II I N T R O D U C T I O N II
I know this may come as a shocker, but I’ve managed to change my mind when it comes to my topic for the immersion experience. Why? Because, in all honesty, the idea of evaluating freedom from technology is one of interest to me, but not one which sparks a particular sense of self-discovery or insight which is, in fact, the point of this project… is it not? Not to mention, the reality of the matter is that the absence of technological connectivity is also the absence of good grades in the case of a collegiate education. With so much of my work incorporating the use of the internet and the various news outlets included therein, its essential that I employ this technology to continue academic excellence in my schooling. With all this being said, it’s time I unveil my new Immersion Experience: the real one. However, a great quote I once heard said, “in order to know where we’re going, we must first look towards that from which we came.” So, here’s a little bit of background knowledge on the subject at hand.
Here’s the thing: I’m an extremely theatrical person. Always have been, and most likely always will be. It’s engrained within the very being of who I am. It’s what has caused me to act my entire life, and it’s oftentimes one of the favored characteristics about me by my peers. However, as often is the case, this is a proverbial double-edged sword of a trait, and many times leads to a misinterpretation of who I am as a person. As uncomfortable as I once found broaching the subject of this misinterpretation, I now find little displacement in acknowledging the fact that, plain and simple, people often times believe me to be homosexual. Why? Because, as one of my closest friends once stated in consoling me on the subject, “people feel the need to label and categorize things in this world. Especially things or people that have characteristics unfamiliar to them”. I suppose this is true in that people seek comfort in that which they find familiarity, and I’m not really the “normal” type of personality. I’m energetic, theatrical, and some may refer to my actions as occasionally “flamboyant”. It also doesn’t help that I have a voice to match my personality, and oftentimes an increase in pitch accompanies an increase in energy, reducing the inherent masculinity within my vocal projections. One thing I’ve always found odd, however, is how the opinions of those I befriend quickly change. This is exemplified by the simple truth that my late girlfriend of a year and a half initially wasn’t sure of my orientation when she first met me. In fact, this has been the start of many of my friendships. “Well I obviously knew after we started hanging out,” they often say, “but at the beginning – yeah, I wasn’t sure.” And, in all truthfulness, I applaud their honesty.
It’s important to note that while I’m comfortable admitting this presiding truth about my personality and the external perceptions which seem to accompany it, I am nonetheless displeased by these false-ideas about my orientation. It is not that I have a shame associated with the idea of homosexuality, rather it’s a disdain for false associations or stereotypes with regard to my character. I sense I’m not alone in this displeasure, and I personally feel it normal to have antipathy with those who attempt to categorize you based upon your characteristics and the qualities of your persona with the intent to label you with a description which oftentimes holds no validity or truth in the context of your character or, in my case, personal identity.
What I wanted to attempt to accomplish in my immersion experience is some self-definition and affirmation of my personal beliefs. We all try so hard to fit into the cookie-cutter identity which society offers us, but I’ve never been one to undertake that task. So, as a result, I am going to immerse myself in the world of societal pressure, and attempt to change my personal traits to better suit the environment which surrounds me. I wish to embark upon this journey in an effort to shed light and understanding on those who do so because they have no other choice. Millions of members of my generation attempt to satiate the status quo and fit in to what others deem ‘normal’ and ‘cool’. While I myself may not be gay, it will be interesting to see how the perceptions and attitudes of those I encounter change based upon a difference in my demeanor and a lessoning of the potentially ‘confusing’ traits I exhibit. How? I’m going to deepen my voice. I’m going to tone down on my loud and extravagant tendency of speaking. I’m essentially, to offer a brief description, going to take away all the personality traits which separate me from a ‘normal guy’ and replace them with those which are found acceptable by society. In the meantime, I’m going to relish in an acting project which ignites the creativity within me, and I’m going a adopt this new personal-identity for a seven day period. Throughout the process, I will offer insights into the discoveries I make, the encounters I have, and the reactions I witness. I will also attempt to offer anecdotes of my personal journey through this process and the lessons I learn from this project.
