To Rebel in the Moment by Neil Hughes

To Rebel in the Moment by Neil Hughes

"What's your rebel story?"

The obvious answer is too obvious...

I've completed some huge, vulnerable creative projects which were only made possible because I allowed myself to do my own thing. But is it possible to look beyond those?

Rebellion was behind many of my life-changing decisions - like quitting university and going to South America based on the top answer on 'Ask Jeeves', just for one example – but again, part of me is resisting telling these stories... as fun as they are.

And I've just realised why.

It’s because rebellion doesn’t have to be huge in order to matter.

A rebel story doesn't have to be "I quit my job", or "I wrote a tell-all memoir", or "I traveled the world in a boat made of my own hair".

(That last one is not an example from my own life, in case you're wondering.)

Being true to yourself can be an everyday - even mundane - experience. The act of allowing our individuality to help us truly live.

Which is why I'm going to tell a story of a little incident which had huge consequences.

Some years ago I was at a festival in the UK. On the final night as I wandered back to my tent, I was drawn to some sounds in the woods. I got closer to find a group of people singing around a piano covered in fairy lights.

(This is fairly normal festival behaviour, though I do admit it's not exactly everyday.)

They were a welcoming gang and I found myself joining in with the singalong and having fun.

Finally, the piano player stopped and asked if anyone else could play.

This is exactly the kind of situation in which I would habitually shrink away, hide myself, and later regret my behaviour, beating myself up for not doing what I truly wanted: "I could have done that! Why am I such a coward?!"

But this time I didn't follow my habitual fear. I rebelled.

"I'll play!" I said, stepping forward. I remember feeling surprisingly calm.

You see, I had rehearsed comedy in my head for years. Whatever I was doing – whether walking along the road, or showering, or driving – inside my mind I would be telling jokes and singing songs to entertain people in a fantasy world.

Feeling focused, I sat at the piano, turned to face the gathered crowd, and launched into a funny story as an introduction to the first song – a comedy tune about crushes. People loved it. I continued. They loved the second, third and fourth songs too. They laughed at the jokes in between. I was present and alive.

After the final song, I stood up to applause from the little group. It might have been a tiny gig in the woods in the middle of nowhere, but I felt elated.

Finally I had lived in alignment with what I truly wanted, rebelling against the inner voices which had been telling me to stay scared.

As I walked away, one guy stopped me. "That was great," he said. "Do you do this professionally? Are you a comedian?!" I was amazed. "No I'm not," I said.

And, in my head, I added "...but I've always wanted to try..."

On the drive back the next day, his words echoed. By the time I got home I had decided. I would perform at my first 'proper' comedy gig. I had the material. I had the experience. I had the will.

And I was finally listening to the rebel inside that wanted me to try.


Neil Hughes is a comedian, writer, mental health campaigner, and physicist. Check out his comedy book about anxiety and suicide, 'Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life' or his comedy TED talk about mental health and the physics of pudding, or say hello at

Neil Hughes photo



Violeta Nedkova

Violeta Nedkova is a multipassionate entrepreneur and creative rebel who believes that everything you do should be as unique as you. She loves tweeting, curating rebellious things and people, and writing until the sun comes up.