A counter culture comes out of people who don’t identify with the mainstream culture.
I have spent a lot of time at boarding school. Due to which I feel like I don’t know much, and i haven’t seen much of the world. Like when i got out of there, it was so overwhelming for me, i am still recovering. But what came as a culture shock for me was that the people I idolized, they were so much more advanced than I was. They read Goethe, Freud, and blah blah. I on the other hand read just the mainstream young adult novel series and had read so little books. I wanted to write, but they were so much better writers than me. I knew nothing about the references they made. I felt left out. I felt timid and unpopular. I felt like I could never fit in.
I watched Disney, I watched chick flicks, I listened to Ke$ha and my room was covered in pop culture celebrities’ posters and pin ups, I had spent thousands of rupees on collecting music cds and DVD’s that were looked down upon as trash. I was like that naive young character in the movies who speaks in a paindoo southern accent and steps out into the big city and people make fun of him. Like that receptionist guy from 30 Rock. I was a misfit in the world of people i wanted to be a part of. And i knew not how to navigate it.
I have always had this complex where I’m not supposed to have the things others have, or i need to be the first one to have it; i need to have something when others don’t have it. It has not got to be mainstream, it has to be hidden, but at the same time it’s supposed to be cool and “me.” I will not go for different things for the sake of being different, it has to connect with me. It has to make me feel unique and lost and at the same time, more refined and left out. While it worked at boarding school where I was bullied on my choices, I realized that in the real world, nobody re reads their Princess Diaries novels daily (I would literally have read the series about a 500 times) and imagines they’re in a music video and sing the songs out loud (yes, i think my life is a music video and my iPod is the soundtrack supervisor).
But this approach didn’t work. I was left lonely and confused about where I stood. I was then thrust into med school ( I use thrust because it’s not something I wanted at that time). That didn’t get me time to actually go through all the things that “those” people loved and who made them who they were. But I didn’t stop doing what I liked. I didn’t stop liking what I liked. Mainly because I didn’t have time to refine myself due to the workload, but I kept being myself. That was my mantra, be myself.
I felt the dire need to be cultured. To refine my taste according to the people who were cool. I would go to those hipster hot spots in Islamabad and feel rejected. I didn’t like Bob Marley or Dylan, nor did I like Nirvana, sorry. I’m sorry I haven’t watched Casablanca or Gone With The Wind (nor read it). I make my own vanilla latte at home, and I cook my own lasagna and I dream, dream to be included and accepted somewhere. I didn’t study at a liberal college, nor had I done A levels. I didn’t like going to art galleries (back then) and i didn’t quote Sylvia Plath or some famous cultural icon. I didn’t listen to vinyl records. I didn’t have an iPhone or a mac book (I still don’t). I wasn’t sophisticated. And I was not OK with it.
Then I started to grow up. I felt emotions I had never felt before, and I needed something to relate to. That is when I started reading books that made sense, discovered artists that I could earlier not connect to and be able to sit through two hour long indie films that would earlier put me to sleep. I started thinking more. I started exploring life more. I felt like growing up, I totally changed and along with that, so did my choices. I now proudly tell people that I liked Lorde when she had barely seven thousand likes on her Facebook page, which now boasts three million plus likes. I predict which indie band will make it big and i watch films before they get famous. I watch unusual tv shows that people haven’t even heard of, and the films, don’t even get me started on the kinds of films I watch, it’s boring and influencial. Over time, I have refined my taste, a lot.
I read books that you can find at the back corners of book stores that you find on amazing discounts, I write poetry that never follows the ways that people love, I wear clothes that define me and not what i should follow. I offend my elders because I speak the truth and I offend my peers because i don’t conform to their labels. But I like it. I have found what I like. I can finally find things I can relate to. I feel like I am a culture myself.
But I also now feel people can relate to me too.
I could never have forced myself to like something because somebody else I liked liked it.
I could never have been me.
Growing up helped me find myself, I didn’t get stuck in one place and God forbid if i do. I like this growth. I like this phase where I don’t really have an opinion on anything. I like being simple. I like not going deep. I like not finding meaning. I like liking for the sake of liking. I like not conforming to the rules of cool. I love Katy Perry, but at the same time I like Brandyn Burnette and Shura, who are indie artists I’m sure you’ve not heard of.
It’s very important to give yourself time to find where you stand and what you like. And it’s also important to realize that you’re only cultured if you think you are. You cannot let the fact that you don’t read a certain genre of books like most literary refined people do, get to you and bring you down. Explore. Find treasures only your heart can cherish. You can either read Tao Lin, or you can read Stephanie Meyer, it’s your choice.
Your Choice is your culture.
And know, that you are cultured.