Now that Breaking Bad is over, we will all have to find something else to do on our Sunday nights. We all watched as Walt started off as an innocent high school chemistry teacher who was diagnosed with lung cancer. He decides to start manufacturing meth in hopes to leave his family money when he dies. As the show progressed we watched Walt lose his innocence as he navigates through the criminal world, facing the harsh realities of the drug underworld. He learns to manipulate his assistant, and eventually graduates into the Drug King Pin of ABQ. As the drama unfolds, he loses everything.
We all watched with fascination as an everyday Joe evolves into the most powerful drug manufacturer in the southwest. I started wondering why this show was so popular, when there are tons of other shows about cops, drugs, and Mexican cartel. I began thinking it was the fascination that anyone of us, at any age might be capable of someday going rogue and breaking the confines of our normal everyday lives. The excitement of the thought keeps us tuned in every week, watching as the television version of ourselves lives the drama and excitement we may never have.
We watch the show, live vicariously through Walt and Jessie then retire to our beds on a Sunday night. Safely tucked away we sleep, resting in preparation for our Monday commute to work, were we don ties and suits, heels and skirts continuing our weekly routine. Perhaps our fascination with the show comes from an inner desire to break from conformity.
Conformity is defined as aligning your attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors with those around you (Psychology Today, 2013). As social being this is our default setting, we are susceptible to social pressures that encourage us to try to fit in. Perhaps it’s because we live in an individualistic westernized country, but I feel that we all have a streak of defiance and opposition in us that yearns to break free. Walt struggled to find a balance between conforming to societal expectations where he was a loving husband and father while secretly becoming a major drug manufacture.
Our lives mirror this struggle, we want to find balance in our lives where we can be successful in traditional ways, satisfying our need for acceptance and surrounding ourselves with family yet balancing this with a need to feel special and an individual who rises above to a level where they are unique and blaze their own path. We were raised in a society where the internet and technology allows everyone a voice and everyone a forum to state their opinions. As a society we are moving away from the collective approach and slowly migrating towards the individualistic society where we fight our instinctual urges to be part of a group in exchange for independence, notoriety, or recognition.
Walt struggles with this, and as the season develops we watch his evolution. He begins as hyper focused on providing for his family, and ensuring that they will be ok when he passes. As his cancer goes into remission, his values change and he is proud of his identity as the cook. In the beginning of the series, the thought of killing someone makes him distraught with grief, by the end he’s putting hits out on everyone. We look inside ourselves and wonder if we could ever go that far. When someone as normal as a high school chemistry teacher can turn into such a bad apple, its safe to assume that it can happen to everyone.
Secretly, I think many of us want something exciting to happen. We get into a routine of life were we do what is expected of us at work and at home. Things get predictable and mundane. The allure for Walt was the excitement and drama, and for us we can have all that watching from the safety of our couches. Having this secret desire is not a bad thing. It can add spice to our lives and novelty to our marriages. It allows us to shake things up once in a while and rediscover the love of a spouse. We can add this excitement to our lives by planning family vacations, spontaneously hopping in the car and cruising to the mountains to see the autumn foliage, or prioritizing date night. Its not as dramatic as crazy shot outs in the desert, but lets be honest we want excitement in our lives not drama. Drama
I think Walt showed us that although conformity and routine are what we crave and fall into as social beings, we still need to have some excitement in our lives. Our secret desires to go rogue are normal and can be channeled into productive and healthy outlets. Life is short and precious and we need to appreciate our days and make the most of them. Balance your life with mundane expectations but don’t forget to include time for excitement. As odd as it may sound, schedule time for adventures, schedule appointments for outings and dates, and stop putting off those things you have always dreamed of doing.
Till then, continue “Discovering Your Own Way”