In middle school, I spent objectively too much time reading dystopian Young Adult fiction novels and watching rom-coms from the 1990s and 2000s, which have now left me with a questionable repertoire of references and an insatiable taste for casual insurgency. I’ve never considered my attempts at nonconformity as dangerous to others simply because the scale of my “anarchy” is what many would call pathetic.
Like many of my other personality traits, I could easily blame my weirdest qualities on my immediate family. To many of my friends, buying a pair of ripped jeans or eating a sandwich with white bread are simple, unweighted choices. For me, deliberately calculating the cost-benefit analysis of such choices is a crushing reminder of how I’m disappointing my mother. The idea of buying white bread—even when it’s on sale—sends a chill down my spine, lighting up my nervous system with my eight-year-old self’s fear of stepping out of line.
While I have no qualms about hiding my purchase of what my mother calls “overpriced pants that have already been broken” from her, I always feel a sense of anxiety when stepping into them, as if I have gained a power I have no control over. Even though I fully understand that the pants annoy my mother, it feels almost stupid to think that wearing pants with holes in them is a way to forge some kind of path forward for myself.
I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as a rebellious person, but I am often compelled to do things that I had previously avoided at all costs, as long as there are hilariously low stakes. For the majority of my life, I actively avoided any and all scary movies. When I went to see //Titane// (2021)—a body horror drama film about a serial killer—I felt a glowing sense of pride as I left the theatre, even if I watched most of the movie’s gruesome first third through my fingers. It may not have been a traditional “scary” movie, but having previously avoided horror like the plague, it felt like a weird, powerful step towards overcoming my fears.
Sometimes I think that these casual acts are just a product of all my own insecurities—maybe a new angle at which I can attempt to not be myself. Because of my persistent inclination towards making self-deprecating jokes, I know that it’s easy for me to joke about the low-stakes nature of these challenges. But inadvertently, some of these new efforts have brought me genuinely closer to different parts of myself than I had previously thought possible.
I’ve spent a solid two decades complaining about sports: I got excited about the Super Bowl solely because of the buffalo wings and would constantly decry that I didn’t get sports—it was easy to hide my chagrin from not understanding them behind loud expressions of hostility. Yet, for all the times I’ve annoyed my family by complaining about the television constantly being tuned to the sports channel, my dislike has finally started to crack. While my brother bribing me with takeout to watch Mets games with him didn’t exactly spark joy, following the Rangers during the Stanley Cup playoffs last year with my family was an intense, yet jubilant experience. Watching every game was more than just a few hours of visual engagement; it was a true bonding experience. Becoming a hockey fan probably should have felt like a betrayal of my own opinions, but I found that picking up the game was more of a fun challenge—I don’t understand a good amount of the rules, but I still won’t quit.
I’m not immune to wishing I could take risks that are indubitably serious, or wanting to know more surely where that drive comes from. But for the most part, I’m pretty content with my low-pressure unrest—if the worst thing that can come from it is ribbing from my family, I can probably handle that. Regardless of how strange or mundane some risks may seem, if they bring me closer to myself and to my family, I see no good reason to stop.