Fitting In November 2008 Verdadera is a publication created by and for Monta Vista teens for the purpose of instigating communication concerning the 'real world' of high school within the community. Each month, an issue on a topic relevant to the lives of our students is sent home for reading by parents and students alike. We encourage you to discuss and explore the issues and stories, as the publication aims not only to offer an outlet for expression but to improve our lives. Keep in mind that the emotions that flow through the text and the feelings behind the words could be those of your child, your classmate, or your best friend. While we do not edit submissions, we aim to publish personal experiences, not opinion articles. Please utilize all the resources present in the publication and feel free to email comments and feedback. The Verdadera staff thanks you for your interest and support. This issue includes stories about fitting in, how it has impacted students both positively and negatively, and how students feel “fitting in” has affected our society.
~~~Thank you to those who have provided donations for Verdadera, totaling $936!~~~ Patricia Myerholtz Jon & Tamara Cogan Minhoi & Meiding Zhang John & Julia Wang William & Judith Wilson John D. Wells Camie S. Vo Peter & Carmel BlakeBurke Colleen & Bruce Beiser Paul Miller & Gina Funaro KwaiChuen So Philippe & Anne Dor Connie & John Kahng The Gupta Family
Shirley & Peter Matsumoto Hsingfen Chen Jih Pierre Haubuisin Anthony & Linda Hurtado M. & V. Somasundaram Lawrence & Cynthia Wong Leonard & Anne Esparza Erik & Julia Soldan S.D. & Shobana Nandakomari Ed & Julie Irvin Mathew & Valerie Hayes Gregory & Lisa Bates Michael & Suzie Yee
Takeshi & Narumi Yasui Misao Michelfelder Kusuda Jung Shin & RuShin Chien Jean Sun Toshihider Chikako Asano Richard & Barbara Goldman Mukund L. Ghonasgi Clifford & Jenny Marks Jay & Harsha Vaishnar Surendra & Mitra Lele ShenYu & Susan S. Li Richard Prinz Kate Jamentz
Student Submissions A square block trying to fit into a circle’s spot. That was what I felt every time I went to a new school after moving for the….hmm I lost count….time. I was not as fortunate as most other kids and I did not go to one elementary school and maintain a set of friends from there and expand on those friends in middle and high school. I was always the new kid. I moved a lot in my hectic life. I was born in India and I lived in 3 different areas there. After a few months, I moved to the United States, Sausalito, CA specifically. After a few months of school there, I moved to Redwood City. One month later and I’m playing in the snow in front of MIT. At least in Boston, I lived for 2 years right? No. I moved within Boston 3 times in those 2 years and changed schools twice. Just when I had you thinking that I finally got stabi lized, I tell you otherwise. Then, onwards and outwards to Mountain View. Oh whoops! It’s been 1 month;I have to move again and why don’t I try Sunnyvale? Sunnyvale seems boring so let’s go back to Mountain View. I hear Fre mont is good; let’s try there. Newark looks like a quant town and hey! I get to be part of a gated community! Cupertino’s schools are amazing; I need the best education possible. Fore!
Sure, I had family friends but at the rate I was moving, how often do you
Now I know I’m making my problem seem so casual but that’s not the case. I just hated it so much and it happened so frequently that I be gan to speak of it with casualness. The reason for me moving a lot was because my dad’s job location changed A LOT and so we had to move. Oh how I hated his company! Now, you might be thinking how does this relate to fitting in? Go back and read how many times I moved. I’ve attended so many schools and for the shortest amount of time too. It always seemed to me that fate wanted to give me enough time to get used to the live in the city but not enough time to get a friend circle started. I hated it.
They say that no one cares if you gain a pound or your eyes look puffy from lack of sleep. No one notices if your nose is too big, or if your lips are too thin. They say that if a B+ is your personal best, your ought to be proud. If you take regular literature instead of AP, you ought to be proud. Only you notice, so who cares, right?
think they came over? I was ALWAYS the new kid. I hated it. Nowadays, whenever there is a movie about a kid attending a new school and how he faces troubles being the new kid, I scoff. He faces the troubles once and has enough time to get over them and make friends. I never got that chance. So, those of you who are new to Monta Vista and haven’t yet begun to establish yourself here and think you are the only ones who know what it’s like being the new kid. I’ve been and done that…many more times than you have. Fitting in is tough. But, not doing anything about it only makes it worse.
"The best thing we can do is to make wherever we’re lost in look as much like home as we can." ~Christopher Fry ____________________________________ Fitting in is a vague concept.
But you see the looks, side glances, and ru mours. They say that everyone focuses on their own insecurity too much to notice you. But still, people compare you to themselves. If you are too different, you won’t fit in. People see you through what you do, how you act, and 2
what you achieve. No one accepts you for you. You have to work to fit in. And really, I hate the vanity and injustice of it all. Yet, I want to fit in. If I look normal, like ev eryone else, no one focuses on me. No one sees that I’m not pretty. No one cares about my weight. No one laughs at my grades. No one knows I’m not talented. I am just average, modest, and plain. Others assume I am good at something and just not showing it. If all you see is an average person, how can you tell any thing about me, how can you judge? But still, I want to stand out. If I am out there, everyone thinks I’m okay with my appearance. If I look so indisputably happy, if I act so re markably confident, and if I seem so outra geously proud of the person I am, I won’t be questioned. For I must be okay with my facial features to put on a smile and wave to others in the hallway, and if I wear such colourful skirts or strange jewellery , I must be confident in my body, and if I can voice my opinions, I must be sure of myself. If people know I am self conscious, they will look at me more. When you show yourself as strange or weird, no one sees the plain oddities. I can’t find the middle ground of being my own person and being likable. I suppose it’s be cause to myself, I am not a likable person. If I don’t fit in with myself, why should anyone else like me? I lack self esteem to back myself up. I do mean what I say, but I never say why I mean it, out of fear of rejection. And in the end, I managed to form two horrid extreme identities, each as fake as the other. It makes me sound like some sort of Jekyll and Hyde, but my masks are only on the outside. On the inside, I can’t fit in or stand out. Fitting in really is too vague a concept for me.
