My entire life I had been quiet and kept to myself until high school, when I ran with the “cool crowd.” I joined the cheer team which put me in the spotlight and thrived off all the attention. I felt important and wanted; everyone knew who I was and wanted to be my friend. I went out almost every weekend and I was convinced this was what it was like to be really happy. For the first time in my life I wasn’t an outsider and I was willing to do whatever I had to to make sure I didn’t go back to being the quiet girl nobody knew. I was invited to every party and I couldn’t ever imagine turning them down. It got to the point where people who didn’t even go to my high school knew who my friends and I were and wanted us to party with them too. I earned the nickname “mom” which I loved because it meant everyone knew they could turn to me when they needed something. It made me feel needed and I was living the life I always wanted.
As high school went on, the novelty of my newfound popularity went away and I realized I wasn’t as happy as I first thought. On the weekends, staying in was never an option unless I wanted to be replaced. Being “mom” was less of me being the person my friends could turn to when they needed help, and more of me being the person they used for rides and borrowed money from. Planning out what I was going to wear to school the night before and having to send pictures to make sure it was good enough went from being fun to demeaning. Not to mention having to hate any girl that wasn’t a part of my immediate friend group because she had something one of them didn’t.
I realized there was a cost to popularity, and it was giving up everything that made me proud of who I was. Having an opinion that was different than what was already accepted was unthinkable. Turning down a party for a girls’ night would never happen, and having friends outside the group was not allowed. Finally, I came to terms with the fact that I had spent my first three years of high school giving up who I was in the pursuit of the social status I had wanted.
The beginning of senior year I realized it was time to finally make the unpopular decision I had been dreading. While everyone was coming together for spirit days and beginning of the year senior assemblies, I did what I never thought I could: my own thing. It sounds ridiculous that just doing something different from my friends was this unthinkable deed, but for me not following the crowd was the most terrifying thing I could do. Just as I thought, my friends were not accepting of this and I very quickly found I didn’t have any friends left. People only wanted to be my friend when they thought that’s what everyone else wanted too. I went from being the girl everyone wanted to be friends with, to the girl that got the weird side looks walking down the hall and no one dared to talk to. I was mortified by my decision to distance myself from them, what was so wrong with just being who my friends wanted me to be?
As time went on though, I discovered who I was again. By deciding to break away from the mold I was able to uncover the girl hidden beneath the facade I had built up throughout the last few years. I realized how much happier I alone being genuinely me than I was being that other person I created. I still see my friends from high school from time to time and we are all doing something different with our lives, it’s a lot like the ending scene of Mean Girls, when they all went separate ways. It was scary taking the step away from my high social status but learning to accept my true, slightly socially awkward, self was so worth it.