A PERSONAL STORY FROM RYAN TAYLOR, LEAD DESIGNER AT UMLAUTSTUFF
Back when I was a school kid, I remember telling a lie so profound that it followed me around until I moved on to university.
It had something to do with fabricating how rich I was, or how rich my parents were. I remember the lie going that far that I concocted a story about a new house my parents were building. Some days previous, I'd been in the car when my mum had driven past this new build in the next village, this great house towering up behind a wall in the middle of a wood, its own sweeping driveway out front, all ornate and spectacular. Immediately it became the target of my deception.
The next weekend, I rode my bike, along with two friends, to that building site. This house was where I would be moving to when it was finished, I told them. As we rode onto the plot, it suddenly came into my mind that there was likely to be somebody guarding the building. I mean, this was a substantial house on a substantial plot. What would happen if a security man peeped from around the corner?
I was well in over my head, this was already totally out of control, but here we were, there was nothing that could be done about it now, I had to go through with it. Luckily, no guard appeared. You'd think at that point that I'd've quit while I was ahead, hoping nobody ever mentioned this house again, but something happened that day that stuck with me for quite some time: I had learnt I could fabricate the truth, I could get people to believe what I was saying, and there was seemingly no way that I could fail.
My parents, like anybody's, were constantly telling me to tread my own path, to aim to be different, that I should try my hardest to stand out. Making things up became my differentiator.
Before long, the lie was getting out of hand. I'd invented houses that weren't anything to do with my family, holidays I'd never been on, and I was stealing money from my parents to give to my friends in the schoolyard, all to give the impression I was rich and could afford to hand out money for sweets and chocolate and carbonated drinks.
And you know what, people started to like me. More and more people wanted to hang out with me, more and more people wanted to know me. This was great. I was different, and the kids at school loved it. I'd succeeded.
I look back on my childhood now with the utmost regret. What started off as something small, something entirely inconsequential in an effort to get the kids to like me, turned into a runaway train that I had absolutely no ability to stop. I'd somehow taken the message of being different from my parents, dissected it, pulled it apart, and then somewhere along the way, when I'd realised I'd bitten off more than I could chew, I'd put all the pieces back together in completely the wrong order, all the while thinking I'd dropped on the meaning of life.
It wasn't long before the consequences of my lie came to pass. By the time I left school, I was hated by most people. In trying to be different, in trying to have something that other people didn't, rather than making solid friendships, I'd repelled everybody. My misguided understanding of what it meant to be different, had turned me into a loner.
It turns out that wanting to be different isn't the issue. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that having unique qualities is pretty vital. The problem is, in my stupid head, I'd managed to get the whole concept upside down.