My mother has always told me that “you can’t please everyone.” It’s a part of human nature to develop opinions about people and ideas, even moments after one’s introduction to them. Humans are biologically manufactured to be survivors. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t know when a situation could be dangerous and result in our own harm. The fight or flight response is still ingrained in us all today — informing us how to judge a person or situation.
Because of our fight or flight responses and survivor-mold, people are going to judge you from the first moment they see you. It’s not necessarily a bad trait to have, considering it helps us stay alive — which is always good. However, humans are also emotional beings. Humans are distinct from any other animal, allowing us to form relationships that are far more than complex.
The Age of Enlightenment produced the philosophical movement of Romanticism, in which Immanuel Kant carried to nobility. Romanticism has a way of connecting the human features of survival and emotional expression. The movement essentially emphasized a heightened self-awareness to therefore improve society and the human condition.
Through studying the history and philosophy of free speech, I was able to interpret the bond between being a survivor and an emotional being. Romanticism does not lack a support for reality, but rather argues the perception of reality is contingent on the linking of intuition with factual knowledge. I recognized power in expressing freedom and creativity of the human spirit. I found logic in the web I discovered to be human interaction and our continuous evolution.
Being a social being is an experience, according to Romanticism. Some things cannot be studied — such as nature — and require the complexities of the human brain to decipher meaning, feeling and significance. It is philosophically rather difficult to define morality; but humans know that it exists because we feel it. In Kant’s opinion, humans do not directly see “things-in-themselves;” we only understand the world through our human point of view.
Why is Romanticism so important to me following my studies? Since adolescence, I have been an outsider. Don’t go start feeling bad for me, though, because I am so much better off understanding the insubstantial qualities of people’s judgments and perceptions.
I have been told that I am exactly the way I was when I was two-years-old. I didn’t want to play silly games with other kids my age; instead, I wanted to go explore and learn things on my own. Now, eighteen years have passed, and I remain the same viciously independent force to be reckoned with. I have never done something or believed something just because someone told me to. I have had to figure things out on my own, making a multitude of mistakes along the way, to be able to tell you today that I am overwhelmingly satisfied with who I am and my ability to never change for reasons I find insufficient.
In elementary and middle school, all these girls tried with all their might to bully me. Literally. Imagine the Big Bad Wolf trying to bully me down to nothingness rather than huffing and puffing the three little pigs’ houses down. Spoiler alert: I never budged.
When others may choose “flight,” I choose to not necessarily fight, but to not change an absolute thing. Perhaps that’s the same thing as fighting — that I am still unsure about. Alas, all my bullies went away. That is, they went away until I became a young adult in college.
In college, I have been commended by my professors and others for my sense of pride and confidence I have within my own existence. I have, too, been told I am intimidating because my beliefs don’t waver. I have been belittled and questioned for my unwillingness to “play the game.” It isn’t that I wish to defy social norms or go against authority. It also isn’t that I lack any form of self-consciousness. It is merely because I have been shown time and time again throughout my experiences that I am the way I am. I cannot change my image, increase my speed of learning new information, or suddenly become a mathematician. I can, however, take small steps every day to further my understanding of the world around me and the way people interact within it. I wouldn’t mind being remembered for my utter stubbornness as long as it means I’m not remembered for trying so hard to be like someone else. Every person in power started as a nobody whom everyone loved to hate, criticize and question.
The history and philosophy of free speech has strengthened my view that one must hold on to their opinions with all their might, no matter how hard people try to change them. Elijah P. Lovejoy was an abolitionist and journalist who died for what he believed in. If you’re not willing to die for what to believe in, you become just another person in a herd of cattle. Benjamin Franklin said everything will offend someone. If no one is perfect and all-pleasing, why would I ever consider transforming into a fraud who lets her views change to be accepted by society? The most famous philosophers demanded for freedom of speech and expression. I am simply practicing those rights.
I’ve always said: if I am not myself, then I am no one. The greatest of philosophers I have studied were excommunicated, killed, beaten, harassed and critiqued for their views. The thing is, though, we’re still studying them today because they never let anyone sway their views.
If everything in this world is up for interpretation, then I will interpret my survival skills and emotional nature every single day — strengthening my knowledge of not only myself but the rest of the world. I am no longer an outsider. I am a steadfast and hungry vacuum for understanding. Even if I were still an outsider, I’d be an outsider that knows she’s an outsider. I never want someone to tell me to play along and follow the most travelled road. I want to be told to run to experiences and have even the slightest chance of discovering something new.
You don’t like my clothes? You don’t like my hair, my makeup, the way I support the LGBTQ+ community, pro-choice, or one’s decision to not follow a singular religious theory? That’s just alright. If I die tomorrow, I know it’ll be me that’s dying and not a cookie-cutter version of billions of people that inhabit this planet. So, at this point, I thank the history and philosophy of free speech for encouraging me to trust my intuition and seek out knowledge through my own experiences instead of accepting someone’s word; and that I will take to the grave.
Come at me now, Big Bad Wolf.