I think a lot about what people think of me. What they see when I first walk through the door and choose a desk appropriately far enough from the front and yet not completely in the back. This being the very start of a new school year with different classes and different people in those classes, wondering what sort of person I look like has occupied my mind quite a bit. Especially in classes where I don’t really know anyone, and no one really knows me, except as the quite girl who once sat in front of them in math class or whatever. The quiet girl, a pretty safe way out of looking like a complete weirdo. Ok then…not a loser…mission accomplished.
One day in history class somehow we got sidetracked onto a tangent about first impressions and although it was little off topic, it was perfectly true. We all make snap judgments about the people we meet. “Ew, what a creep” “her shoes don’t match” “oh look there’s someone who’s not going to graduate” So really, being shoved into and bound to an image which isn’t you is an honest concern. I’m sure most everybody in high school, and even past, worry about others’ opinions and feel the same need to protect their image. Beauty products, fashion magazines and anything else which claims to bring popularity bombards us with the same message: People are watching, don’t do anything stupid.
I’m not that concerned about looking gorgeous. Instead I worry a lot more about how I act. Do I raise my hand too much? Not enough? Am I showing enough skepticism about the conspiracy theory in that movie? Woops, I shouldn’t have drawn all those flamingos all over my binder. Even now I’m wondering. Is this essay saying too much? I’m pretty sure this is more than anyone ever wanted to know about me. Maybe if I ask really nicely, the teacher will let me just turn it in for a grade without having to read it. Well I’m too far into writing it by about a half hour so I really don’t feel like all over again and write about something that I don’t actually care about. So I guess I’ll just finish anyway. Don’t think too badly of me for it.
All this hiding and lies by omission get really tiresome, and really sometimes I feel like I’ve done the same thing to myself that I was afraid that others would do to me. I’ve gone and tied myself down to this image of a shy girl who’s really not all that interesting. Not strange and unpleasant it’s true, but really not much of anyone in particular, no funny traits, no cute habits nothing really distinguishing apart from that hat which the teachers always tell me to take off. I wish more people could see what my friends and family see. Heard the stories about all the stuff that has given me shape and depth as a human being. Know that I work at a girl scout camp each summer, know that I’m a bit squimish and how I squirm when someone talks about the time they got their fingernail ripped off, Know that I gasp loudly when something startles me, know that I love my hat and have held a grudge against a certain administrator since he confiscated THE HAT! I Love my friends and I especially love how I can be exactly who I am when I’m with them. I can complain about the stupid dress code, I can be as sarcastic as I want, I can gasp when some random guy yells in the stairwell, I can sing really dumb camp songs about hippos and aardvarks, and none of them care. Actually that’s wrong, they do care, they care about me.
This I believe. Life is really complicated, as complicated as the people that it is comprised of. So maybe it’s time to stop further complicating it by building a persona to hide my true self behind. Why not let go a bit and let everyone see who I am and not just the few who I know will love me anyway. I mean it’s sort of silly to pass up living because of a fear that people won’t accept you. Where would we be if no one ever broke society’s definition of normal? The earth would be flat, America would remain undiscovered, and black people and white people would still have separate water fountains. What a horrible way to live, none of us would rather have that world than the one we live in now. And yet even with that being true, fighting through those constraints still seems impossible when faced with the easy alternative of staying the hidden. Maybe I won’t actually succeed: I’ll stay the soft spoken nobody in your history class. But on the other hand what if I do. I’ll be the girl who staged a hat rebellion. Or the girl who sings “The Hippo Song” Or even the Girl who draws Flamingos on anything and everything. Or maybe, just maybe by my name.
Hi, I’m Clara, nice to meet you.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.