Additionally, I’m going to title my project “The Circular Problem of a Square Society”, which refers to the circular (or never-ending) problem of finding self-validity and confidence in your individuality while surrounded by a society which places emphasis on square (cookie-cutter) living, predicating what’s “cool” instead of what’s “you”. This guide will attempt to analyze the effect it has on an individual to not live to their potential, and examine the important components of building a life which not only allows for personal expression, but a sense of freedom in doing so. Today, I began this experiment and, I must say, the novelty of it should be interesting, let alone the difficulty.
Wish me luck…
II D A Y # 2 II
What was interesting about today wasn’t necessarily even the observations I encountered, rather it was the difficulty of sticking to my newly-born role. You rarely realize how inherent many personality traits about yourself are engrained within the very definition of your being, and breaking away from those parts of your identity can prove awfully difficult at first. I have been forced to bring my good friends into the project, in an effort to employ them with the support of my continued experience. It is their job to do the following:
- Nudge me whenever I say something that isn’t particularly ‘normal’ for someone to say.
- Nudge me whenever my voice goes high in the context of a conversation.
- Nudge me whenever I break character and return to “regular Remington”
The only problem? Not many nudges occurred today. But the reason for this absence of realignment wasn’t necessarily that it wasn’t needed (I’m positive at times it was), instead I came to find that my friends didn’t nudge me because they no longer find particular things I say to be abnormal – no, they see these as just as much part of me as I do. My voice? To them it doesn’t sound high pitched at any point, because it has become what they are used to, it has become their frame of reference when interacting with me. As my good friend Taryn put it, “Rem, we don’t see things you do as ‘weird’ or ‘out of place’ and we sure as hell don’t ever think your voice sounds different, because thats just you. That’s the you we love and thats the you we care about.” What was perhaps most interesting about today was my friends reactions to my newly-found social conformity.
- “I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel like you. Honestly… It’s not as fun.” – Devon Norjean, Senior, Roommate
- “It’s different. Like, I keep waiting for the outbursts and they don’t come. To me it just seems like you’re super tired.” – Ethan McCallum, Junior, Close Friend
- “Stoooooop. Talk to me. Come back. This project is retarded I like you more when you’re normal.” – Alex Ghallegher, Sophomore, Close Friend
- “What the fuck is wrong with you?” – Taryn Ashlen, Junior, Best Friend
Well, it’s become clear today that my friends aren’t exactly fond of my conformity, however the same could be said of those whom know little about me. I found that fewer people approached me with the yearning for engagement, and I didn’t make new acquaintances nearly as quickly as I have in the past. People seemed hesitant to engage in conversation with me. Ironic, considering the purpose of my immersion experience is to test if the opposite is true.
To label today with a topic of discovery, it would be that of friendship. I am learning that friends are there when nobody else is, ready to accept whatever weird traits you may possess. Why? Because they already have. There’s a photo which hangs on the wall of the den in my home in Oregon which reads, “a true friend is someone who knows everything there is to know about you – and loves you just the same.” The philosopher Aristotle said, “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.” Yes, the importance of these close relationships cannot be denied, and has even been solidified by psychology experts at the Gallup Organization, which conducted a study on the powerful effects of friendship. In a book titled Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without the Gallup Organization’s director, Tom Rath, believes that we are all aware of the value of friendship especially during difficult times. In his book, Rath makes the point that if you ask people why they became homeless, why their marriage failed or why they overeat, they often say it is because of the poor quality, or nonexistence, of friendships. They feel outcast or unloved.
The book also reviewed some statistical findings of Rath’s research group, such as that if your best friend eats healthily, you are five times more likely to have a healthy diet yourself. Married people say friendship is more than five times as important as physical intimacy within marriage. Those who say they have no real friends at work have only a one in 12 chance of feeling engaged in their job. Conversely, if you have a “best friend at work”, you are seven times more likely to feel engaged in your job.
