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Rebel with a Cause? On Taking the Road Less Traveled

Rocking vintage tees throughout law school?

Sure thing.

Shunning a conventional legal job for a flexible writing gig?

You know it.

Turning down an all-expense paid family vacation to Cancun, Mexico for the Spring Break charms (I use that term very loosely) of frigid Duluth, Minnesota?

Of course.

Before reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies, I wondered if I was just different. Not in a creepy, peculiar way — more in a you zig, I zag type of way. My contrarian instincts have always been there, manifesting themself in an overwhelming (and overriding) desire to assert my own distinctive identity.

Call it Mattology.

In her informative book The Four Tendencies, Gretchen Rubin introduces and defines the concept of rebeldom. We rebels are proudly individualistic and iconoclastic — upending conventional wisdom with a knowing smirk on our faces. We revel in our own independence,  prizing autonomy over conformity — even when adhering to the status quo would be a wiser option.

As a self-professed rebel, I love my fiercely independent streak. It has provided an identity — and made my life that much more enriching and dynamic. From backpacking around the world to chronicling my mental health trials and tribulations in an all too public forum, my rebeldom has provided the impetus to flout, at times gleefully, expected social conventions. “Matt, you know, you are 37. You can’t keep crisscrossing the world on your budget flights. Isn’t it time to settle down — find a nice, little house and carve out your own slice of Americana?” my family gently urges.

And my smart aleck response: “Who says? But you know what — maybe you are right. I’ll settle down .. into my comfortable airline seat on my next far-flung adventure.” You can imagine how that response goes over (I will summarize: head-shaking disbelief).  

While I revel in my autonomy, rebeldom — as I imagine my fellow rebels know all too well–can cause tension — even strife. Chafing at constraints — either internal or external, we want the flexibility to do what we want to do when we want to do it. We will get the job done (relax, supervisor) but it needs to be on our schedule. Needless to say, this, ahem, scheduling flexibility can pose problems–particularly for more rigid, domineering types. Case in point: a former supervisor, who incidentally had a military background, wasn’t exactly enamored with my scheduling ideas. Shuffling into his office for his daily 8:30 AM (don’t be late!) monologue, I realized — perhaps all too well — that not everyone operates on my idiosyncratic timeline.

There is a solution to this — as Mrs. Rubin hints in her thoughtful exploration of the rebel prototype. We rebels need a cause — something worthy of devoting our creative energy. In my case, mental health awareness serves as my cause celebre. My mental health advocacy efforts have reinforced my identity–that of impassioned advocate committed to something bigger than myself. But before consummating my employment marriage with Psych Central (yes, I will be approaching year four of, I hope, thought-provoking contributions), it has taken years — even decades — of employment search and discover to pinpoint that true passion. And, at least in my case, that has meant a decade plus languishing in mind-numbing jobs — feigning interest over squabbling insurance companies as I counted down the nanoseconds to 5:00 PM. Happy Hour indeed.

You see, we rebels are part contrarians and part idealists. We scorn convention but crave something — a cause, an organizational mission — that stirs our soul. And while we may be contrarians — priding ourselves on rejecting society’s seemingly capricious rules, ultimately we want something — anything — that we just can’t say “No” to.

Rebel with a Cause? On Taking the Road Less Traveled


Matthew Loeb

Matthew Loeb, a Seattle-based attorney, is a mental health advocate. You can contact him at [email protected]


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APA Reference
Loeb, M. (2018). Rebel with a Cause? On Taking the Road Less Traveled. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/rebel-with-a-cause-on-taking-the-road-less-traveled/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Sep 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Sep 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.