Have you ever been part of that moment when you run into someone from your past; you know that you know them or that there is some kind of mutual association, and when you finally figure it out they say those words…
I just returned from an amazing weekend at the LDStorymaker conference where I learned so many incredible writing tips I can hardly digest them all. But that’s not what keeps playing over and over again in my head. Instead it’s that moment when I spoke to another author I completely respect and admire; one who has written over a dozen books which dominate the fiction shelves at any Deseret Book Store on any given day; one who graduated from my rival high school the same year I graduated and attended the same junior high school; and whose first words when we made the connection were, “Oh, you were one of the popular kids.”
It wasn’t even that she said it snidely because she didn’t. It’s simply the connotation that those eight words carry. I know what I mean when I say “the popular kids” and it isn’t positive. I conjure up all of the old feelings of loneliness, jealousy, and sometimes humiliation of those awkward teenage years. There was ever so much angst over wearing the right clothes, having the right hair-do, playing the right sports, listening to the right music, and knowing the right people. “The popular kids” never seem to be the ones who are the kindest, the most compassionate, the most accepting of our breed. No, they’re the ones that we all secretly wanted to be even though they were rude, condescending and down right cruel sometimes.
Was that me? Was I one of those kids? Was I somehow mean or cruel? After hearing her say that I can’t help but wonder what she meant. In junior high school I probably would have loved being called popular. But now, knowing all that popularity seems to bring with it, not so much. In junior high I at least knew a lot of people. But knowing people and having friends isn’t really the same thing. You can know a lot of people and still feel alone and out of place in the crowd. You can know a lot of people and still feel insecure about whether or not they really like you or are just tolerating you because they’re too nice to say otherwise. I would much rather be called “friendly” than “popular.” I don’t know if being a “popular kid” is a compliment. I hope it’s not an insult. I just know that even though I tried to be nice to everyone and I tried to fit in, that most of the time I felt like a goose swimming among swans.
Since those I-would-never-in-a-million-years-go-back days of my youth I still try to be nice to everyone. I still try to make friends wherever I go. I don’t care so much about fitting in anymore. After all, what does “in” really mean anyway? That I’ve stopped listening to 80’s music? Right, like that will ever happen. I’ve also learned that I really don’t like to swim; I’d much rather fly.