Once upon a time, I was a teenager who envied the popular girls. I had been one myself not many years before, back when most kids in a classroom could be called friends. Somewhere along the line, however, being friendly and funny stopped being very important, and the brands and makeup you wear started.
I saw the kids wearing their jackets and shirts with strange labels on them—some that I’d never even heard of before, all with made-up sexual codes that only teens can think up—and their sticky-looking gummy shoes and their perfect, pretty backpacks, and I wanted them, too. I didn’t really want them for myself, but I thought that if I had them people on the cheerleading squad or the football team who used to be my friends might consider being friends again.
When I finally bought my first silly, gummy plastic bag for carrying my books, I was dismayed at its space. How did everyone fit their textbooks in these things? They were like oversized jelly shoes! It didn’t take long for my straps to break, which was fine, because I looked ridiculous carrying the bag. Even though I had spent all of my babysitting money on it, maybe it wasn’t worth the raised eyebrow from a science teacher who otherwise doted on me, and it sure didn’t get me any friends.
It didn’t make me happier, that’s for sure.
What did make me happy is what makes me happy today—something I can gratefully say that I do much more often, on a very regular basis. (Of course, my child now claims I embarrass her when I talk to random strangers or proclaim myself to be Mrs. Pine Tree when introducing myself…) I get to be me.
On rare occasions in school—usually during after-school functions, though also sometimes at lunch—I could be my goofy, quirky, plain old regular girl self with a select number of friends I could count on little more than one hand. I could giggle and snort and be as normal as I could be without having to try to be like other people, and I know several kids who did that very same thing every day without even caring what anyone thought.
Today, I envy them. I wish I had known then what I know now; it would have saved me a lot of pain and heartache. Imagine if kids who are bullied like I was, or who lose friends like I did, knew what’s in store for them later in life. I think they’d be at least marginally happier, and maybe even look forward to the future rather than dread each day ahead.
We could make 2013 the most radical year yet by just being ourselves, without change, without resolutions, and encouraging our kids to do the same.