I think for awhile I have been fighting against walking on the road totally travelled, marching to the same music as everyone else, and swimming the way of the stream, and all of those other sayings. People are always trying to be different from other people, and I am one of them. We do this with the clothes we wear, the tattoos we get (or don’t get), the thoughts we think, the blogs we write, the music we listen to, etc. I think that I somehow had it stuck in my head that individuality was directly equated with full personhood. Like, you weren’t really a person until you had reached total uniqueness, and there was no other person in the world that was like you at all. To be a cliché, I thought, was the ultimate failure and representation of robot non-humanness. I took this sentiment to such an extreme that I applied it not only to my outwardly decisions, but also the way I though about things or experienced extreme emotional situations.
Now, I think that some sort of individual-ness is important. To “be who you are” and “embrace that we are all created to be unique” and all of those other things are completely true and beautiful and if it wasn’t for the uniqueness of mankind, than there would be no interesting books, music, conversations, or even relationships. In someways I was right, I mean, embracing our uniqueness is a super important part of being human and learning how to love ourselves well.
However, more than ever, I am realizing how beautiful it is to engage the commonality of humanity. Yes, in someways I’m talking about community, and how wonderful it is to live in a community that grows gardens, has people over for dinner every night, supports their local farms, and makes excellent mojitos. But, I am also talking about the community of human experience. And to experience the truth of the ironically cliché phrase, “…. there are clichés for a reason.” To live in a space that you have desperately tried to avoid, and embrace the fact that humans have been there before you, and have only been anxiously anticipating your arrival.
However much I want to monopolize my own human experience as something that no one can understand, the more I realize how comforting it is to know that people have gone through it before you. They have been there, they have written songs about it, and then all these “cliché” things that you have heard a million times before hold so much more weight, and then you understand why they were written so well that you feel like you wrote them yourself.
“Someone’s gotta do it.”
This cliché has come to mean a lot to me since working on the farm. My time at the farm has ended, for now. But every single day I miss it. The work that I did at the farm could, essentially, be done by anyone. It was a lot of weed-pulling, vegetable washing, and harvesting. Yes, yes, there are ways to do these things well and not well, but still, my contribution on the farm had little to nothing to do with the uniqueness of my personality. It was a “someone’s gotta do it” job, and I chose to be that person. And there is something so beautiful and freeing about knowing that no matter if I was at the farm that day or not, that the job would get done by someone. And not in a slacker kind of way. But in a way that made every single day that I chose to be the person that “got the job done” feel like I was choosing to be a part of a human experience. And it felt safe, and it felt like an important contribution to a community.
“I’m going through a break-up.”
During my 11 hour drive back to Arkansas this last weekend, I listened to what felt like a million episodes of This American Life, because every time I tried to listen to music it just didn’t feel right. So anyway, I finally listened to their episode about break-ups, an episode I have been avoiding since the beginning of this summer. And I was avoiding it because I am recently broken up with and have been desperately trying to avoid being placed into a cliché broken-hearted bitter angry girl box. But I finally listened to it. And in this episode during one of the acts, one of the main reporters talks about “the best break-up songs” (a genre I have been successfully avoiding until that moment because what I felt was “too unique to be expressed in song”) and she talks to Phil Collins about what it takes to write a break-up song… and then she writes one of her own. During the whole episode, I laughed and I cried, but more than anything. I felt an overwhelming sense of comfort. I felt comforted by the entire universe. To enter into all the terrible and wonderful clichés of break-ups, and to call myself a part of this community of humans who just know, and they only know because they have all been there before.
So, after the episode was done. I grabbed my ipod, and I listened to Phil Collins the rest of the way home. I stepped off my island of isolated misunderstood-ness and monopolized emotions, and I jumped head-first into the deep waters of terrible Phil Collins lyrics.
I felt the most human I have felt in a very long time.
(…. How’s that for cliché?)