I have many memories of stepping into a skin tight dress, sliding on laughably high heels, and tottering through a dusting of snow with my girlfriends on our way to a college party. The party, thrown by a group of men (boys?) on campus, was always listed and always almost full. So we would wait outside in New England winter while a washed up bouncer slowly ticked through our names, consulting his Guest List of Power. It was worth the wait, though, because once inside we would be showered with free (priceless?) vodka and male attention (sometimes). Except one day it started not being worth it, and every time I forced my body into my Saturday night best I felt sad and disgusted. But that was the culture, so I sucked it up (and in) and followed the scent of desperation to the nearest party.
Now I have one semester left in college. And after a grippingly honest conversation with a friend, she bestowed some wisdom upon me: For every culture, there are a million countercultures. I’m realizing now that it’s in those countercultures where we might find our happiness. A happiness that trumps FOMO and YOLO. A happiness that fills you up so much that you have no time or room to think about what other people are doing or what vodka-soaked rager you’re “missing.” It’s in the countercultures that you find what you’ve actually been missing. For me, it was authenticity. I had been desperate to connect with others on a dimension nearly imperceptible to the naked eye. A dimension that leaves shot-sharing, Instagram friendships in its wake.
It’s in these countercultures that we can finally exhale and strip away the neuroses we’ve developed in trying to keep up with the culture. It’s in these countercultures that we can be unapologetically ourselves. It’s in these countercultures that we can redefine what our culture is going to be.
Don’t be afraid to step away from the culture of things if it’s not where you want to be. The greatest risk in life is letting fear get in the way of discovering yourself.