Thursday, April 30, 2009

Social Norms, High School and Death Metal T-Shirts

Anyone who reads this blog knows it is no secret that I am a huge metal fan. I have been a metal head since I was in 5th grade and my love for the music has never wavered. When most people find out that I listen to metal they say something like, “I can’t believe you listen to metal” or “you don’t look like the typical person who likes that kind of music.” I understand that people like to group people with like interests into generalizations or categories. In a sense this is how our minds work. But back in the glory days, the high school days, I went through some interesting experiences brought upon me by my love of metal and I learned some valuable life lessons from those experiences.

I have always dressed kind of preppy I guess you would call it. It always just felt the most comfortable for me and my personality, and the fact that I played competitive hockey where dressing up for games was expected probably didn’t hurt either. Maybe it was for the girls, I don’t really know why we dress the way we do. However when I was in high school once every couple of weeks I would rock a death metal shirt to school. I wore an Obituary long sleeve shirt with evil body mutating trees on it. I wore a Cannibal Corpse shirt with rotting corpses performing lude acts on it. I wore many other band shirts that thankfully weren’t as bad as the Corpse shirt. Part of it was my love for the music, part of it was probably so satisfy some random teenage rebellion craving, and part of it was probably to wave my flag proudly that I didn’t think mainstream music at the time was any good.

What was interesting was what happened when I did this. Different girls or buddies would come up and ask what the shirt was all about. I would tell them it was a band I listened to and they would make some stupid joke or comment about it. I wasn’t too worried about it because all my real friends knew I was into it and even if they gave me a hard time about it they were just messing around. However, things got interesting when I would run into the kids that did fit the “typical person who likes that kind of music” mold. I would be walking by and I would get the classic poseur comment or something to that effect. What I found ironic was the fact there was some kid wearing a Marilyn Manson or Deftones shirt calling me a poseur while sporting a shirt from some of the most brutally heavy bands of all time.

What I find interesting when I look back is how even amongst various groups of people they are all trying to maintain the status quo. Everyone has situations in which they don’t feel like they fit in, especially during the teenage years. Instead of focusing on trying to always fit in, which I acknowledge is essential to human happiness, we should realize that there are times where it pays to stand out. When you don’t stand out you are average, and people aren’t rewarded internally or externally for being average. I am currently listening to an audio book by Seth Godin called Tribes. His book is all about becoming a leader and challenging the status quo. He argues that the new world needs and rewards “heretics” who go against the status quo, form tribes, and lead. It is a very good book that I will post a full review on shortly.

I think these experiences taught me to be more confident in myself, and to shrug it off when you are at the butt end of the joke. People are always trying to please other people especially at that age, but at the end of the day it is yourself that you must know and enjoy. A sense of self confidence is essential to living a life of learning and enjoyment. If you are always doubting and questioning what you are about and what you represent, how are you ever going to go about improving upon it?

I know this post is a random illustration of a simple concept, however like any great movie of the 80’s (see Lucas the 80's movie picture above!) what better way is there to analyze social norms and life lessons than reflecting on the stupid, unimportant scars you are left with from high school. If a whole decade of Hollywood producers can do it why can’t I?


Anonymous said...

'The Bleeding' shirt is one of the best ever from the 'Metal Days!' Nice Job Badski! Remember talking metal with the ultra crusty metalists in Corvallis??? They couldn't believe their ears and the fact that clean cut dudes can like Obituary. Totally awesome! Keep up the good work homie!


Matt Bader said...

Those are some of the best days of my life! Just cruising during the summer with metal shirts on.....that was all it took to make it a great day back then.