, when we speak up about it.  When we write articles or even express ourselves in any way, and especially when it’s something that threatens the others’ ideology.  Oh gosh, then we’re really nonconformists, and we have an agenda.  And we’re inherently trying to take down the establishment, and we have no respect for authority.

That’s the way I hear them talking, the chattering ones.  The wagging-fingers ones.  The ones who don’t know, really, who I am, who we are.

I do understand that there are people out there that are given to rebellion, whose whole identity is wrapped up in changing the status quo.  But that’s just another form of conformity.

I think that’s the way they see me, they see us, when we dare to speak up, when we dare to be ourselves.

But we’re not.

We’re souls whose place has not fully found a physical home.  We see a world, and it doesn’t fit our inner vision.  Often, we wander from place to place looking for that physical home, the place that fits our true soul-reality. Every now and then one of us finds a place that fits.

But usually not.

You see, there’s two aspects to conformity: there’s the world, and there’s the soul.

Often, people look at us and they see someone out of sync with the world, and they forget we have souls.  They forget that for us to live any other way would be torture.

I know, I know, because I try so hard to live as a conformist.  I’ve tried.  For years, in different moments of my life.  From high school to blips of moments in college to yeshiva to finally living a married, parental life in Chicago, Israel, and New York.

I tried so hard.

Because I saw them, those people that fit in.  Everything seemed so easy for them.  A world that fit them.

And the world kept telling them, “Yes! You’re valuable, you matter, you are the ones we want.”

Social acceptance, social integration.  A dream for us “nonconformists”.

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It took me a long time to shove off that yoke.  To realize that my deep desire to conform was misplaced.

I do want to conform, desperately.  So badly.  I hate living in a world out of sync with reality.

But it took me until I was almost 30 to understand what that really meant: that I had to conform to my soul.  That the conforming had to happen within.  That I had to be me, my true self, my higher self.  Not what the world told me my higher self was.

And the more I did it, the more they used that word: “nonconformist.”

Over and over again, and, to be honest, it stung, it stings, because there’s that part of me that still wants the world to accept me, to take me in, embrace me, say that I fit in, and that I belong.

But every time I’ve tried to do that I end up with this empty feeling all over.  This sickness, sometimes literal.

Because what I really want, what I desperately need, is for them to accept my soul, my me.  That’s why I want to conform.  That’s why I don’t see myself as a nonconformist.

That’s why I think that sometimes, the world simply doesn’t fit with who we are, with what we are, with our true selves.

And when we decide to move on despite that, to try to slowly build a community of those of us who have similar souls, that’s when we’re labeled as rebels, as nonconformists, as trying to tip the boat over and bring everyone down with us.

What they don’t realize is that the goal of a nonconformist isn’t to turn everyone into clones of ourselves.  We just want a little space for our own clan, our own tribe.  We want the world to expand for us a bit.

I think that the world is limited, and every day, it expands a bit.  The internet has been one of the ways it’s expanded.

It expands in different ways.  It expands when the people who don’t fit find each other and realize they really do fit, but they hadn’t found each other yet.  It expands when those people form communities.  It expands when those communities yell loudly to the world, “Here we are!  We want to be on the ship too!  Let us on!”  It expands when the world finally starts to bring them aboard.

That’s why I won’t shut up.  That’s why I’ll let them use whatever words they want to label me.

Because I know who I am.  Finally.  And I know who I am.  And I know that there are others like me, and that we love each other, and we care for each other, and we’re starting to build a true community.

My dream in life is to one day be a conformist.  But a conformist to a world that accepts me for who I am, in a community that embraces me for who I am, and people that push me to go even deeper into who I am.

And, ironically, I think that when that day comes, when the world expands to our bubble, and to all the other bubbles forming or just waiting to be formed, the world will become more universalist, more connected, more at one.  The infinite will be found within the finite.  The universal will be found in the particular.

There will be a day when everyone will “fit in”.  Where there will be no “nonconformists” because there won’t be anything not to conform to.

People will stop killing themselves because of bullying.  They’ll stop pushing and pushing and pushing to “fit in” until there life falls apart or they die of a heart attack from a lifetime of stress. 

And they’ll enhance society, not only because they’ll be healthier and happier, but because they’ll be able to be who they’re meant to be.  They’ll be able to use the strengths that the world around them doesn’t even know exist, in order to contribute in ways none of us can even imagine.

I, and they, and us, we’re not nonconformists.  We’re just waiting for the world to allow our souls free.