During the last year of elementary school, my best friend (who watched too much American TV) started a drill campaign to get us ready for highschool. Only one thing mattered: popularity. If you weren’t popular, you would most certainly find your head in a toilet bowl and your books scattered in trashcans. She thoroughly prepared me for terrifying scenarios like: “What if a geek turns up in the same outfit as you?” or “An ugly girl wants to be your friend. What do you do?”. Regardless of what this probably tells you about my happy elementary school experience *cough*, I was terrified and intent on becoming the most fabulous, popular Lizzie McGuire look-a-like ever.
On the first day of highschool, I put on my awesomest, pinkest outfit, and, having been admitted to a special art class, got ready to meet my talented classmates, to rule over them as a queen.
The first problem arose immediately. Everyone seemed to know each other, and I only knew one girl through MSN messenger. One of my elementary school classmates had met her at the kids disco a few months before. I sat down next to her, and evaluated my noble subjects.
There were only five boys, one of them a tiny, adorable blonde thing (guess who?). The rest of them were girls. Normal looking girls, a bunch of very odd looking girls, and a few of those girls that just radiate confidence. I knew they were the ones to stick to. Another problem arose: they didn’t actually seem that nice, and being the extremely socially awkward and shy person that I am (really, how could I ever believe I’d be popular?), I never approached them. Instead I stuck with my online friend, who, to my terror, seemed drawn to the odd looking girls, who in the meantime formed a little clique.
Much to my discontent, I was stuck with the weird ones. The more we hung out though, the more I came to enjoy their company. Needless to say, before long, we were the best of friends. There were, however, plenty of people who seemed not to enjoy our company. It all started with looks, words behind our backs, and then moved on to words said to our faces or shouted at our backs.
It didn’t take long for me to realise I was very glad I wasn’t one of those “popular” girls, hurling negativity at everybody that didn’t please their narrow minds. I had my little group of friends, and pretty soon I decided that I definitely didn’t care what those nasty girls thought about me. Do I really want to occupy myself with the opinions of these people, or do I rejoice in the warm friendship I had found in the most unlikely place? Not a dificult decision to make.
The most amazing thing about accepting that you’re an outsider is freedom. Complete and utter freedom to do whatever you want, since it doesn’t matter what you do. No matter how “normal” I try to be, they won’t like me anyway, once the status quo is set. Accepting this (although for all the wrong reasons- more on that later) granted me a freedom I’d never trade for all the popularity in the world.
My friends and I enjoyed and exploited our natural teenage craziness however and whenever we wanted, each in our own way. I decided to dress however I wanted. Literally. I would wear corsets, petticoats, bunny-ear sweaters, a traditional Austrian dirndl, pointy hoods, or just jeans and a T-shirt.
Due to the natural laws of attraction, our little group of friends slowly expanded, to include almost all the weirdo’s in our school. People laughed at us, occasionally even threw things at us, but we didn’t care. We had each other and we were free.
Looking back, although I did a lot of things right, I’d like to point out some things that I did wrong, to keep you from making the same mistakes.
What I did, I did out of anger. I thought: “If you don’t like me, screw you. I don’t want to be like you because you’re evil. I’m going to be as much NOT like you as I can.” I was fed up with society and decided to ignore (some of) its rules. This negativity is no good. Instead of thinking “I can be free because they don’t like me anyway,” I should have thought “I can be free because there are people that like me anyway”. This is hard to realise for the angry (and, let’s be honest, sad) teenager that I was, especially in the cruel and competitive environment of high school, but I’m telling you now. You are good enough the way you are, and people will love you the way you are.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this story, my now boyfriend Robbert was in my class almost all through highschool. He has seen me through all my crazy phases, from wearing pink head-to-toe, through fullblown gothicness, to Japanese harajuku fashion. He still fell in love with me, and he is an amazing man. Don’t feel the need to change for people.
In the last year-and-a-half of highschool, my anger, sadness, craziness, and hormones subdued and I decided to tone everything down. I maintained my personality and style, but accepted that I live in a society that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life, and realised it’s better to learn how to work with it, than to try to work against it. I finally found my place in society and accepted where I am. I chose to ignore the “popular” people who were still obsessing over what everybody was wearing and doing, and moved on. This new “above it all” attitude even got me some new, non-weirdo friends!
I still enjoy the freedom that I fought for as a teenager, but don’t feel the need to express it so violently anymore. A calmer wind is blowing now, and I praise my experiences in highschool for all they’ve taught me about people.
I guess what I want you to take away from my story is: don’t be afraid to be yourself, and don’t feel like you need to answer to anybody, or fight anybody in whatever way. Just calmly ignore the people you don’t like, and most likely they will ignore you too. I know all adults say this, but that just proves how true it is: high school is not the end of everything. In fact, in the greater scheme of your life, it’s such a small and insignificant phase that in a few years you’ll realise it didn’t matter at all. Live, laugh, learn, and don’t worry too much. It will all be alright.