I don’t know what it is about being young that makes it not only desirable, but IMPERATIVE that you blend into the crowd you call your friends.
I remember vividly one morning when my mother, who had taken the time and effort to make me an outfit for school, chose a Thursday for me to wear it. I explained to her that if you wore green and yellow on a Thursday, it meant really bad things, according to my friends. She scoffed, insisting I wear the outfit. I started crying, panic-stricken that she would make me wear it. We ended up with a compromise. I would wear something else that day, but would happily wear it on Friday…
It’s amazing to me, looking back, that I unthinkingly swallowed up the garbage my ‘friends’ spewed. And my ‘friends’ would have been unmerciful to me, teasing, ostracizing, and making my life a living Hell without further thought or care.
I now wonder what kind of culture we had – where being different meant losing your ‘place’ in the social order of your life at school. I wanted to dress like everyone else, talk like everyone else…. Another glaring thing I remember was an absolute no-no was wearing clean sneakers. Not only did you have to have the same type of sneakers as everyone else, but they MUST be dirty… I remember how important it was. I wanted SO much to be accepted, to feel a real member of the group. I was never in the ‘IN’ crowd, but at least I made the NEXT level.
It amazes me because I grew up to PRIZE individuality, creativity, thinking outside the box, NOT CARING what others think. How did I get to this place – other than being old as dirt? Feelings are complex. I’ll probably never understand why I never wanted to lift my head up, never wanted to stick out in any way.
I WISH we could teach/demonstrate/convince our children and grandchildren and/or students to develop their personalities based on their interests, encouraged and happy to strive for what delights them, lights up their souls. I wish THEY, in turn, would not only accept, but WELCOME the differences in the people around them, encouraging each of us to dive into all sorts of things to discover what they are, how they relate to us, and whether we want to know more or not.
So much of my life was spent worrying about what others might think. I was afraid to look stupid/awkward/gawky/put-in-whatever-word-you’re-thinking. I missed a lot of experiences I now regret. I missed a lot of possible friendships. I just hope each of us, regardless of how we spent our childhood, learns to bloom – embracing as much of the excitement and joy the world has to offer as we can.