TBI Throwback: It's OK to be Different
With pandemics, lockdowns and tsunamis all dominating our headspace, it's a good opportunity to cast our mind back to simpler times. In our TBI Throwback, we look at stories that were making headlines on The Big Idea during the same week in years gone by. Originally published on 1 March 2019, Ross Murray's advice still rings true.
When I was 22, I was about to graduate from AUT and spend the next 10 months on the dole, working the occasional freelance gig as an illustrator/graphic designer before fleeing to Japan to ‘teach’ English. I was a shambolic, poorly-formed creature, flailing around at something to grip onto. The only thing I was creating was trouble.
If I had any advice for myself back then, it might be something like this:
It’s ok to be different. There’s no such thing as ‘normal’ so stop stressing about whether you’re doing something the ‘right’ way. Conformity is not something to aspire to. And stop worrying about what everyone else thinks of you. If you’d much rather stay home on a Saturday night in your underwear eating dried mango and watching Pingu, do it! As long as you’re honest and kind to others, you have nothing to fear.
Record everything. Not in a creepy spy-cam kind of way. Keep a journal. Even if you don’t write or draw in it everyday, what you do set down will offer precious windows into your life in years to come. Your brain is rubbish so don’t count on remembering much otherwise.
Be open-minded about everything. Preconceived ideas have the potential to be not only embarrassing but dangerous. See, read, hear or experience as much of everything as you can and you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you like. And just as importantly, of what you don’t. Such as Cubism. And it seems, both cleaning and basic hygiene.
Conformity is not something to aspire to.
Question yourself. I mean really interrogate yourself. Why do you think this? Why do you believe that? How, exactly, did you arrive at the conclusion that George Michael-style sculpted facial hair looks ok on you?
Hold yourself to high standards. Deep down, you’ll know if something’s not good enough. It might be good enough for some, but if it’s not good enough for you then that’s all that matters. For instance, that facial hair could definitely do with a little extra something - perhaps a paper bag to put over your entire head?
It’s ok not to pick up your phone. Engage with the world on your own terms and at your own pace. Thinking that your phone could ring at any second and you are compelled to answer it will give you a heart attack way earlier than you want one.
Pick up your phone! Seriously, you nearly didn’t pick up that call - you know the one - without which your future path is hard to imagine. Allow yourself to be open to opportunity. You know what, just get caller ID…
Look after yourself. Exercise. Eat less instant noodles - those tiny green flakes in the seasoning sachet do not count as vegetables.
Get help. If the very basic nature of much of this advice isn’t a giveaway, you’re doomed to remain trapped in a state of arrested development, both creatively and emotionally, for a number of years to come. What you have is an actual illness and it’s called anxiety. Even though you don’t understand this, you know how unhappy you feel. And even if you don’t know who to ask, someone is better than no one. Except ‘Pervy Pete’. Don’t ask him anything.
Finally, in the future, be wary of anyone suggesting that you’re qualified to give advice, even to a hypothetical version of your younger self.
Because you’re still trying to work it out and always will be.