As a kid I wanted to fit in so badly I could’ve screamed. I wanted to be the outspoken pretty girl who got phone calls from boys, got invited to parties (or, hell, even just asked out!), and who got good grades in school.
But I wasn’t any of those. I won’t say I didn’t have the potential to be all that *and* a bag of chips — but my parents raised me better than that. I was raised with parents who truly loved, respected and *talked* to each other, so that’s what I expected and wanted from any relationship I had. I wasn’t raised to be a flirty cheerleader type who had a new boyfriend every semester and name brand clothing. I was raised to look past the surface to the person beneath the school facade. Sometimes what I found hurt. Being dumped by three girls I thought were my close friends because I refused to become a cheerleader in ninth grade hurt. But gaining as my best friend the girl no-one spoke to because she was ‘weird’ was priceless, as was meeting a girl in 3rd grade who would wind up being my oldest life-long friend.
I was a pariah. Not because of the way I looked, but because I was shy and I read. Sure, the boys in school knew who I was…I was the one they came to when our English teacher assigned poetry as homework and they didn’t have a clue. But I wasn’t the girl to go out with. I was too busy reading and learning most of them weren’t worth my time of day.
Not that it didn’t hurt. I mean, come on, what girl doesn’t want to think a guy finds her attractive? Or be asked out, not because they believe her self-esteem is so slow she’s ‘easy’, but because they actually like her? I think that happened twice in high school. And the guys didn’t even go to the same school. But I survived it.
It taught me that it was okay to dance to the beat of my own drum and not wait for others to tap out a rhythm for me. I gained the strength to pick myself up and move on when life got really, incredibly painful and hard. And it taught me that it’s okay to opt out of being a ‘sheepel’; to be different not for the sake of being different, but to be different because that is who I am.
I am a pariah in college. Online college, no less. If I’m lucky, one other person responds to my required class discussion threads. ONE, out of a class of nearly twenty. I was upset about it at first, watching all the posts racking up responses, while mine sat, lonely at a whopping two (and that INCLUDES the teacher reply!). But you know what? I’m the outcast getting straight A’s. And I’m good with that.