Last week, while pushing through the
throngs of people in my school’s main hallway, I saw a
pimpled-face blond kid in a black t-shirt. On it were the
words “You laugh at me because I’m different. I laugh at you
because you all are the same.”
Right then, I did a double take. At
first, I just thought that it was one of the better graphic
tees I’ve read in a while (in
comparison with the popular innuendo-filled junk I see
everyday). But then, while sitting in government class and
daydreaming out the window, I realized how the shirt
basically sums up my whole high school identity struggle. In
fact, how it is every high schooler’s identity struggle.
Let’s rewind back to freshmen year.
Conformity was hot. Everyone wore the same Abercrombie
shirts with the same aggressive nonchalance. Boys styled
their hair the same way, and girls wore the same colored
eye-shadows. I think back then, everyone looked up to the
styles and manners of the popular kids
(cheerleaders, football players.. the usual) whether
they admit it or not.
Then sophomore year, people realized they
need to stand out. And then it was nonconformity for
nonconformity’s sake. Ha. That was seriously my motto. I
mean, I went all out as far as experimenting with different
styles and even personalities. I wore skirts over jeans,
striped scarves, and green eye-shadow. And I deliberately
donned different personas just for fun. Now that I think
about it, what a great year. I think amidst all the struggle
to stand out, I did become a nonconformist at heart.
To conform or not to conform? Isn’t that
a silly question? But it’s the only two categories available
in high school. Conformists happily conform. And
Nonconformists are still conforming to the rule of the
nonconforming. It’s all about finding that niche, that
clique. Even the Nonconformists have strict rules about how
to fight the crowd. The most dangerous situation is when you
are straddling the two. God forbid you are an emo kid
wanting to go to the school dance. Or a cheerleader excited
about the math club. Then both groups, conformists and
nonconformists alike, will give you the weird eye.
So back to the shirt kid. What makes him
different? Sure, not playing football or holding pom-poms
does, but what’s wrong with those things? And just because
he’s not like the supposed majority doesn’t give him the
right to condescend and laugh at the others. Really,
intolerance is just another word for insecurity. As far as I
could tell, why should anyone be laughing at all?