49. Above all: be yourself, they say

”Invitation for the corporate photoshoot of March 16” I clicked on the email with a smile, knowing what was coming. Don’t wear brands, track pants/sweatpants, camouflage, worn-out rags or sweaters with cheesy or political slogans. Dress in one of these colors. Look sharp and groomed. Above all, don’t look too dull or gaunt. Please write some catchy promotional texts for our website while you’re at it. I read the rest of this never-ending shopping list as I shook my head. Fortunately, the catchy ending instantly cheered me up

”But most importantly: above all, be yourself!”

I leaned into my office chair with a smirk. Bloody jokers! Good thing that I turned down a renewed contract earlier – and therefore get off this scot-free. Watching the grand show instead of getting sucked into it is a real privilege. So I gratefully seized this luxury. I traveled with great anticipation to my final destination while wearing a slightly wrinkled and smelly t-shirt. Once I got there, I casually walked in whistling. A soon-to-be ex-colleague saw me and immediately started talking to me.

”So Ben, you’re all set for your trip?”

”Yeah bro. Can’t wait to spread my wings again”

”How long you’ll be gone for?”

”As long as I don’t get broke. Or homesick. Maybe I’ll get back to Holland for a holiday” I joked

”Great that you dare to take the leap”

”Yeah, well. There’s so much more than this pointless job. I’m so fed up with it”

* Short silence *

Goddamn Ben. Can’t you just keep that to yourself? 

”Good thing you’re quitting then ay? I’ll catch ya later. It’s my turn in a minute”

”Have fun. Or um, good luck”. Or whatever, I thought.

I watched as linesman as everyone got the shot. As long as your hair looks sharp. And your clothes. Or your makeup. All to “belong” and feed the ego. After all, the perfect picture is holier than the pope.

I took a seat in the back of the conference room once the professional photo safari was over. The boss walked to the stage and spoke. Passionately he talked about how important we are. He told us how grateful he is for this group of fantastic people and their endless efforts. No wonder he’s so jolly and cheerful. Raking in the dough in a blink of an eye… far out! So much better than having to dutifully listen to changes in personnel. Or symptom control of runaway systems, the urge for control and boxed thinking. Endless and unnecessary job creation instead of grabbing the bull by the horns. This. This is why I’m leaving. Just listen to this long-winded yuppie-drivel for a little bit longer. So many words while it comes down to a brief and plain conclusion:

You’ll become part of someone else’s (un)thoughtful plans if you don’t have one on your own

I wished some former colleagues all the best in the end. Then I walked into town to celebrate my regained time and focus. All this bloody rush, bustle and stress all around us. I saw the grand puppet show, which has and will perform no matter what. And how! The invisible hand acts firmly against dangerous freedoms and unprofitable passions. There are no ifs or buts. Don’t cross the line or stand out too much. Act normal, then you act crazy enough. Be ambitious and virtuous in business rather than authentic and contrarian. Act realistically, inclusively and politically correct. Vote for this or that party and never question the social narrative. Follow (anti-social media) trends, traditions, the law and the set path. Stick yourself into all sorts of debt, contracts and fairy tales. Work very hard and always be available. Don’t upset or hurt anyone. A good citizen is dutiful and obeys all (un)written rules.

So, in these circumstances, we’re supposed to be “ourselves”. And also chase our dreams while we’re at it. 

Well, I guess I’m just going to be myself then. I’m going to chase a dream. A dream that doesn’t fit this fake individuality. It doesn’t fit the collective OCD that doesn’t acknowledge the immeasurable or deviant. Perhaps these are idealistic fantasies of a woolly dreamer. Of yet another confused, weak, stubborn, work-shy, fussy, foolish and drifted young man. One who feels too good for a “steady” profession and the false security of the rat race. Could be. But a workable alternative must be feasible with all current techniques, knowledge and possibilities, right? An alternative in which imaginary money isn’t a suffocating collar. Yes, I dream of a more humane option. I dream of a (slightly) fairer world without the blown excesses in hierarchy, power and control. I sincerely dream that “our” story in the future will have a very different interpretation of creating value and a “humane existence”. A story without the cultural dictatorship of monetary fairytales, outdated ideologies and unnatural institutions. Hopefully, that will make a world where you can indeed be yourself or closer to yourself. If we haven’t lost doing so, that is.

Being yourself may cost a little – the price of blindly following the herd is much higher in the end

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