Now, is it possible that the lack of true friendships within my generation has built this destabilized environment of social pleasing? Let’s be honest, friendship offers solidarity to our traits. We are all ten-times more uncomfortable when doing something awkward in front of a group alone as we would if we were accompanied by close friends to share and disseminate the tension with. We all seek those which keep us strong, but when the importance of these essential friendships is lost on a generation with a flakey tendency and disregard for close personal relationships, what basis is built for supporting the unique and abnormal individual traits we all inhabit. This immersion experience has forced my recognition that the reason for which I am able to be my odd, crazy self is because I have a strong support base of those who care about me and support my endeavors, which empowers me to be myself and find comfort in my own skin. Why? Because, frankly, if you don’t like me – there are plenty of people who do, so feel free to disregard my actions and continue with your own life. There’s so much freedom in no longer being bound to the societal trends of this culture, and I would encourage anyone who’s reading this to look at the individuals you surround yourself with, and ask yourself one simple question…
Do these people endorse my personal expression, and do I find comfort in who I am when I’m around them? If the answer’s no, then its time to bail ship and catch some new fish.
II D A Y # 3 II
The roots are where it finds a start, the roots are where it comes to an end,
the roots are the source of the giant tree, which lives because of the water they send.
You cannot see these roots, they’re deep beneath the ground,
Yet despite the absence of their appearance, the importance of roots resound.
We must look towards the roots of our own, in the tree of life we live,
we must look towards the roots we’ve grown, and the water which they give.
I wrote this poem to illustrate a point – that while you may not think, realize, acknowledge or consider it, your history plays a large role in the person you are today. As I was continuing my experiment today, I found myself spending a large amount of time in the library. This period of silence gave birth to thoughts of consideration in which I pondered the ‘roots’ of my life. What role did they play? I realized that as a result of living in a home which gave me the freedom to act in a manner which brought me the most happiness, I’ve never been forced to change the foundation of my identity because of my parents or siblings. I am a product of the childhood which shaped me, and all-too-often people forget what a magnanimous role this instrumental process plays in our life. This is the time when you learn how to interact with others and make friends. During these developmental years as your proverbial roots grow out this is also the time in which we begin to develop self-consciousness associated with external perceptions and opinions. For example, a three-year-old will yell, laugh and play at their own concern with little worry for what others may think. They will be gladly coddled by their parents and joyfully yelp at an intriguing situation. A ten-year-old, on the other hand, resents overlooking signs of affection displayed by parents and wishes to be the “cool” kid in the class.
My immersion experiment has continued and it has today forced my focus upon this theme of roots and the roll they play in our lives. Then, I began to wonder… perhaps we aren’t giving our children enough time to develop these fundamental roots which lay foundational strength which resounds for the rest of our lives. What if we aren’t preserving this monumental and importunate time period of self-validity and affirmation due to the vast hyper-sexualization of society? This is exemplified by a recent survey for the review into the commercialisation of childhood shows widespread concern about the pressure on children to grow up too fast.
A survey of over 1,000 parents of all backgrounds has revealed that 88% think that children are under pressure to grow up too quickly. The survey forms part of the independent Bailey Review of Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood, commissioned by the Department for Education to unravel and tackle issues around the premature sexualisation and commercialisation of children. Celebrity culture, adult style clothes and music videos are all guilty in parents’ eyes of encouraging children to act older than they are. The survey aimed to find out what parents think and what help they need to manage the pressures on their children. The Bailey Review has also been listening to parents through focus groups and a call for evidence, which received an overwhelming response from parents.
These roots are fundamental to the identity of an individual and are the supporting stability for a confident and thereby happy future. Today, I find it difficult to continue this immersion experience because it goes against the roots watered by my parents throughout my childhood which taught me individuality and strength in my dissimilarity. The fascinating thing about roots, though, is that the strong ones can go quite a while without any water.
We’re putting that to the test in this immersion project and, in the words of the creative language itself, the show must go on!
