Unlike the self-proclaimed nerds and geeks of today, growing up I was among the strictly unpopular, outcast nerd community (I’m saying growing up because I think I’m pretty cool now). During my seventh grade year, my family moved to another city and I began another school. In my eyes, this was the perfect opportunity to reinvent myself. There would be no more kids to tease me, no more girls to pull my freshly done braids, and definitely no one to make me eat dirt. I could enjoy my obsession with the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers in the comfort of my living room at four-thirty, but I had learned to never again tell another soul my secret. The past results of that mistake were too horrifying to even mention.
So, I entered this new school with my agenda set; make friends, keep friends, and play it cool. However, my parents had their own agenda and it involved enrolling me back in honors classes and band. My carefully constructed façade quickly gave way to most kids realizing I was still the geek.
Well, most of the kids…not all the kids…
Unlike my previous school, I began to meet kids that were just as awkward as I was. The biggest difference was these kids were okay with their awkwardness. It somehow gave me permission to be myself and let go of the image I thought I needed to keep up in order to fit in. It also left me with five of the best friends I ever had, other than my two sisters.
A few years ago, one of my friends reminded me how different I was when she first met me during the first week of school. She then told me how much she hated that person compared to the real me she has known for over fifteen years now. While I always respect her honesty, I was quite shocked that the image I thought I needed was indeed inauthentic to who I really am.
This conversation forced me to reflect on the perceptions we have of each other and the masks we wear when we think we must impress. As women, we think we must present a perfectly put together image of some form of ideal beauty and this will bring us the man of our dreams. Men, needing affirmation from friends, shun the girl that doesn’t fit the beauty standard set by someone even their own mother wouldn’t match up with. We look to others for validation that who we are is okay, never really asking our selves the same question. We become plastic boxes of nothing; easily molded under pressure to change and easily melted if left in the heat, constantly trying to fit into the norm. If this is our generation, who will dare be different enough to lead?
I am still the awkward, slightly nerdy girl who snorts when she laughs and with aging eyes, wears tortoise-shell glasses. And it’s okay. Not because it is now popular or cool to be a nerd. It’s okay because this is who I am and I accept me. The most beautiful thing about accepting yourself as you are? The right people will do the same. You won’t have to change your image or try to become someone else to please those that belong in your life. Even better, the wrong people have a way of disappearing when you refuse to conform.
[My cat Kilala hides when I have a good snorting session]