I remember high school. Almost everyone was a brand.
I remember the art geeks wearing black clothes and earrings high in the ear that looked like it hurt and I winced when I saw it.
I remember the football jocks who sat at the popular table, well, not all of them popular, but they liked to think so, or they hoped so.
I remember the popular crowd that started in middle school with only a small group of kids, all kids, all unsure, desperate to find a spot to call their own at the lunch table the first week.
As the years went by, the circle grew, and soon a large crowd of kids were friends by senior graduation. Some of those same kids who in middle school when alone at night in their bed, their covers pulled up to their chin, trying to ignore the tiny squeaking of a mosquito, dreamed of being in that crowd. And they made it.
Maybe it was the casual way they said hello to a certain girl every day after practicing for hours the night before. Maybe it was that they sat behind the right boy in French class. Maybe it was that they copied the clothing styles the best they could of the popular crowds. Who knows? But it happened.
Some never desired to be in that crowd. They were confident in who they were. Maybe their families went out for soft serve ice cream with sprinkles every Sunday night, they laughed, they talked. Maybe they played Monopoly on Friday nights and learned the value of not giving away all their valuables early on. Maybe a grandmother whispered in their ears that they didn’t need the validation of anyone else to feel important. And they believed it.
It was never about being popular even if they were convinced it was. It was about feeling loved, special, that they held a spot in this world and if they left, they’d be missed.
All kids move on from the bubble called high school and they realize it was all a game. They wish they could go back and tell themselves to not spend hours worrying.
Except then they enter the work world and they realize that the groups, the cliques, the popular crowds don’t fade away. They go to the Kindergarten playground and soon realize that certain mommies rule the school, even if it’s not obvious at first. They see it starting with their children, even at preschool, and realize that dealing with people is a part of life.
Maybe late one night, their kids tucked in bed, sleeping, they realize that the game always exists if one wants to play. This time, thankfully, they step back, away from the pressure, and choose their own course, their own happiness.
They stick their daughter’s earbuds into their ears and dance to Lady Gaga in their jammies, not caring if the neighbors can see through the window.
And they decide that’s the best place to be.