Why do others feel the need to set a standard for fitting into society? You have to look a certain way, talk a certain way, act a certain way. People change who they are just to become “cool” or “popular” in today’s culture. It can make an individual sacrifice an education to be one of the “cool” kids in school. Making friends becomes more important than passing classes; being the guy everyone knows forces you to not have time to do homework. Sometimes you try to fit in, and it doesn’t work at all. You strive to become popular, be someone, and get somewhere. However not so much where you try to hard. You begin to change your dress, your walk, the way you address individuals around you; you become lackadaisical overall. At the end of the day, is it all worth the change, to be something you’re not, to make others acknowledge your presence?
It all started in sixth grade. I had an 87.50 average, not exactly the best average, but it was the highest in my class. During the summer of sixth grade, I began to question why I didn’t have friends who I could see or do anything with. I decided I was going to try to make friends, be cool with everyone that was in my class, and expand from there. Seventh grade came, and I ended up in a class with the “coolest” kids in school. I figured this was my lucky chance to become cool with them, and that everyone would want to be my friend, too! I remember sitting in class trying to talk with everyone, and everyone liked what I had to say. They laughed, made comments, and even invited me to go with them after school to the park across the street to essentially sit around and talk more. This was the moment I had been waiting for, friends that actually wanted me to be around them. They were all nice to me, and it made me feel as if I had people I could trust. When I got to the park after school, I sat with them, and we all talked for a long time. Someone commented on the way I was dressed. I had on sweatpants and a sweatshirt with shoes that were beginning to look like the trash was the next thing that should wear them. They began telling me that my dress wasn’t “cool,” and that jeans would be a more appropriate look to be seen with them. The next day, I took their advice and told my mom about what the other kids had said. I asked my mother to buy me jeans. I wanted to impress my new friends by showing them that I could wear jeans just like them; to fit in with the “cool” crowd, rather than be an outcast, or outsider. She refused to buy me jeans for three weeks even though my argument was that I wanted to be “cool” with the kids in my school.
Do you think it was worth the change, my dress, to fit in? Personally, I don’t think it was worth the change, because this was only the beginning of changes I made to fit in with the kids in my school. As school went on, they began showing me that just passing classes was “cool,” and that you didn’t have to be smart to get to the next grade; you just had to pass and settle for the bare minimum in your education to be the most liked in school. As a result of this, I began not trying much in school, and focusing more on how to make my peers respect me more and not bash me for being fat and smart; I wanted them to make me feel like one of them, like the “popular” part of society. My next report card, my mother was furious; she wanted to know why I had a 68 average. The only response at the time was I didn’t care about school anymore; I wanted to become the average student and the popular kid in school. My mother couldn’t understand why I had such a sudden change of view in my perspective. She punished me that summer, and made sure I couldn’t go anywhere. This made me want to see my new friends even more, because they would agree that my mom was being ridiculous; that she couldn’t control me, I was a “grown man.” I wanted to be cool like them -show that I wasn’t listening to my mother and going out. I thought that if I were to rebel against my mom, and tell the cool kids, they would think I was cool too; then maybe they would like me more, and I could be closer friends with them.
Things continued this way until my uncle and I had a talk over the summer of my sophomore year in high school. We had a talk about how my “road to fame” was affecting my mother, and how this wasn’t the right path to travel on. I remember thinking about the entire talk that summer, and how it made me slowly begin to realize that I
had changed. I would lay in bed before going to sleep, and think about how I needed to make a change, and realized that it didn’t matter what people thought of me. I had a purpose in life, and that purpose was to help my mother, not to contribute to her stress over me being a bad child. I decided that it was time for a change. I had to focus on being myself, and not trying to impress others. The change had to start somewhere; I figured in the house would be a perfect start. I started to help my mother in the house, get better grades, and make something out of my life. The change occurring in me was starting to show, and striving for the greater good was becoming apparent to me. Going

into my junior year of high school, I began to fully apply myself. I joined a sports team to keep myself out of trouble which I had gotten into in the past. I joined the track team, and everyone on the team was intelligent. Not a single person had a lower than a 90 average. Track helped me make friends who liked me for who I was, and showed what responsibility meant. Joining a sports team helped me focus on being myself and not wanting to fit in, and taking care of business at home and in school. I began being the original me, and getting the grades that made my mother and I happy. I could see that the friends I met were friends willing to help me, not wanting to change my identity. I was living in an identity of my own, rather than the imposter I was in junior high school. I began to see my mother talking to me more, and we would argue less, which made my uncle happy. The result of me being myself again helped build a stronger relationship with my mother and my uncle. My uncle was proud of me for improving after the talk we had; my mother was finally happy, because she didn’t have to worry about me not being responsible. I did what she told me, and rarely complained. The change was starting to show, and it was impacting everyone around me positively. The positive effect it had on everyone made it much clearer to me that being myself was the right thing to do in the first place, and that being a responsible individual would take me further in life.
A simple change of not trying to fit in worked out for me. I dressed the way I wanted to, I acted politely towards others rather than being disrespectful. I talked with a tone of respect, confidence, and did not have to be vulgar to get my point across. People can make friends by being themselves; you do not have to change anything about yourself to be “cool” or “popular.” Understanding all of those little changes helped me fully realize I didn’t have to fit in with society to be “cool” or “popular.” Being myself and not trying to fit in made me feel “cool” and “popular” in my own way. It didn’t fit society’s standards, but it gave me the confidence to be myself and not care what people thought. This event can impact me personally, because I see people do this all the time – they try to be something they simply are not. In doing so, they lose track of their priorities and responsibilities. They begin to forget what makes them truly special, and try to be like everyone else. Seeing these events happen makes me want to help them by talking to them, and share my story. Having a family member who keeps you on track, or sits down and talks to you about “the change” helped me get back to being myself. What family member or members help you be yourself? For me, my uncle helped me see my mistakes, and let me correct them, on my own, over the course of that summer. What moves me the most about this impact is that being yourself is not a bad thing at all; the right people will come into your life at the right time. Just be the individual you were set out to be in life.

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Samantha Henry

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