In earlier posts I have referenced comments by a local beverage store manager in his weekly “Boozeletters,” where it talks about special events and new arrivals at the store, along with interesting recipes. He ends each newsletter with an “After Rant.” where he opines on random things he has thought about during the week. Sometimes they are simply rants, other times they are very philosophical. I thought this week’s was especially good, and excellent advice for us all. It’s quite long (sorry) but rather that end up quoting most of it, I am pasting it below. I hope you enjoy it.
THE EPILOGUE: “THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU”
So my whole life, for as long as I can remember, I have been made to feel like an alien or a weirdo. You can pick whatever name you want to put on it. At a certain point you stop arguing and just kind of roll with it. Say you are odd before they do! “Oh yeah I like to reheat my pizza in the oven, because you know me, I am an oddball.” I like to wear socks that match I like to wear mismatched socks. I like things to be neat, I like things to be messy. I skip the ends of songs, I eat dessert first, I walk around with the pebble in my shoe for hours before taking it out.
YOU”RE NOT WEIRD! Maybe no one ever told you this before, certainly no one has told me this, but it came to me like a lightning bolt right when I was in the middle of apologizing for the way I like to eat a meal. I eat the worst thing on the plate first and finish with the best. I realized that there was in fact nothing wrong with this or me at all. It greatly increases my enjoyment of the meal and effects zero other people except for one ex that took notes “doesn’t like my green beans”. It is just a totally harmless ritual that gives me the most pleasure and I have no reason to apologize or explain it to anyone. You have your own set of idiosyncrasies, and they came not from some broken part of your brain but from trial and error. This concept of normal, this concept of the right way, these are outdated nonsense ideas that are only impeding your joy. When I was a young man I was making a sandwich and adding more and more things because it was disgusting my father. And even though I didn’t really like the creation I ate it all because it was more important to bother him. But what I took from that and it has been a great life lesson is that even at five I knew that I was going to find the thing, whatever it was. I knew that there must be some untried combination that was yummy and boring adults had not tried it because they were so boring. I have spent decades explaining and defending myself because I assumed that they there right. I was only enjoying these ghastly creations because I am a weirdo, an outcast, a nerd, a geek, or a freak. When in fact, the addition of crispy potato chips inside my sandwich elevates the meal because of the additional crunch, that is now in EVERY bite.
There is a huge part of the population that is walking around and very aggressively trying to maintain the “norms”. Raising their kids that way, interrupting peers, and even strangers to guide folks back to the straight and boring. They hold on to the “rules” like they were a life preserver. When they see you walking your own path they get jealous and defensive. They long ago gave up on living the kind of life they actually wanted and are now committed to ruining your good time because YOU are doing it wrong? Kick rocks! Playing it safe got you to a place to where you want to bother folks that are having a good time doing it their own way? This is your victory? This is your mountain top? When I see the person skipping down the path singing songs in their head, that is the person that inspires me. Not the person who has a cinder block land on their toe and says “unfortunate” as they limp off into the night.
The spiritual guide for The Boozeletter, is one Hunter S Thompson and he championed the doomed. He said let your freak flag fly! But as much as I love him, he was wrong in a way. We are not in fact freaks. That is the name given to us for knowing what we actually like. Figuring out what you actually like is one of life’s most important challenges and you can only arrive there by actually trying things out. You can only get there by trying lots of things and figuring out where you want to be. They said you should be aloof and cynical but you heart tells you to get involved and to celebrate joyously. They said Billy Joel is out, but you love Keeping the Faith. “you know the good ole days weren’t always good and tomorrow isn’t as bad as it seems”. You love reality tv and pizza rolls and have no desire to see the Opera. My friend Adam puts peanut butter on his burger, it’s a family tradition! His addition of peanut butter has diminished zero of my burgers. It has no impact on them at all. I tried it once, didn’t really love it and moved right along. Didn’t need to label him and his whole family freaks to make me feel better about my condiment choices. I love peat, i love smoke, I love funky rums, it doesn’t make me weird and you are not weird for not liking them. What would be wrong, is if you just kept buying Laphroaig and Adrbeg and Hampden Rum and Mezcal after Mezcal just hating it all but drinking it because they said they were cool and advanced or whatever.
