Popularity is a fickle and cruel mistress. No matter how much I tried to chase her, she never came within reach for me. I always found myself on the outskirts of the in-crowd, wanting for someone to just reach out their hand and invite me in. Alas, the group of fabulous people I looked up to barely acknowledged my existence. Public school, middle school, and freshmen year of high school were all spent clinging to some sort of clique to stave off the loneliness. I didn’t know who I was because I just bounced from group to group without really forming any long lasting friendships. So, for all you out there who feel the same way, here’s how to survive college when you feel like you just don’t fit in.
Then, I moved to a new state that really lived up to its name: Brotherly Love.
However, in my case, it was sisterly love. Moving to Pennsylvania was a bit of a challenge at first, because everyone had migrated to this high school from various middle schools, so they knew each other already to some degree. Here I was, fresh faced and introverted. It didn’t help that I was a literature nerd. I was smart, which had its positives and negatives. The positives were that when I was identified as the brain of the class, I was suddenly very popular, especially when it came to tests; everyone wanted to sit with me.
The downside was that it was clear I was being used.
But, I was liked, so I let them use me. Furthermore, when I saw my classmates in the hall, the same ones that saddled up to me during test day, they would pretend I was invisible. Again, I had a few people I conversed with, but I connected more to my teachers than my classmates. I loved to learn, which left me labeled as the teacher’s pet. As any teacher’s pet knows, this is not a label you want in high school. So again, sophomore year was a bit lonely.
My Junior and Senior years were when things started to change for me.
I met my then best friend, who encouraged me to get involved with the marching band (as a member of the color guard) and with our school’s version of field day. This wasn’t just a normal field day; it included huge dance numbers performed by members of each class (freshmen, sophomore, etc). Getting involved in these extracurricular activities during my senior year helped to get me out of my shell. It helped that I was a great dancer, as well (thank you mom and dad for the classes). I was finally being accepted by the popular kids because I could move. However, even then I knew it was just capricious. While I was finally a part of a team, I didn’t feel a part of the team, although I loved the girls. I just do not fit in with people my own age.
Suffice to say, I was grateful to leave high school behind me. Enter college…
College is a great place for people who do not integrate well with the “normal” population.
People who go to college are generally a bit more serious and have discovered or are discovering their niche. Yet, I do not fit the image of the typical college girl. While I like to party from time to time, it is not the day drinking that peaks my interest. It is the knowledge, the intellectuals, and the academic side of college that keeps me going. My defining moment, the moment that I learned I was not set to be a part of this pop culture world was when I lived with three roommates who were plugged into said world. I just did not get along with them. I thrived on responsibility while they thrived on a lack of it. That apartment screamed high school to me and I had clearly moved on. I am not saying that one lifestyle is better than another. I am saying that it wasn’t what I needed to thrive.
I finally just gave up my search for popularity and settled for finding my people.
This epiphany helped me break out of my shell, take leadership roles in group projects, speak up in class when nobody else would, make long lasting friendships with people who were actually interested in Shakespeare as much as I was, and even be proud of my intelligence when it made me a pariah before. People actually care about my opinion now and take my advice. I am liberated from the constraints society has put on me.
Not caring what people think is so freeing.
I’ve gotten internships and jobs that I never thought I would have. It’s still a little tough for me sometimes because I have such a dynamic personality yet I can be very socially awkward as well. My self-confidence isn’t always the highest either. However, I now embrace what makes me unique. I found my so-called clique, and I have made friendships with people similar to me, friendships that have proven to have a strong foundation. No longer is my mother afraid of me being a loner. I still have my days when I have no idea what is going on, but I have finally found myself.
So, what is the moral of this long-winded and probably boring story?
High school is just a hurdle, and once you jump it, the world is your pearl (because why would you want an ugly looking oyster?) If you are like me, and you feel that black shadow of loneliness envelop you, remember to shake it off (shake it off) and embrace what makes you not “fit in.” There is no one standard of talent, beauty, intelligence, or strength. Do not let society define who you are.
Go against the mold. Be you.
As cliché and as sappy as it sounds, it has given me immense joy and confidence. Once you stop trying to be like everyone else, you have time to discover who you want to be. So, go to college as a tabula rasa or blank slate. Find people you can relate to. I promise those people do exist. Don’t be afraid to be a teacher’s pet because you are afraid of what people may think. Be defiant and brave, and don’t let anyone tell you who to be. If you don’t “fit the mold,” don’t change yourself, change the mold.
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Jenny Bront is a senior English Major at ESU. She loves literature, writing, and latin dance. Her biggest goal in life is to set the record for craziest cat lady.