You Can't Put a Counterculturist in a Box

I dare you to try. If you are a counterculturist, you might well have recognized that it’s impossible to categorize yourself or niche yourself down. You might be able to define yourself by your interests, but you’ll never be able to confine yourself to a box, aka “one way of thinking.” Are you tired of hearing the advice that you should adopt a path and stick to it. I’ve heard so many people praising “stick-to-it-tiveness,” yet many of the “stick-to-it” types are (or, appear to be) content within the mainstream. For us, we get hopelessly frustrated when we are counseled to stay within the confines of our one box.

I’m all about metaphors, and here’s one that comes to mind. How many of you also looked forward to Christmas, not only for the presents, but for the boxes that came along with them? In my family, it was a tradition to wrap gifts in the most oddly shaped boxes to disguise what really was wrapped inside. So, after opening all our gifts, my two brothers and I were left with a stack of boxes. What better way to repurpose them than to turn the living room into a “box fort”!

Now, here’s a significant difference between Mainstreamers and Counterculturists from that post-Christmas box scenario. A Mainstreamer would search high and low for “that one perfect box” left over from Christmas with the intention of making it their one-and-only, match-made-in-heaven box. A Counterculturist may explore one box for a while, but only to discover whether it would fit as one of the boxes in their custom-made fort. Sure, one box might be fun for a while, but soon after we’ve explored every nook and cranny of that piece of cardboard, we’re ready to either add the box to our fort or discard it as unsuitable for now.

Get the picture?

One of the things that bothers us the most about living a countercultural life is that we never seem to find that one perfect box, when we’re told that we should. That one perfect box could be a mainstream career or raising a traditional family or chasing the American dream or _______(fill in the blank).

At points in our lives, we might explore various boxes, but it’s a continuous cycle of rotating in and rotating out interesting boxes that fit our fort at the time. Many outsiders misinterpret these cycles as signs of instability, not of reinvention. When, in reality, we thrive on reinventing our lives over and over again. That’s one of the beauties of a countercultural life.

So, next time you are ready to discard one of your boxes, do it! Realize that you are simply reinventing your fort. It’s not a sign of failure or a lack of persistence. You are simply designing your own lifestyle, again and again.


Your Turn: Are you a fort-builder or a one-perfect-box type? There’s no right or wrong answer, as each of us is unique. Leave your comment below.