About a week ago me and a friend (let’s call him M) were talking about many existential topics. At some point one of the things we agreed on was that we were both really focused on fitting in during our younger years and how that was such a waste of time and energy.
The time during which I turned 14 was a very precarious time for me. I had only been in the country for a couple of months, I was joining high school in year 9 and I was joining the school a little late (school usually starts in early September, I joined in mid-October) and I was going to be the new kid for the rest of the year. Additionally, I was hit with a high school dynamic borne out of a rough school in the south of London which was very different to what I was used to in India.
You are expected to dress a certain way. Your tie cannot be below the third button on your shirt, you must wear baggy trousers and your shirt cannot be tucked in. You are expected to talk a certain way. My grammatically correct English I had learnt through textbooks in India wasn’t good enough; ‘no’ becomes ‘nah’ and ‘three’ becomes ‘free’. All this simply to make sure that apart from being the new kid, which I cannot help, absolutely nothing else stands out about me so I can be ‘one of the lads’; so I can befriend the ‘cool kids’ instead of being bullied by them. All that energy spent into actively trying to change my accent, getting a haircut and using hair products to look ‘cool’ just seems so wasteful in hindsight.
What growing up has made me realise is that I wasn’t the only one. Sure I had the issues I was dealing with that came with moving countries for the second time in my life by the time I was 14. But everyone deals with their own. One of my favourite quotes of all time is from Ian Maclaren (aka Rev. John Watson) from the 19th century. He said:
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always”
I came across this first a couple of years ago and has stuck with me ever since. Everyone has their own fight going on that we aren’t aware of or even open to, especially as a teenager. Most people are too pre-occupied with hiding their own worries and not standing out as much as they can help it.
If there was only one thing I could tell my 14 year old self, it would be to not try so hard to fit in. Don’t get me wrong, I do not mean that just do what you like when you like and be comfortable. It is very important to push yourself out of your comfort zone and have new experiences. However, do not do something or put on a facade in order to fit in with a group. It just takes way too much time and effort that it just isn’t worth it. It takes equally as much time and effort later on in life to undo all the bs and find yourself and sometimes even longer to become comfortable with yourself. I say this again with the benefit of hindsight, its just not worth all that time and effort. Be true to yourself because people of similar mindsets always gravitate towards each other. The earlier in your life this happens, the earlier you can start living a fulfilling life.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” – Oscar Wilde
I’ve rambled for long enough. This isn’t the kind of stuff I usually write, so do let me know what you think. I would also love to hear your perspective on this topic. Do you agree with me or do you think it is necessary to appear a certain way to fit into this world? Comment below or Tweet me or find me on Facebook. If you like what you’ve read, please share this with your friends.
Finally and most importantly, stay awesome!!