Some people peak in high school, and that’s fine. But some of us, we aren’t quite ready in high school. We need a little more time in the oven, so to speak, before we’re fully done. The popular kids, you know who I mean – the ones surrounded by people at all times – they had to try to be popular, had to actively pursue it. That was their aim, unless of course they were just naturally good-looking, then you don’t have to try a thing. However, the naturally gorgeous have to maintain that after high school, and many of them don’t. I bitterly digress. I couldn’t care less. It was nice to have friends, but I certainly wasn’t what anyone would call popular. I always felt weird, not like an outcast, but more like an alien. I knew I wasn’t one of the popular or ridiculously hot people that had just peaked in junior or senior year. No, that wasn’t me at all. And so, as an alien, I went my own way.
Even though I played music, I didn’t play contemporary music, and so my friends who played guitar wouldn’t really have anything to do with me. Who wants the classic rock kid? I enjoyed some moderate popularity as a musician in my senior year, but that’s nothing to be proud of. High school is a fucked-up time, and it fucks many people up well into their adulthood. It’s difficult to say, but I really didn’t think I was attractive in high school. I was weird looking, stringy haired, and getting chubbier by the minute when senior year came around. I didn’t even think of myself as viable for anyone else.
I’m sure the popular kids had a grand old time, but I feel for them. The crushing demands of popularity can mess with your psyche – and they certainly implant a perpetual need for approval and adoration. I don’t have that, I couldn’t care less. I’m trying to become nothing here, and you don’t get there by thinking you’re the coolest person you know.
But from high school through my first try at college, and even through my time in the band Ours, I didn’t really think of myself as attractive. I lost weight when I was in the band, but I still felt like a strange person, one that people couldn’t quite figure out – not like I was mysterious and interesting, but more like, “what’s up with that guy?” I guess I was confused, but I’m not even sure that’s true.
But I didn’t despair. Well, I did despair when I began to lose my hair, and again when I needed a toupee in my early 20’s. But after I shaved my head and lost a considerable amount of weight, that should’ve been it. But it wasn’t, I still didn’t much like myself, especially not enough to present myself as anyone’s romantic interest.
But at 27, that’s when I began to notice a change. I dropped all of the affectations I had accumulated to satisfy the band’s image. I dropped anything that I was doing on purpose, and not naturally. Any false elements of my personality, anything I was doing to appear a certain way for other people, I stopped doing all that. And in so doing, I finally bloomed. My timer was up, and I was cooked and ready to go. I finally felt like I had a sound head on my shoulders and an appearance that complemented it. I finally felt like I had something to offer.
I’m not Bradley Cooper, or Brad Pitt, or any other attractive Brad. I know that. But I’m not trying to be them. I’m under no delusion that I’m anyone other than who I am. I have nothing to prove, and because of that, I finally bloomed into myself. My manner of dress, my manner of speech, the way I carry myself, it finally all locked into place. I was a late bloomer in the truest sense of the term.
Because I never quite found myself in the position of being insanely popular or anything of the sort, I never really felt like I was in the grips of the all-encompassing need for attention and status. I just did my own thing, and continue to do so. And it’s because I let go of all that, because I let go of my appeals to various groups I wanted to belong to, that’s why it all came together.
Some people do peak in high school, and as I said, that’s fine. I bet high school was awesome for them – filled with sex, drugs, drinking, and vomit. But I didn’t do that. To be transparent, nobody was offering those things to me, so it didn’t matter anyway. But because I dwelled on the outside of those groups, I was able to find myself in my own time rather than force a personality and shift it whenever I needed to belong somewhere else.
Stop belonging, it’s what’s keeping you from being who you are.
It’s what’s keeping you from blooming into what you want to be, not what group membership demands of you.