I was recently talking to the Vile Scribbler about navigating the opinions of others. He compared it to the mythical Scylla and Charybdis, an unending battle between the people who want you to change and the people who want you to stay the same.
Charting a course between the two generally means choosing the lesser of two evils — whichever makes you the least unhappy.
I wish I could say I always managed this well, but the truth is, I’ve often been something of a contrary Mary — doing the opposite of whatever the pushiest demographic wanted. In time I realized that I was still being manipulated, that I was still allowing the opinions of others to control me.
When I stepped out of that cycle, I was a bit mortified to find that I was not the rebel and iconoclast I’d always fancied myself. In fact, I hardly deviated from the median at all. And yet, I was simply happier, not through any change in circumstance; certainly not because I had a good job and a good man. It was because I’d stopped navigating by resistance, and instead began to listen to my internal compass.
It was both harder and easier. Harder because I could no longer define myself by my struggle, easier because I stopped operating in a me-against-the-system mentality. I don’t have to play that game anymore. Like Aneas, I just go around.
Are you playing games you’d rather not?