I could never understand the strive for popularity. I was always a bit of a loner, and so, fitting in was never a concern of mine. I had friends growing up, a decent amount, but as I got older, things changed. When you’re a child, you simply exist. You develop friendships on the loosest of foundations; you might both like video games, and poof, you’re friends for years. As you grow older and begin to develop your sense of individuality, those simple friendships begin to fall away. Roughly around high school is when people begin to find (or not find) their group.
High school is a new experience from the otherwise unbroken years we spend with the children we met in kindergarten. It could be a fresh start, but for many it’s a nightmare about whether or not to conform, and how. This isn’t the goth or anarchistic sense of conformity, but more so a sense of belonging. It’s only natural to seek it, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it.
In high school, I wasn’t cool. Period. I had friends, some of which I’d had since kindergarten, but also new friends. High school is a time of trying personas on to see if they fit. I was fashionable in my freshman year, and then I gradually slid into growing my hair out and wearing Jethro Tull t-shirts by senior year, cementing my alienation. I was not invited to parties, at all, not a one. They were going on, people were hooking up and drinking and whatnot, but I was home with a guitar and a GameCube controller – content, but curious about what I was missing. I never tried to get invited to those parties. Perhaps it was laziness or perhaps it was integrity, but the amount of work and fundamental changing I’d have to do in order to get into those parties with the popular kids was not anything I was interested in doing.
As senior prom approached, my thinking was that, as I stood, no one would want to go to prom with me, nor would I look good in a tux or whatever men wear to prom. My stringy long hair and bangs would look ridiculous in a suit, more like I was dressed up for a court appearance. And so, I opted out altogether, instead going to Hooters for unlimited wing night with my friend Joe, whom I still consider to be my closest friend. I wouldn’t realize until years later that I already found my group and I wouldn’t have to change myself one bit.
I was always strange. Not booger-eating or animal-torturing strange, but strange compared to what was considered regular. I wasn’t a jock, I hated sports. I wasn’t popular, I wasn’t good looking enough. I wasn’t a full-blown nerd, I had a bit of an edge and still do. I wasn’t an emo kid, I didn’t have the hair for it and the music was awful. So, where was I? Right where I belonged: with the freaks.
It’s the freaks who build character and maintain a strong sense of self. It’s the freaks who stay their course, popularity be damned. The freaks change the world, the popular peak early and strive to maintain it – how exhausting.
Many continue to try to fit in as they grow older. But, if you recognize that you’re a freak, you’ve already found where you belong. There’s no need to add any credentials to who you are. You’re a freak, and that’s the best thing you can be. Embrace it. It starts lonely but ends beautifully. Maintaining an image is awful if it’s not who you are, I even encountered this in my life as a musician. Belonging to a group is only beneficial if you want to be there.
If you feel you don’t belong, then you’re likely on the right track. Be exactly who you want to be, never compromise to fit in. In our youth we try on different skins, but in adulthood we realize that what we are without is much more interesting. Your real face is better than the one you made.