Self Reliance

Somehow, certainly not because It was assigned to me in Organizational Leadership, I found myself reflecting on an essay written by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  The following are my findings:

Emerson explains that for the most part, our population acts with consistency. That is to say, our past actions and characteristics dictate those in our present and future.  In this way, little advancement can be made within one lifetime.  We tend toward consistent actions and reactions it seems for predictability’s sake, so that others can know what to expect from us and when to disapprove.   In order to gain strength and make changes, people must focus on self-reliance and our current perceptions of our surroundings to dictate our actions.  I can see truth in this when I look at the transition between high school and university for people like me, who have had to travel a serious distance from home.  Life transitions like that cannot just draw from past experience if we want to succeed through them.  Imagine if we treated university like we did high school.  Yes “they say” that an undergraduate degree is the new high school diploma. Perhaps it’s because it is necessary to be this educated in the current world, but perhaps people are also looking at it the way they looked at previous learning experience in high school (as a necessity that has to be done, merely for grades and accreditation, because it is expected, how they’ll raise wealth).  The successful students likely used their education for their own means, interpreted information for themselves anew and applied it to their current (and potential future) lives. Regardless of whether they use the commonly adopted tips tricks and strategies to pass or excel grade-wise, they learn, grow, and are likely more satisfied people.  This is not to say that I personally follow this mantra of “the love of learning”.  I recognize that I can capitalize on my education by personalizing my experience, and taking it to heart, regardless of whether or not my peers like to joke about how they “do what they need to get by” and seriously dislike school.  Certain classes don’t speak to me personally, and so I follow to socially accepted minimal effort for maximum return practices (and assumingly retain nothing). There are other classes, however, in which I feel personably accountable to learn to material. This, I assure you, I would have never done based on my experience in high school.


Sure, I can recognize that, to others, this makes me a “keener”, and friends of mine may look upon that with distaste.   This speaks to Emerson’s point about originality vs. imitation.  He notes that imitation, in terms of strength, happiness, and advancement, is suicide.  Simultaneously he relates originality to the ultimate goal of self-reliance, with positive results.  Society, he says, stifles originality by expressing disgust to those who break social norms. I, personally, derive satisfaction from those instances when other people look at my actions in awe (whether positive or negative from their perspective).  This ranges from being an over-enthusiastic sustainability-buff, or that girl who full-out jogs to class while singing Neil young at square block’s audible range and wearing rubber boots.  I agree with Emerson on this topic in the way that, regardless of whether or not there is societal evidence, these personal preferences and oddities will benefit me… somehow.  I believe, in fact, that the initial distaste that others put forward when witnessing something “original” is entirely on the surface.  Almost in fear, in case others will alienate you for condoning the odd behaviour.  I feel that they are secretly jealous of my freedom of expression (or of Neil Young’s expression I suppose), and that they recognize the innate confidence.  The evidence is in the fact that I do in fact have friends, regardless of my behaviour.  Some people are drawn to originality.  I believe I could form a Neil Young singing-rubber boot wearing-running club.

This leads to Emerson’s perception of hero worship.  Though individuals in society are drawn to consistency and wince at abnormality, over time, it is those peculiar people that act on their own instinct, who develop a following.  He mentions Calvanism and Jesus, among many other religious leaders or heroes.  The individuals begin with unusual ideas or characteristics, but these eventually become the norm as groups of people congregate under their beliefs.  The picture of Mark Zuckerburg on the front page of Time pops into my head.

Someone without conventional social skills revolutionizes socialization.  Must I again mention that I believe I may lead a group of Neil Young singing-rubber boot wearing-runners, one day.

I do disagree in part with his perspective of society and culture, only in that I believe culture has changed since the time of his writing.  He carries the perspective that nonconformity is thwarted from every direction.  In large Canadian cities at least, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  There are so many fringe groups and odd characters produced due to the perceived anonymity of the individual in a large city that, at least personally, I feel that nonconformity has very few consequences.  Perhaps he is still correct, however, given that currently, there is a group, cult, or sect that fills nearly every distinction.  Few of us are on our own with our individuality, as we find the same individuality in others and gravitate toward them for security and support.  My self-reliance has grown tenfold, however, since leaving home in pursuit of university in a very non-Yukon place.  I haven’t particularly found a cult or a homogenous group that I fit in. I have, however, found myself accumulating friends and succeeding in school while doing things that those around me simply were not.  Being in a bigger city has definitely encouraged me to recognize that my perspective is not at all like the perspectives of those around me, but that expressing those perspectives as my own has improved my skills as a leader.  Even in this third year of school it continues.  I began the school year as “that one girl who rollerblades to class in the rain”.  As the months passed, I saw three more take up the activity (one of whom was my enthusiastic roommate).

Either way, checkmate Ottawa


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