II D A Y # 4 II
Today, I had my first encounter that seemed different in a positive light. On an average basis, I would say that it takes 3/5 guys a little bit of time to warm up to my personality. Whether the reason for this is that they find it too outgoing or loud at first I have no idea, but that’s the way its been for a bit now. Today, when I met a group of 8 guys through one of my closest buddies, I wasn’t surprised that my new temperament was more acceptable in the ‘chill’ environment of the room. Upon telling my friend Dylan that I was working on this project, his immediate response was “you’re acting this way for a class? That’s insane that a class can have the power to change you in such a fundamental manner.” This led me to begin to think, how much of an influence can outside sources, not only classes but mentors as well, have on the confidence and innate comfort of an individual. I know that my mother has played a magnanimous role in my development into the young man I am today, and had it not been for her continued dedication and promise to my success I would have fallen short many times throughout my life. My father has played more of a success-grooming role in my life, in which he covers many of the aspects my mother fails to be informed on – such as business, finances and politics. I am, without doubt, a product of these two fantastic mentors in my life. Then again, in some ways I’m a mentor of every adult who has ever had a hand in my life and offered any sort of guidance.
What’s especially interesting is how some mentors can have such a dramatic effect on the outcome of ones’ personal traits and identity. Take, for instance, my sisters. All four of them. Growing up with their influence reigning strong in my life is, without doubt, a strong reasoning for my outgoing and talkative personality (growing up surrounded by women will do that to ya, unfortunately). Yet, at the same time, I am able to converse with any woman I encounter thanks to the influence my sisters have given me and the lessons I’ve learned under their mentorship. However, its not a new idea that these influencers have a magnanimous role in our success.
Research confirms what we know anecdotally or intuitively — that mentoring works.
The 2013 study “The Role of Risk: Mentoring Experiences and Outcomes for Youth with Varying Risk Profiles,” examined mentoring program relationships, experiences and benefits for higher-risk youth, and among the findings determined:
- The strongest program benefit, and most consistent across risk groups, was a reduction in depressive symptoms — a particularly noteworthy finding given that almost one in four youth reported worrisome levels of these symptoms at baseline.
- Findings also suggested gains in social acceptance, academic attitudes and grades.
- In addition to benefits in specific domains, mentored youth also experienced gains in a greater number of outcomes than youth in the comparison group.
Overall, the study’s results suggest that mentoring programs can be beneficial for youth with a broad range of backgrounds and characteristics. Tailoring the training and support that is available to matches based on the specific risks youth face has the potential to produce even stronger benefits.
These mentors shape us, building our characteristics into shapes of integrity and formatting our template for success based upon the traits we find most admirable about these individuals. I would encourage you to try and find validity in these instrumental individuals who have greatly impacted your life. These mentors have made a special effort to weaponize you with the experience of those who have seen much more than you ever have, and without that knowledge you would be flying blind. Be thankful, for it is essential to the happiness of yourself, as well. Be thankful for the wondrous lessons these individuals have passed down, and relish in the idea that your personality has been influenced by hundreds of people – all of which wish you the best and support your strive through this life of unfamiliarity. Stand strong in the knowledge that these mentors have brought you to where you are today, and find solidarity in the idea that you are a product of the same people you look up to. You are one person with the traits of tens, like a beautiful collage…
One that’s still in progress.
II D A Y # 5 II
Today, I have felt an overwhelming reflection upon the role my aspirations have played in bringing me to the point at which I sit today. I can feel myself dragging wary over the progression of this project. I all honesty, I don’t feel near as happy as I normally do. I feel disconnected. Discombobulated from the person I am. I feel dull and lagging, and almost as though there is a thick wool blanket of melancholy over my inner self, and I feel that the loss of my theatrical personality has, in a way, led to a loss of myself. I couldn’t imagine people who undergo day after day of suppressing their true traits in favor of more societally traditional methods of communication or personification.
