I Don’t Wanna And You Can’t Make Me

2010 May 17

Last week, I stumbled upon an interesting little discussion (with different strands appearing here and there) about the essential nature of blogging for the go-getting, job-seeking twentysomething. I couldn’t resist adding my two cents in one venue. And the response I wrote doesn’t just apply to blogging, it applies to any damn thing people tell you that should/must/have to do.

Photo by LaurenV.

The truth? You actually don’t.  You have to have a means of acquiring the necessities of life (food, shelter, etc.). You probably have to pay taxes (unless you’re a Fortune 500 company). You likely want to abide by prevailing rules of law and order and perhaps treat your fellow citizens with the degree of kindness and respect that will prevent you from being an utter pariah. However, you do not have to blog, or read Tolstoy, or shave your legs, or enjoy sports, or know about wine, or learn to golf, or buy organic, or aspire to bench press your body weight, or be in a relationship, or like coffee. You. Do. Not.

This culture of the imperative, especially as it relates to the workplace and to our pursuit of personal happiness, drives me nuts. It’s one thing to willingly and knowingly comply because of peer pressure, or a belief that this will improve your life or deciding that the blowback from non-compliance isn’t worth the headache to you, but we accept so many musts at face value without ever asking who has the authority to deliver these orders and what the consequence will be if we don’t fall into line. Hint: not anything as dire as what you’ve assumed or been led to fear. We let the imperatives rule us (must join LinkedIn, lose 10 lbs, find a mentor, etc.), but don’t think to question whether we even want to do the things we’re supposed to do or feel and whether the energy we channel into them could be better spent on something we are interested in or whether the resentment or resignation with which we face the imperative actually cancels out the benefits we’re purportedly going to derive from it in the first place.

These imperatives are not being delivered unto us from Charlton Heston in a fake beard reading off a couple of stone tablets. They’re coming from the media, from tv and movies, from peers, from self-minted “experts” and supposed gurus, from something someone read in a book one time and now preaches as gospel. These sources aren’t infallible and they all have (their) vested interests.  Sure, it would be great if their directives pan out for you, but as long as they increase their prestige, influence and bottom line, that’s what counts. Don’t kid yourself that the musts and shoulds that are raining down on you are born solely of altruism and a desire for you to be a happier,  fulfilled, successful person. There’s always more to the story.

It’s time to get in touch with our inner toddlers and to regress back to the days when Because I said so or It just is or Everybody wears shoes that match weren’t satisfactory answers. The fact that Mom says that you’re supposed to eat those carrots or that everyone else at daycare would be outfitted in appropriate footwear didn’t mean a damn to us back then. And you know what? It really shouldn’t mean a damn to us today, either.

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