It’s been happening a lot lately. Or possibly I’m just noticing it more. People seem to be applying labels to me that I’m not exactly comfortable with – at least not entirely. I suppose it started a few months back when my friends, that’s right my friends, started referring to me as ‘difficult’. I think what they really meant was ‘contrary’ or as I like to see it ‘independently minded’. I think it’s because they are, as a general rule, all Geeks. Several of them work for large IT companies or come from a technical background. They’re all into the latest Tech and, it appears to me, talk about it endlessly. Well, I’m not like that. I understand enough Tech to get by but don’t feel the need to upgrade every time some manufacturer feels the need to fleece us yet again with their latest product which now features smooth edges or comes in a variety of colours or some such. I’m more a functional kind of person. If an ‘old’ piece of Tech does the job I want it to do (my old Nokia phone is a good example) then I won’t change it until it stops working. They only started calling me a ‘Luddite’ however when I said that I wouldn’t give a Smart power meter the time of day because I couldn’t see it as being any advantage to me. Knowing how much power (in other words money) is used to boil a kettle to make a cup of tea isn’t going to influence how many cups of tea I make every day. If I want a cup of tea I’ll boil the kettle to have one and damn the (minimal) cost. When the ‘difficult’ word is used what I actually hear is ‘not manipulated easily by the latest craze’ or ‘not easily swayed by propaganda’. These attributes are, I believe, good things.
I suppose that I started thinking about this more lately after my boss introduced me to a new starter at work as ‘the team’s resident smartarse’. Yes, this was my boss saying that – although she was smiling at the time. I took it as a compliment however as I translated it as saying ‘and this is the smartest person in the team’ rather than someone who makes smart assed comments to all and sundry. It’s all, I think, in the delivery. I was introduced to another team’s boss recently by someone I had known for years. He introduced me as ‘a character’. Presumably he meant ‘someone who doesn’t play by the rules all the time and has both character and a strong sense of self’. Saying that I was a ‘character’ is just shorthand for saying that I’m an individual rather than a soulless, mindless drone. Yes, I can relate to that. Of course by far my favourite label applied to me lately is that of a ‘rebel’ (well, this is a rebellion so…..). It is kind of what I’ve been going for although I hardly think I’m actually rebelling that much, all things considered. As with my levels of honestly my level of rebellion goes all the way up to 11. Presently it’s just bumping along at about 3-4 on a good day.
Naturally, being a rebel after all, the labels people try to put on me have little influence on who I think I am and what I do with my life on a day-to-day basis. At worse the labels irritate me slightly, at best they amuse and (sometimes) delight – I still chuckle over the ‘bit of a rebel’ comment I received. I do find it instructive though as to how people perceive me. If this (actually quite moderate) level of individuality comes across as actual rebellion I shudder to think about the level of conformity that exists out there. If I was as ‘individual’ as I could be I guess that someone would be calling the emergency services and measuring me for a straight-jacket! It does give me some idea about how far I can still push things though. That gives me some quite delicious ideas I can play with and still keep it within the bounds that I’m happy with. What label others will attach to it – well, I’ll let you know.