However, I digress. Today, I attempted to find the reason I have always chosen more of a ‘crazy’ form of articulation. The problem? I simply couldn’t narrow it down to one thing. As I’ve already addressed the role of friendships, background, and influencers in the casting of our identities, I attempted to seek other ‘areas’ of the human environment which offer a large contribution to the molding of our individualism – bringing me to the aforementioned role of aspirations. Think with me for a moment… if a little boy wishes to be a professional baseball player when he’s older, what’s going to happen? Well, first will come the costumes and non-stop watching of baseball games. Then will come the little-league tryouts and baseball cards, which will start the continual progression in this field of interest. Now, oftentimes this is not the case – oftentimes, it seems, kids change their interests many times and it is a continual work for the parents to keep up-to-date on the latest ‘favorite thing’ of their little ones. For me, I started off loving soccer, yet soon found interest in skiing. This interest evolved to snowboarding, before progressing to football. At that point, I decided I liked crosscountry and track instead, before settling on swimming – for a bit. My point in this anecdote is to illustrate that I, like any other child, changed my mind often (and based upon my first post in this project, still frequently continue to do so). Yet, the one thing that never changed, the one passion that truly remained evident throughout the progression of my childhood was an innate ability and passion for acting. By ability – I mean that I was a fantastic liar, and the idea of illustrating an untruth to the point that it appears to be real was of a fascinating nature to my little mind. I loved stage acting from a young age, though my sights have been set on screen-acting as a career since as long as I can remember. So, the important question I asked myself this afternoon was this: my interest in acting has provoked my participation in countless plays, theatrical camps and auditions, and therefore reaffirmed my extroverted personality and hardened my confidence in said method of communication. Even from a ripe age, my passions have influenced my identity because it is through the proverbial nails of acting which have built the foundation for my character. We are all a product of not only our roots, but the water we use to nourish these branches of foundation which hold us strong.
In order to find circular solidarity in this square society, you must first look towards the aspirations you’ve held for this square society, and how those have influenced your circular solidarity.
II D A Y # 6 II
It’s what we all experience every day.
Struggle to be on time. Struggle to be financially secure.
So frustrating, yet so essential.
Because happiness, by very definition, would mean nothing without struggle.
All that you find enjoyable… artwork, vacations, a strong drink.
It would all mean nothing, if not juxtaposed with assignments, work, and a stack of to-do’s.
Struggle is as essential to happiness as the activities which bring us that warm feeling of contentment.
Need an example of this? Oftentimes, it is those who have the most, who feel they have the least.
Without struggle, we are monotonous creatures of ill education and a lack of validity.
Struggle = Essential
Who would have thought? Not me. See, that’s the most frustrating thing about struggle; at the time, it seems horrid, uncomfortable and intolerable all at the same time.
I’ve realized, though, that if we hope to be a circular individual in a square society, you must have a strong foundation. A foundation which must first be built.
Sometimes, this process is painful. Sometimes, it cuts deeper than we ever expected. Most the time, however, it will play an essential role in building your personal confidence. The trick is to build the walls back up. Repair the damage and it will be stronger than ever before. How is strong muscle formed? It is torn over and over again, each time growing back a little bit stronger than the time before. Sometimes, the pain is essential.
Essential = Hurtful
Today, I had someone I haven’t seen in a long time say to me “thank God you chilled out you could be a little much sometimes last year.”
This comment offered endorsement in the idea that I’m sticking to my immersion experience with great dedication and effectiveness, and at the same time – it didn’t bother me at all. Not in the slightest. As a result of the antagonization I would receive occasionally throughout my childhood because of the traits I inhabited, I grew thick skin.
Much like a callous forms over fragile and irritated skin, I formed a callous to the perceptions of others. I learned to block out the innate human need to please others, and instead learned to find self-sufficiency and appreciation for the person I’ve become. It didn’t dawn on me till recently, but some of the most hurtful things which have been said to me have also been the most helpful.
Hurtful = Helpful
So tear that muscle, feel the burn and build the foundation of your life, because the more burn the stronger the foundation, and the more struggle you encounter, the more appreciation you have for the things that shine laughter into your life. To you, a cup of water is meaningless. Few people reading this drinks a cup of water and thinks “oh I’m so thankful to have this water.” Juxtaposed to the struggle you’re encountering, the pleasure of a cup of water is probably very small by comparison. To a young boy in Africa who has had little to drink in over a week, though, a cup of clean water is the world and a half.
It is not the material worth of that which brings us happiness which defines it’s magnitude, rather the heaviness of it’s impact on our life when offset by the the struggles we’re facing.
So, if my math is correct… and
Struggle = Essential
Essential = Hurtful
Hurtful = Helpful
then, by extension:
Struggle = Helpful
Now, isn’t that what I’ve been saying all along?
II C O N C L U S I O N II
“If everybody is special, then nobody is.”
