The phrase, “Let Your Freak Flag Fly” has been tumbling around my head for a while. It pops in, unbidden, shouting, commanding, drowning out other, more hesitant phrases. I have decided to make it the theme of 2020.
This is 2020. The year of clear vision. The year my first-born son graduates from high school and the year I turn 50. It’s stunning that this is 2020. I’m still writing 2018 on my checks. (Yes, 2018. That’s not a typo.) (2019 was definitely the fastest year on record. I think I lost a few months in there. September was one, maybe April.) I’m declaring 2020 the year that I officially no longer care what you think, and I think you should do the same.
Within reason, of course. I mean, we all need jobs, and in order to get a job we have to impress the person hiring, and that means caring what the employer thinks. I want you to buy my books, which means I want you to care what I have to say.
I want to be loved, which means I care if you love me.
But hear me out:
I’ve learned that the opinion I care about the most is my own, and if I don’t satisfy myself first, there’s no way I can make anyone else happy. And here’s the other thing: I can think I’m fooling whoever I think I’m fooling, but I’m not fooling anyone, and if I think I am, I’m just a fool.
If you want to be exactly like the other kids, there are hundreds of YouTube videos that will tell you exactly how to do it. They’ll tell you what to wear, how to talk, what to think, what music to listen to, what tv shows to watch, what to read, and what opinions to have. Somehow, “influencer” got to be a career choice. (Honestly, though? How does one get to be an “influencer?” Cuz I’d like to be one. I’d like to get paid handsomely for telling you which brand of ice cream is best.)
If you want to be exactly you, just be exactly you. Erase the phrase, “What do you think?” from your vocabulary.
If it makes you happy and it won’t get you arrested, do it. That’s it. Those are the only rules. You may or may not want to be concerned about the happiness of those you love, but truly if they love you they should be happy with you being happy. Their happiness shouldn’t depend on shoving you into a box of their making.
What you do on your own time is exactly none of my business. What I do on my own time is exactly none of yours.
I don’t know who said it originally, but I had a high school history teacher who quoted somebody who said, “My right to swing my fist stops at the end of your nose.” He demonstrated this by swinging his fist about an inch away from a student’s nose in a way that would probably get him fired in 2020. This was a heck of a lesson for me, though, and I think about it all the time. I use this as a litmus test for whether or not I should care about what you are doing – is this swinging of your fist actually connecting with my nose? Nope? Well, then I have every right to think that your first swinging is ridiculous, pointless, stupid, sinful, bad, or even annoying, but my opinions are 100% meaningless.
If you think it looks good, then it looks good. If it makes you laugh, then it is funny. If it sounds good, then it is good music. If you love someone, then they are loveable. End of story. And if someone else thinks you are a freak for it, then they just have to live with their small, judgmental hearts and we should pity them instead of fearing their opinions.
Let your freak flag fly this year, my friends. I’ll be planting mine in my front yard and waving it on every street corner. Beware.
It occurs to me that there is no universally accepted Freak Flag to fly. If you have a design or an idea for a design (my daughter is a fairly talented artist who could possibly render it into reality) post it in the comments below.
 Breyers’ Vanilla Bean. Fight me.
 I could look it up, which would make me look erudite and prepared, but switching from Word™ to Chrome™ is a whole thing and remember, I NO LONGER CARE WHAT YOU THINK, and I don’t care who actually said it first. The point is that it was SAID and it MEANT SOMETHING TO ME.
 Obviously, or I hope obviously, if what you are saying or doing is hateful or mean-spirited, then what you are doing IS connecting with the end of someone else’s nose and you should not be doing it. Lawyerly disclaimer here: nothing in this article should be construed as my personal permission for you to do anything cruel or spiteful under the banner of “hey, I’m just being me.”
If you enjoyed this and want to read more like it, visit Lori at her website, www.loriduffwrites.com, on Twitter, or on Facebook. Her new book, “If You Did What I Asked In The First Place” is currently available by clicking here.