The Appeal of Conformity

It’s 9-something-am on a Tuesday. I decide to boil the kettle again. Actually, no, I’ll head down the road for a takeaway coffee. Today’s to-do list now has some content.

I walk from my door into the public sphere. My leg muscles are slowly cured from couch paralysis as I dodge the foot traffic of commuting, hunchbacked office workers.

Work or travel.. work is the real of living.. right?

Their heels and dress shoes click on the pavement. My Ugg Boots don’t do that. They scuffle and drag, and give depth to my unruly, rugged look. Now I feel underdressed and lower-classed, while they sound like Juilliard School tap dance auditionees.

I inspect the briefcase-wielding, smartphone fanatics. They’re looking pretty sharp. Sexy even. Makeup and trimmed eyebrows mask any longing of return to their overly quilted bed, which probably has some rare African animal perpetually sleeping on it.

I begin to forget why last year I traded in a sense of uniformed and idle wealth as a banker to fill my veins with art and creativity.

How enticing the suit, tie and designer beard now is to emulate – particularly for us unemployed/seldom published/musician types. My beard still has jam on it.

I jealously think about what this handsome bunch has to look forward to in another 36 business hours: joining the TGIF crowd for a deserved bucket of alcohol soup.

Odes should be dedicated to the satisfaction of dissolving into the inebriated post-work masses at the bar or Bali-replicating restaurant.

And how blissful are the 6pm yoga classes that seem to amplify appreciation of that Bharadvaja’s Twist because you have momentary reprieve from huddling over a mass-produced, ergonomic-enemy of a keyboard.

I’m waiting for traffic at the intersection, swimming in a sea of tailored threads and fragrances endorsed by idolized celebrities. I look down at my pyjama top, which I’ve disguised as simply an unremarkable t-shirt.

There’s a puzzle of crumbs on it, originating from the last piece of bread in the loaf, which most cash flow-rich folk would dare not consume. I remember the life I left behind.

I was a professional at relationship building, network infiltrating, office gossip, and advising house hunters of their maximum borrowing amount “as per the bank’s policy”. Wearing a freshly pressed CK shirt, at merely the same cost as a low-income family’s fortnightly grocery list, made me feel that the university degree my parents paid for was earned – and not slept through.

Standing dazed in an insecure trance, I begin to miss a weekday existence where I didn’t have to walk empty sunlit streets, lie in deserted beaches, or feel the guilt of a midday thumb twiddling session.

I recall being a part of the working population.

You serve a purpose. Your ten-man team in your thirty-tier corporate structure is of grave importance to the functioning of the community.

You have things to do. You might fucking hate those things. But at least you’ve got a savings plan, a reason to wear corporate attire, and a prospective promotion to do more important shit that you hate.

All is thus well, and you can join everyone else in hiding psychotic jealousy of your Euro tripping Facebook friend with a collective ‘oh, he’s living the dream, hey’.

The largest freedom you are given (‘freedom’ becoming a yucky and frightening concept) is the right to vilipend those whose working hours are unmatched by yours. University students, Uber drivers, and stay at home parents are all included here.

On your fortnightly birthday when your corporate parent gifts you your paycheck, waste no time for independent thought as to why you wouldn’t spend 70% of it on a mortgage.

Instead, comfortably surrender to an assumption that the countless similar young businessmen and businesswomen buying homes have considered all of their options beforehand. “They did, so I should” is sage advice from your internal, conformist guru.

The one and three-quarter bedroom, semi-inner city apartment will drown out your childish and absurd wonder of something like how a year abroad would be. Your one mate who did that came back home and stopped going to Bikram Spin Yoga classes and won’t bitch about mutual friends with you anymore. Fuck that.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

I snap out of my envious thinking as a herd of materialistic rhinos gallop passed me. The little green man has allowed us all to cross the steal and four-wheel infested street.

At the cafe, I trade several silver coins for a cup of black coffee, and get a free smile from a bright-eyed, blue-haired barista with a Seneca quote tattooed on her forearm.

Returning home to silence and decor that lacks the sparkle of fluorescent lighting, I start yearning for corporate ladder climbing. I wonder if I could sell my guitar case and buy a Xerox machine. I also consider getting a stock portfolio, possibly with shares in watermelons and shoelaces without plastic tips. I Google subscriptions to business luggage magazines.

Realising my manager still hasn’t paid me for last weekend’s gig at a Burger King reopening I postpone my status-enhancing investments. Instead, I sit outside to read a used copy of John Williams’ Stoner.

Soon, I’ll quieten any leisurely guilt with Tuesday’s second task (lunch), when I’ll retrace steps in my Uggs to this morning’s cafe for an unsophisticated toasted sandwich and a serving of Seneca.

I pray, however, that I won’t retrace the same steps to envy, as the appeal of conformity – the allure of complacency – attempts to outweigh another appeal: to be myself.


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