Take this quote in. Think about it. It offers a criticism of the popular encouragement to be different and unique, and seems to play off the idea of “remember – you’re unique, just like everybody else.” Now, if this quote was offering a broad truth, then I would have to agree. However, I think we can all agree that the purpose of this quote is not one of observation but criticism, and I wish to juxtapose the intended rhetoric with the truthful application that this same sentence offers.
Yes, we are all special and unique, as we have been taught since the sunday school rhymes of individuality. However, rather than look at this idea as a devaluing idea of the individual simply blending in with the commonality of the majority, let us look towards the powerful unification of diacritic identity. We all have fingerprints, and no two fingerprints are the same. They are our identifiers, and among the eight billion people who share this planet, you are the only one who can be matched to that fingerprint. Now, imagine if your fingers were all cut off – thing’s would be a little tough, huh? Even the most simplistic of activities would suddenly inherit a whole new level of difficulty. The reason for which I raise this grotesque illustration is because the same can be said of personalities. No two are the same. Your personality is as much a part of you as your fingerprint. Why would you cut it off? Why would you hide the one thing which makes you different from the other billions of beating hearts on this giant floating rock? Embrace this key to individuality, because without it, the proverbial room of happiness will surely remain locked.
On my final day, I honestly couldn’t be more thankful to be completed. I can’t describe the feeling besides simply unhappy. I’m truly not myself, and I don’t feel as though I am. The only way I can provide a feeling to equate it to is how my friends used to describe the effect of ADHD drug Ritalin – that it made them feel too mellow, and not like normal. I have this proverbial weight as though I’ve been so fake and out of touch with the person I truly am. I feel as though I’ve been suffocating the real me for too long. Though, I will say, I can see how if an individual was to act differently for so long, that eventually they would begin to personify the fake characteristics they’ve been portraying. When you leave a piece of trash in the grass, eventually the vegetation begins to absorb the trash as a part of the whole, accepting its inevitable incorporation based upon its lengthly presence. This is comparable to the human instinct, in that if you force different personality traits upon your mind for long enough, it begins to accept these traits to be part of who you are. We see this exemplified every day by the slow integration of the traits of our friends into the identity of ourselves. Haven’t you ever had times where you’ve begun to display characteristics startlingly similar to someone you spend a great amount of time with? Exactly.
This project has revealed many thing’s in my life. It has revealed that I would not be the person I am today without the love of my friends, the strength of my foundation, the influence of my mentors, the role of my aspirations, the power of my struggles and an appreciation for my individual identity. I have shared this growth with you in the hopes that you, as the reader, have shared in the knowledge reaped from this experience, and have found a personal application to the lessons I’ve learned in order to better enable you to find self-validity in that which makes you different or sets you apart.
This photo exemplifies a stable “tree of stability”, as is illustrated by my previous journal entries.
Was I treated dramatically different? No. Was I surprised at the outcome of this immersion experience? Absolutely. While the result wasn’t what I expected, it drew out insecurities I never knew I had, and forced me to critically examine what has brought me this far. In addition, it gave me a new sense of the term ‘attitude of gratitude’. We spend so much time focusing on whats wrong with us, what’s insurmountable in our lives and what’s holding us from our dreams, that we spend little time focusing on what is absolutely f*cking fantastic about our individuality, reflecting upon the numerous ‘insurmountable’ mountains we’ve conquered and witnessed the view from, and appreciating that which holds us back and makes our successes that much more incredible. My mother has always said, “Don’t be so focused on the journey that you forget about the destination.” Well, I fully plan on enjoying the journey ahead, along with all of its setbacks, deadlines, stressors and fallouts. Why? Because without all of that nasty, depressing sh*t, I would have no reason to fully appreciate those rare, still moments in which I get to take a deep breathe and know, that even just for this one single moment in time, I’m going to be just fine. And in the simplicity of that moment, I find all the joy I need to continue. I encourage all who read this to find your circle – that one thing about you that doesn’t seem quite ‘proper’ – in this square society, and relish in the knowledge that you, by all accounts, are one of a kind. At the end of the day, this immersion experience has taught me one, magnanimous lesson:
I am not like ‘most’ people
(and I wouldn’t have it any other way)