This I Believe

Claire - Sammamish, Washington
Entered on May 5, 2007

It’s easy to ask, “What’s so bad about being alone?” if you’ve never been to a middle-class U.S. high school. I’d be the first to admit that I hoard the opinions of others the way my brother hoards Starburst- I keep them forever. And if I had a freak accident during a hair appointment and my fair mop turned bright green, I would probably call in sick. Being an extrovert to the core, I naturally want people to like me. But what I’ve never been able to understand is the need to fit into the niches that society has set for us.

Of all the things to worry about throughout your life, being a “loner” is probably the least important. But most of the people I live and talk with have a different point of view. I have a friend who won’t go up to get a spoon to eat her frozen yogurt unless she’s clutching onto someone. All you have to do is take a walk down the hallways at my school to see the clusters of tightly knit friends. If you talked to these people, they’d most likely proudly proclaim that they are “independent”. But I’m sure they wouldn’t be so proud to say that if they were suddenly liberated from the groups they depend on.

As for me, I’ve been alone for the past 4 years of my life. When I say alone, I don’t mean that I don’t have friends. I mean that I don’t really belong anywhere. It started in fifth grade, when I had a disagreement with my materialistic friends. It happened once again in seventh grade, when I lost half my circle of friends because I didn’t support their poor choices. Eventually, the pressure to belong caught up to me. For months, I stressed about it, scrambling to find a new group. However, after lots of thinking, I realized that I, myself, had to decide to change, and that no amount of “belonging” would make me feel any better. I just tried to live every day with confidence and poise. Once that happened, everything started changing. The world became a friendly, open place to me.

People still cling to their packs, and many of my friends come from completely different groups. All the same, I’m proud to say that I’m a loner. I read even if I’m not bored, and yes, I love spending Friday nights with my mother watching Albert Hitchcock movies. Maybe it’s because I realized that, like Starbursts, opinions have way too much fat and too little nutritious value or flavor. And I believe that what matters most is that my friends are people I can be myself with, even if that means that I don’t fit into a category. In the words of Emily Dickinson, my favorite poet: “The soul selects her own society.”