Thursday, November 15, 2012

Embracing Eccentricity

When was the last time you thought about your life? Not when it started, or will be over, but what you're doing with it in the present? So often I overhear people speaking of themselves in past tense with shiny adjectives like amazing, super, player, lover, sportsman, poet, friend, and the all-too-used rockstar. "You've never witnessed a man so good at picking up the ladies than this rockstar in his prime," explains one; "On the football field I was a beast, a certifiable wrecking ball," exclaims another. What about now? What about right now? Where are you my beast? Where are you my rockstar? What happened to all the bravado? Did time take it from you like a wild flame melts the wax off an antique candle? Maybe those moments of fondness come less with age, as we are pushed into more adult roles, gone are the beasts and poets, in come the parents and minivan pilots.

On a muggy Florida afternoon some years ago I briskly walked through an Aldi grocery store. It was oddly arranged in a manner that required visitors to navigate aisle-by-aisle each section, rather than that of an open market where visitors could quickly find what they sought and go. Beyond the layout, for the life of me I couldn't find a brand I recognized, all the food was from a different universe, one that had yet to buy an ad on TV to tell me how good it was. I cursed Aldi for this, this euro-quirk wasn't charming, I needed Boars Head ham, and I needed it now, enough with the walk-through-the-gift-shop on the way out stuff.

Five months ago I returned to Aldi with my girlfriend. This Aldi was in South Carolina, not Florida, but for all intensive purposes it had the same odd layout, same quarter-to-use shopping carts, and same white label brands. This trip was different though, from the start the place looked promising, maybe I'm more calm, or maybe my companion has me more calm. As we walked the aisles chock full of discounted knock offs of everything from Nutella to Fage, the world of Aldi started to make sense. With my girlfriend's enthusiasm in full tilt, we found deal after deal. She calmly walked the awkward aisles, pointing out a mix of delicious foods and good deals in a whispery tone meant for just us two. "Those are so good, and man did you see the price of those cheese crackers, what a deal," she'd enthuse. Her energy attracted others, even begging a fellow Aldian to smile and compliment her dress. We bagged, or rather boxed, our groceries into the quarter cart, and were on our way with a total savings somewhere north of 60%.

Later in the evening my girlfriend unpacked the boxes and made dinner from our Aldi bounty. She was quick to point out that the food we bought today would last weeks before needing replenishment. Her enthusiasm was contagious as I nodded in wholehearted agreement. I'm a believer, let's shop to save! Not that long ago I'd vowed to never shop Aldi again, and now I was swearing off my organic market pension in the name of all things Aldi.

We all have eccentricities, and what fun it can be to embrace them. My girlfriend loves budget shopping, you should see her at a dollar store by the way, and there is nothing wrong with her. In fact, it's what makes her interesting. I love obscenely expensive coffee from places that start their name with plantation and end with limited. I also like indie electronic music, crowdsourcing, new media, and all kinds of other things that don't have much in common with each other. What it means to me, and what it means to you are two different things, and my suppression of any of these passions, outside of taking away from time with family and work, is no longer cool. Rather, a thoughtful approach to those things I love in life is warranted, one where I do more to embrace them foolishly, rather than with the normal adultsy caution of a thirtysomething trying to exude the confidence that matches their rising age.

Maybe there is something you've been suppressing, something random to most but utterly detailed to you that you'd love to do more with? Or maybe you've come to terms with existing within the status quo because that's what adults do? Don't be afraid to bust out your most random hobbies and interests with those that love you, and don't be surprised when they love you that much more for doing so.

Pictured below a shot from my old garage, an ode to my undeniable eccentricity.