Why is there an unending line of people telling us we are doing it wrong? Like there is some kind of fool proof guide book to live a happy life. You finally got to Paris and found out the city was dirty. The Mona Lisa is actually a quite small painting, and now that you finally tried it, you like Makers better than Van Winkle. Oh we cannot say these things aloud! We must protect our thoughts that fall outside of the agreed upon or else we shall be shamed once again! Well I am done with all of that! I will drink what I want, eat what i want, watch what I want, and do them all how I like it best. I will quit a movie in the middle because it is not going to get better, I will dump my unsatisfying drink down the drain, I will stop eating when I am full, and the revolution can start with me. No one has to follow me, we can’t defeat the volume of the “normies” but we can find our spaces to shine and be free, and your brain needs to be one of those spaces. Although, putting crispy chips in your sandwich because that is magic is something worth trying. You can do it all the way you like it and stop apologizing for it instantly.
All of those people that have been calling you out for all of this your entire life were dead wrong. Jealous, insecure, closed off jerk faces that saw your joy and freedom and wanted to ruin it for no good reason. You were happily putting sesame chicken on top of plain spaghetti noodles and they said “you can’t do that!” What do you mean I can’t? I did and I like it. “Because it is wrong!” “It is wrong for me to enjoy something?” “Yes it is wrong and you are weird.” So you believe them because they are older and seem wiser and oh boy are there a lot of them. Family members, romantic partners, teachers, coworkers, RANDOM strangers! They are everywhere they are one hundred percent certain you are doing it wrong and that you are abby normal!
Perhaps our greatest gift is that we are these unique people struggling through all of life’s same situations. That the individual and the universal coincide harmoniously. That you like a mocha but she likes plain coffee but when it falls off of the roof of the car spilling before even one sip has been taken, well you have done that as well. You know that pain and frustation. Do you go back for more? Do you go home and quit? Do you suffer through your now certainly ruined day? So even though you like to get warm coffee and let it sit until it is room temperature, and she takes her ice coffee and puts it in the freezer to make it even colder, it still stinks when it spills! If you dress like a fashion runway model or you are just trying to pass through without being noticed, neither of you wants red wine to spill on your clothes. We see people doing a thing that we don’t do or maybe that we don’t enjoy doing it and part of us just wants to label them as crazy, odd, misguided or flat out wrong. But why? I mean someone out there likes soggy fries and that is just fine! People love Basil Hayden and I have never owned a bottle of it and I never will but dammit, enjoy it if you do! Do I think you should just keep buying it over and over and over until death? No I do not. I think there is a whole world out there to be explored and if what is preventing you from exploring it is fear then that is not being in your happy place.
I am talking about the results of exploration. You tried the crispy fries because that’s what everyone said was the best. But you just don’t like them. You tried all of those cask strength bourbons but you just don’t like them. You want soft and mellow. Great, enjoy it! The real test in life is to just be the best verison of you that you can be. That’s all. You may not get to change the world, but you can still drop your friend off at the airport. You might not learn another language but when someone from another country is trying to figure it out you can patiently help them. They said “Citizen Kane” is better than “The Big Lebowksi” but you dozed off to the one and have seen the other one hundred times. You don’t owe them anything. Their rules are arbitrary and based on who knows what! Every single hundred point wine is not meant to be had today. They are meant age, so you can grab a Page Mill Cabernet and wipe the floor with Silver Oak or any other Wine Spectator anointed wine. You are an adult and you have hopefully figured out who you are and what you enjoy. So go and do those things and do them proudly.
I have a friend in the business that does Midori shots. Midori is way too sweet for me, but it gives him great joy, so he is not wrong, and neither am I. Because there is no absolute. Scotch tasted rotten to me when I was 21 and now it tastes like magic. I wasn’t wrong then and I am not wrong now. So the next time you are about to bring out the speech about “well I know that people say I am weird because I like to put ranch dressing on my steak, but it just tastes good to me.” Skip it, pour the ranch on and enjoy YOUR steak. I tell customers all of the time “I am not taking confessions today” and the reason I say that is because the only part I care about is did you enjoy it? If you enjoyed it, you won! And you can say that you don’t like Blue Label, that you thought Silver Oak was too oaky, that Clase Azul is too sweet, that you don’t enjoy Marvel movies etc because the reverse is true as well. You don’t HAVE to like something because they told you it was great.
Boil it down to this folks. We are all wrong about so many things on a daily basis. They thought the sun revolved around the earth. What we are NOT wrong about, is preferring Chicago style pizza over New York. We are not wrong about unpacking our suitcase the moment we get into the hotel. We are not wrong about cake being better than pie. We are only wrong when we take the pie out of someone else’s hands and shout “let them eat cake!” You worry about you, and let them worry about them, and if someone prefers pie over cake that’s great! You do not belong on the island of misfit toys because you watch the entire credits at the end of the movie. I am sorry if no one has ever told you this.