"Dare to be Different" was the slogan for WLIR, a small, independent, alternative radio station on Long Island in the 1980s. You can watch the documentary film, which premiered in the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, about the station and its influence on music here. But it was more than just a slogan. It was a state of mind, a state of being, a state of being different.
The radio station was truly independent, not bound by the conformity and conventions of corporate radio. The DJs were at liberty to play literally any song of their choosing. It was progressive, open minded and revolutionary. It was everything I wanted to be during those tumultuous and formative teen years. WLIR has been credited with having shaped the face of music in the 1980s by introducing then unknown artists such as U2 and REM. On a more personal level, WLIR can be credited for also having shaped me, having ignited my desire to be different and having fostered my creativity, having given me the confidence to take risks and having encouraged me to think and do outside of what is considered mainstream.
During those high school years, I dared to be different, expressing myself mostly through clothing choices. Influenced heavily by the stylings of Andie Walsh, Molly Ringwald's character in the beloved cult classic Pretty in Pink, I wore vintage clothes, vintage or handmade jewelry and carried a vintage purse. To this day I still do!
Some kids called me weird, a label that was applicable then and, according to my kids, still applicable now. Some called me a freak. I took offense to that one. While the name calling may have caused some angst back then, I'm now in my mid to late forties and I fully embrace the "Dare to Be Different" mantra with no apologies. Call me weird or freak or whatever label you feel fits. I will own it.
As a furniture painter I sometimes fancy myself an artist. I dare to be different in this arena as well, always experimenting with interesting textures, unusual color combinations and pushing the boundaries of conventional product use. I'm constantly testing, pushing, striving to stand out. My furniture almost always takes longer to sell than that of some of my peers, but I've made peace with that. The freedom to express myself and expand the limits of my creativity is at the expense of a quick sale. I'll take that trade any day.
WLIR no longer exists in the format that made it famous. But even though the music of my teens no longer plays over the airwaves of that independent, alternative radio station, the slogan, "Dare to Be Different", still resonates. It is who I am. Although I live a typical cliched existence in a midwestern suburban city with a husband, two kids and a dog, I'm still that 16 year old girl rocking her volcanic ensemble while listening to her WLIR playlist. I hold onto the spirit of that fearless teen self with both hands, never wanting to let it go. And that's what I wish for all of you. Even if it's just once in your life, let go a little. Dare To Be Different. Now excuse me while I turn up my radio. I do believe they are playing The Cure.
Til the next adventure...