I will always remember one of the first days of my secondary school when my new geography teacher stood before the class with his memorable commencement speech: “You might have a picture of what a geography teacher is like but let me tell you this: I am different.” This was followed by something even more special: him emphasizing the three rules we have to follow in his classes, which turned out to be only two rules – attention and activity – with the third bullet point on the blackboard being left to fade into oblivion unnoticed and all of the class left wondering.
Believe me, that teacher was damn right saying he’s different as we all later discovered…
Being different than the rest, not belonging to the herd of sheep we humans sometimes are, seems like a virtue these days. Some people try so hard to be different that eventually they end up being the same as the rest. Like the hipsters who in all their difference somehow failed to see they actually all look the same. But this is just looks. As unimportant a thing as it might be, it is crucial in some places, on some occasions.
To be specific, the place I’ve got in mind is Slovakia, my home, and those occasions are any normal, day-to-day things like, say, walking down the street.
After moving back home from London I almost forgot about how much people STARE here. It is like our tradition, some innate need to observe, evaluate and then judge people around. Anyone with extravagant clothes, hair, hat, fancy headphones, and so on and so forth gets to be stared at. In this country we don’t want any extremes – that should probably be our national motto. It doesn’t matter if you are overdressed or under-dressed, too fat or too skinny, too tall or too short, too beautiful or too ugly, if you run or walk too slow – it’ s out of the ordinary so it’s just not okay. Even people carrying large bags, suitcases, broomsticks, or mops. They all have to endure the curious gaze of passers-by. I was actually gonna buy a mop the other day but thought twice about it because on that particular day I didn’t feel like being stared at.
So how then can you avoid being judged on the streets or at work? Be average. Or you know what? Just be invisible.
Slovakia is a country that is still very conservative. People are afraid of any change, afraid of being different. I have heard many times my friends and family saying something like: “I’d love to wear this but what would people at work say?” Well, screw them all ! You don’t have to care about what they say, you do as you damn well please – that’s my reply.
But for that you gotta have the balls. Not many people here have the balls to be different, but it’s getting better I guess.
I wish step by step we will fight the closed-mindedness and all the trifles that do not now, never have and never will matter.
After London I managed not to care for quite a long time and the feeling was great and so relieving. And although the Slovak nature got to me partially again, I am still breaking the stereotypes and so far quite successfully.
Let’s not forget:
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Dr. Seuss