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October 13, 2012

A Word of Advice: The secret of fitting in? Be yourself

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The Daily Star

---- — The secret to fitting in is quite simple really, and it’s something that shouldn’t even be a secret whatsoever. I didn’t have to climb any mountains, follow any treasure maps, or sneak into any government facility to find it, I simply learned it through experience.

Every day I log into my Facebook account and look at the thoughts of my peers and see that none of them ever seem particularly happy, questioning things as silly as who would come to their funeral. It’s almost like reading somebody’s diary — a dreary, public diary. Oftentimes you can see through people this way when they let their social guards down. Some girls might put down the pom-poms they wear like chains around school to fulfill the perfect image they put out in fear of being scorned as an outcast by other students and post about how wrapped up they are in their new “geeky” novel, feeling as if behind a screen they’re free to be whoever they want, as they should feel free to do in the real life hallways of their school as well.

I myself used to suffer this dilemma, I walked the halls 6-feet tall adorned with all of the honors that go to any middle school footballer player in my nseveth-grade year. High fives in the hallways, yells of “THE BEAST, YEAHHHH!” in the hallways, if I wasn’t the massive lineman I was, they would’ve hoisted me onto their shoulders. 

 There was one problem with this entire picture though, I didn’t like football. Practice seemed like a chore, I cared less about the games, and couldn’t be bothered to watch any NFL. I felt like my pads were a big trenchcoat I would wear around to conceal my real passions — video games and psychology. 

It got to the point I would even “self censor” things I felt would seem nerdy, even avoiding using words I deemed too big, just to make my social disguise a bit more convincing. Football seasons passed, and as I spent more time around friends letting out a little more each time we would hang out, I began to notice they liked me in my pure, raw form more than in my modified football form, big words and all. 

I had so many strengths that I’d been hiding from the world for so long, so finally after three years I had emerged from my dark cloak, present in full, nerdy form. At first I was nervous nobody would like this new me, but people loved it. They had wonder how I’d suddenly gotten so smart, so humorous, so insightful. 

That moment I realized something I wish all people could some to see how I did; that you develop passions for a reason and they shouldn’t be kept from the world, they should be shared. That if everybody was the same, our society wouldn’t be a melting pot of diverse ideals, it’d be a plain old, boring can of soup. 

Rocking a Pikachu shirt instead of a football jersey this time, I still received the same high fives and hellos I had always gotten, if not even more, with people from school even coming to cheer me on in my local Pokemon tournament.

The secret to fitting in is quite simple, there is no real fitting in. The world isn’t a big puzzle where we all have to fit in snuggly and uniformly.

Rather, it’s something of a game of Cooties, y’know, those little things that everyone had and made the little creature things of, but nobody played the game of. A real, living, ever-changing game of bold and unique statements of identity, where the louder and more daring you are with your passions and beliefs, the further you’ll take yourself.

If no woman had stepped out of the expected normality, women’s rights would never have taken off, and society itself would’ve never progressed in general if not for those who dared to walk against the current of societal expectations placed upon them by others. Being yourself is more than just something people tell you to do to make yourself feel good about yourself, it’s an obligation to yourself, to the world even, to give every unmatchable fingerprint-like ounce of yourself you possess to society in the short time we have on this planet, to truly leave your mark, instead of spending all of that time trying to simply aspire for the average and be “just like everybody else.”  

Creating your own lane in life is what will bring you true happiness, and acceptance that goes beyond your peers; it’ll feel good to be you.

Austin Czechowski is a sophomore at Cobleskill-Richmondville High School. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/teentalk