Saturday, August 22, 2009

Don't stay the same.

The second most popular sentiment I used to find in my middle school and high school yearbooks, aside from the decidedly uncreative "have a nice summer, see you next year" was "Don't ever change."

At the time, my reaction to people writing this to me probably ranged from satisfied to ambivalent. I figured it meant that they liked me just the way I was. And that was good, especially for a kid who, at the time, had just started to build his self-confidence.

But the thing was, most of that confidence was in the realm of the classroom. I was always one of the smart kids. I was never one to brag to anyone, but everyone knew what kinds of grades I got. Those A's were what kept me going - in life, really - not just in the classroom. They were what kept me motivated to keep doing my very best in everything at school.

But because that was my focus, it just so happened that my performance in class was inversely proportional to my social life. Inverse means that when one aspect is high, the other is the opposite - low. Sure, I had my friends and all my school club activities. But even though there were those people I really appreciate being around, I never opened up to them. We rarely hung out outside of some school functions. I never really got close to anyone, and there was no single person or group of people that I could call my bed friends.

Unlike for most people, ironically, high school for me was for getting an education, with the social interactions being somewhat of a side benefit.

Looking back I would have done many things differently, but that's not my point here. I've recently given some thought to the numerous messages of "Don't ever change" I'd gotten over the years, many from people I only barely knew, to whom I'd scarcely said more than three words in my life.

I came to the conclusion that those people were not, in fact, implying that they really liked me the way I was. They knew me simply by reputation. They figured "nice" and "smart" was fine, and I was never threatening or annoying to them. They probably assumed I was pretty cool, being in honors classes and numerous school clubs. But a single "conversation" with me would have ruined that image pretty quickly. Let's put it this way: right now, if I were to be the same person I was 6, 7, 8 years ago in high school, I'd be much, much worse off.

Back then I was really socially awkward, afraid to change things up and be spontaneous, narrow-minded and judgmental, unobservant, and totally unable to voice my opinions when it mattered. My sense of humor was limited. And I was a bit stubborn and selfish.

Thank goodness I changed. Thank goodness I ignored all my classmates' advice and let myself grow and improve.

Did you ever get that message in your yearbook? Did you change?