What's a Rogue?
Defining an abstract idea is a difficult thing to do. It's for this reason that I offer you a concrete explanation of why I use the word "Rogue" ad nauseam, and throw "Rogue Ones" into most things I write. I can't assume anyone actually knows what I'm talking about, so I'd like to make an abstract idea into something concrete, and invite you to follow along.
I think the idea began many years ago as I sat in the Belmont School of Nursing filing papers. I was a music student, but I had a campus job for which I was grateful. I did a lot of thinking in that job - there were lots of quiet times. I remember this one as I sat among the graded tests talking about pap-smears and women body parts:
"I don't want to do the same thing for the rest of my working life. I think I'll do many things, each for a small amount of time."
It was a mission, and without knowing the circumstances to come after college, I committed to keep that promise to myself. As graduation loomed like the end of a marathon finish line with my legs buckling under me, I pushed harder and relentlessly searched for a job. I became the best "follow-upper" of ALL TIME (I'd like to one day write a book about the interesting experiences I gathered from these times, I'd like to title it, "Just following up: The Leslie Eiler Thompson Story"). As it goes with most things, the path that was supposed to be taken was showed to me with a combination of impassioned follow-ups and opportune timing. I was hired as an Inbound Sales and New Media (we now call this Social Media) representative at a choral music company in Nashville. I was in that position a year, experimenting with Facebook post types and literally keeping a clipboard of responses and engagement. It was adorable. I was promoted to Marketing Manager within a year, continuing the credo I set years before to do many things, each for a small amount of time.
This new position allowed me to meet a special sort of people, who I will henceforth call "Rogues." These rogues came and went as they wished. They were orchestrators, writers, designers, videographers, engravers. They responded to emails thoughtfully on their time, their work was thorough, they came for meetings and laughed with us in joyful spirit, and no one texted them during a long lunch asking, "Where are you?" Without knowing how I would do it, I knew I wanted to be like them. These rogues did many different things. They were musicians but business folks. Artists but entrepreneurs. They traveled for fun and worked on the road. They loved what they did. All the things I could not do where I was sitting. Meeting and working with these rogues planted a seed that took a few years to be cultivated.
A job change gave me the opportunity to work for one of the truest Rogues I've ever met. The husband and wife team were immigrants from Northern Ireland, initially songwriters and musicians and now are also company-owners. They were artists with a desire to build something larger than their music. The husband once said something to me that was both a punch to my gut and a great igniter of drive. He said to me, "It's a good thing you have something you're good at [marketing] besides music." It still stings a little to read.
What I heard was: "You're not good at music so it's good that you've got something else."
What he meant was: "Music is a dreadful career that is full of heartache. You are fortunate that you have the opportunity to escape it when you wish."
I will never forget that conversation. I truly believe it was that moment the little rogue seed began to bloom. I needed to defect. I would only be able to live my credo if I let go of a "full time job" and began to quilt a career together with random, terrifying, beautiful patches.
BUT - I simply could not throw away the years of marketing work I had just gone through. To be able to accomplish marketing tasks is a valuable currency and to abandon this skill would be to cripple myself for no reason. So, I didn't run away to join the circus, instead, I made a new path for myself - the rogue path.
The person taking the rogue path recognizes experiences and skills gained from past ventures and without throwing them out completely, does the work to unpack what EXACTLY their passions are. Let's put it this way:
Megan doesn't enjoy her job as an accountant for an insurance company. Her PASSION is building popsicle stick birdhouses. Megan is not going to make money doing this. She knows it, and we know it. So, Megan needs to examine what exactly about these bird houses she loves. Is it the idea of recycling? Caring for Wildlife? Crafting? Once Megan's discovered what about this venture makes her passion nerves light up, then she can combine her skills (accounting) with her passion (crafting) and seek out new rogue paths. This is something only Megan can define for herself. No one can tell her what to do next. That's the Rogue's job alone.
That's what the Rogue Movement is about. It's about people deciding the unhappiness and joy-void they feel on a daily basis can be helped by making major changes and packing up the proverbial car for a road trip without joining the circus. It’s a long game, my friend.
What's your desk job? What's your popsicle stick bird house? Do you have hope that you can do this thing? Remember, Rebellions are built on hope.
Take courage, rogue one. There's a whole world out there. I'm with you.
See you on the journey-