“Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start here.”
– Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful things
I will eventually get to why I decided to call this piece ‘That one Sock’ – but I’d first want to set the record straight – this is me piecing my words together on a broken plate after what seems like an eternity. An eternity that saw me change, gathering glimpses of the best and worst versions of myself, the unbecoming of who I thought I’d never be.
I was always told that personal stories never resonate with the masses, that roughly translates to this does not make commercial sense – the former I never could wrap my head around, about the latter I’d only wish someday we’d stop making commercial sense
That one Sock is essentially a conversation around utility beyond the pair. What is the value of that sock beyond a pair?
I was once offered a valuable suggestion when I deferred to an isolated sock as a loner, the context being a discussion around pet peeves.
We started off by listing out the most annoying things we had to encounter on a day-to-day basis
1. Walking into a store for something and buying everything except the one thing that got you to the store
2. That sinking Sunday evening feeling, dreading the week that will be upon us soon
3. Couples who sit next to each other instead of across each other
4. Humble-brags who think everyone else can’t see through that bullshit
5. But you know the worst – losing a sock, and then another one – mysteriously swallowed up by the washing machine. And what are you left with? Poor loner socks? What good are loner socks?
No. Not a loner, rather a survivor – a frivolous correction/ soul stirring advice that I hung onto for what seemed like a lifetime (and I’d have to thank the man who led me to it)
Survivor. Survivor. Survivor. My thoughts echoed to me on my way to work, while I poured myself coffee, as I walked down the stairs. They echoed my heart out.
While the value of utility of that one sock may be subject to diverse factors that premeditate the loss of it thereof, what really is a hard pill to swallow is the loss of identity in a way that begs the question
What is one sock all about anyway? Why exist?
Also could this very contextual definition of utility ie something we offer to the world be somewhat misconstrued to that of individuality?
Back when I stepped into my early 20’s, the one thing I thought I’d offer the world was unadulterated individuality. Defining myself was quite a struggle as it could be for any susceptible 20 year old. Work was a close proxy to defining myself. I needed a better definition of course because it wasn’t a definition of who I really was.
So there it was – the value system you adhered to, the choices you made, the relationships you built, the ones you broke, the memories you savored, the ones you erased, the words you cherished – the sum of all the experiences that catered to your existence
Here I am a decade later having to explain myself and my selfish approach to life. I am ashamed and answerable to the choices that I have, over the years meticulously ensured and hardwired to be – a quintessential part of me.
The choices transcend geographies, people, culture, beliefs, languages, opinions, influence and perspective.
I am also ashamed and incredibly embarrassed to admit that I am answerable to the men I met a few minutes ago and those I’ve been speaking to for a couple of years now.
Why Him? Why Her? Why work? How long? Do you really want that? Why didn’t you? How could you? Why should you? Do you? Why speak? Why write?
I was never too thrilled about the fact that defining myself was contingent on a definition brought to the table by my soon to be better half
And at that precise moment I realized what love costs. I didn’t realize what it was worth, but I realized what it cost
A painful realization that you had to not only succumb to but somewhere down the line align to – The one that leads you to dissect emotion rather than internalize it, given that you had to adhere to it any which way
Most of my friends and people I spoke to, claimed that this was an easy conclusion to get to while being at the helm of failed relationships myself. But I am trying to get you to focus on the math of my words as ambiguous as they sound
How and when did we start devaluing individuality? It is a cultural affliction? Social Conditioning? Or something very inconsequential, yet gender specific that interjects a way of life that predominantly surfaces once you hit 30?
An era where families, children, societies, take precedence over ‘the self’ as a way of life.
The fundamental difference in perspective was wrought out in Hofstede’s definition of individualist and collectivist societies.
Disregarding textbook definitions & geographical associations, individualism is not just an American concept. It strikes a chord with many of us across different cultures and boundaries who want to participate, engage, inspire and put in a good amount of work to be the best version of ourselves.
As Lia Tsuladze brilliantly pens down the essence of that very thought in her research ‘Individualist Trends in Collectivist Societies’
Modern reality… The epoch of a strange duality – when the world is more united but at the same time more fragmented than ever, when one attempts to gain as much freedom as possible but at the same time desperately escapes from it, when individualism is given the highest value but at the same time one searches for collective loyalty…
The things you want could very well be the things you need and they need not be an after thought
So chin up.
While cynicism is clearly a chronic disease, thinking for yourself, even out loud is essentially commendable
So individualism may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the happiest among us reclaim it, cultivate it, reinvent it as we walk along the parallel path of collective commitment and obligation
Own it. It was yours to begin with!