Am I Relevant Enough For You?

Ever since I was a kid I always felt behind or left out in some respects. Whether it was the latest fashion, music, etc, I would catch on late because I usually had no interest in it to begin with. This resulted in being the odd one out, not knowing what or who people were talking about— thankfully there’s google.  The older I got, the more I began to feel like a late bloomer. I mean… really late. But, rather than feel a deep seeded sense of shame and inferiority, I internalized it as a badge of pride. I felt this way because I was affirmed by my loved ones for being different and unique.

Naturally, I found people, places, and things that I could love and relate to. Take the movie Mulan for example, besides being a great Disney cartoon that tackles toxic masculinity and gender stereotypes while sharing the beauty of Chinese culture, it also revealed what it means to be a late bloomer. Before Mulan went to fight in the army in replacement of her father, he told her: “The flower that blooms late is the most rare and beautiful of all.” It wasn’t until college that I forced to actually think about being a late bloomer or alternative.

To be clear, an alternative lifestyle or person is someone who is perceived to be outside the cultural norm and thus lives according to their own mix of elements from various subcultures such as punk, emo, heavy metal, grunge, Afropunk, etc. For people that don’t conform to the norm, fit in socially, or get the memo late, it is usually because we have lived a life that has caused us to have a rare and unique outlook on the world. It’s not something that we do on purpose to seem avant-garde; it actually comes with more challenges than advantages.

One of the biggest issues that we face is loneliness in thought. Sometimes all we’re able to relate to can be found only on the internet. But I think the most unfortunate aspect of all this, is the fact that alternative people and their respective cultures are being accessorized, commodified, and categorized by mainstream society, for the purposes of mass consumption— this robs us of our safe spaces. This constant appropriation of Alternative culture dilutes its authenticity, and a good example of this is the Afropunk music festival in Brooklyn. Ever since Middle School, I’ve been a die-hard fan of most of the bands and artists that are on the line-up each summer. But every summer the festival gets bigger and bigger, attracting people who show face for the Instagram photos just to seem “edgy” or “artsy.”

Please stop doing this; if you’re genuinely not interested in alternative cultures and spaces, then don’t ruin it for the rest of us.  To those who are interested, just be more aware of the meaningfulness behind these spaces. What may seem like a hippie-themed festival, party, or gathering is actually our place of solace... my place of solace. A place where we don’t have to be alone with our thoughts, and can meet like-minded people. Alternative culture caters to us for a change, and transforms the oddities that once alienated us, into the unique aspects of ourselves that make us relevant.  In the words of rapper Layfullstop “Not to make you feel relevant, I’m just a bit different and intricate.”