"To live is to feel oneself lost." ~José Ortega y Gasset
____________________________________ My seventh grade history teacher did a good job. She taught her kids about everything that once happened, how it relates to all that hap pens now, how to study for tests, work on projects, and in a small way, how to go through life. However, through all of that teaching, she told me something which I have thought about recently, and I don't know what to make of. How it exactly came up I don't recall, but we were discussing her capacity to draw. My teacher told me hands down that she had abso lutely no potential. Stick figures and symbols were the best she could muster, the result of several art classes and a resolved mind. I can't draw well either, but I told her that even if one is not cut out to do something, practice does improve. She would not accept that, believing that any art attempts would be wasted. When it comes to my strengths and weak nesses, I feel that fitting in is far below aver age. Give me a spotlight and I can talk about anything, but put me in a social situation and I am more worthless than a cart without wheels. I dislike going to parties, tend to avoid unneed ed encounters, and can't begin to fathom the complexity of the social/political status tangle in MV. Maybe my seventh grade history teacher was right. Somethings are simply not possible. Should I limit myself to simply not being able to fit in? Am I truly unable to find friends and get through life? Of course, past experiences have shown this to be difficult, but I do have friends, and I have survived pretty well so far. I still feel extremely out of place when I talk to people, and I hate it when I don't recog nize people who say hi to me. Conversations still dull out, inevitably ending with that awk ward moment where you break it off, and my thoughts still take me on strange tangents.
Still, while fitting in may not be my strong point, I think that working on it can change it, and at least trying won't hurt.
up with all the names. Hey you, yeah in the red. Whats two plus seven? Its not their fault but we are not going in the right direction.
"If you want to get along, go along." ~Sam Rayburn ____________________________________
I fear that the inevitable is happening. I am los ing my identity. I have become a student id number, grouped in an endless pool of digits, impersonal, virtually unimportant, fitting in too closely to ever make a difference.
Monta vista has its asian community, its white community, its indian community, its jock, math nerd, science nerd, and language nerd communities, its woodshop, drama, photo, art, rop, and music communities, its club communi ties, its teacher community, and who knows what else groups of people doing whatever they like to do communities. You want it, you got it. Want to make a club of people who like to watch I love lucy? Go ahead. Too tall? Plenty of others around. Too short, smart, blond, emotional, whatever? Others are there who feel your pain. Verdadera proves it with every issue. Hell, I fit in too. I came to this school an indi vidual, people always saying to do what you want to do and be good at what you are good at. In the end everyone is the same. Everyone blends together into groups. Am I special? Hell no. There is always someone who is like me. Why cant I be valued for who I am some time? I miss the attention as an individual. There are 30 other people in every one of my classes. Fitting in isnt the problem. The prob lem is that we fit in too well. All of us. I am swallowed in this hole that is the whole. Con gratulated as a group. My work helps everyone and I am sunk down by others failures. No kidding. Biology sucked because we had group grades. Why should I suffer if some oth er kid doesnt know what the spleen does. Why should that kid suffer if I cant list the properties of the gall bladder? Every year we have more and more kids here. Everything is less personal. Teachers cant keep
I guess ill go hang out with some people who feel that same way.
"Conform and be dull." ~James Frank Dobie ____________________________________ At this moment in my life, I feel that I am so over high school. Of course, there have been many wonderful times at Monta Vista, but right now I know after these last four weeks I know I have endured enough. High school has been full of drama and this ridiculous "rite of passage" that I could now do without. I am over fitting in and pretending to care because honestly I don't. I know what I care about and high school is not one of them. So many people have their heads up their asses, and I am just ready to move on and find people that are not all caught up in the drama that is high school. I have lost a lot of faith in this school over the past few weeks, and I continue to learn that sometimes shit happens, and there is nothing you can do about it. Maybe I have become a better person from what has been happening to me, but honestly it just sucks. This shit that is called fitting in is absolutely ludicrous. Why should I fall into some standards that who knows prescribed for me when I have so much more important things to worry about? What if I took all the time I have spent worrying about fitting in and put it into a productive avenue? I could accomplish something amazing. There is no reason why I should be where I am now worrying and crying over what has happened to me, so I won't. I will learn to take it in the gut, 4
take a deep breath, and move on. To the bigger and the better. "For one man who thanks God that he is not as other men are there are a thousand to offer thanks that they are as other men, sufficiently as others are to escape attention." ~Saint Ambrose ____________________________________ One of my favorite quotes that I choose to live by is "If you're lucky enough to be different, don't ever change." Fitting in is overrated. People that are dynamic, and interesting, and different are the ones that succeed. If I was irked by every little thing people said about me and how different I was, I don't think I could make it out the door everyday. I love who I am and have been living a life for myself and no one else. Over the past few years, I have learned that fitting in is not what we should be trying to accomplish. On the contrary, we should be trying to be ourselves and finding our own identity. For the last three years, I have stressed over not falling into a social group. I am what they would call a "floater." I have a lot of friends who I really care about but no group of friends that I fit in to. It has always made me a little sad that I am not invited to activities that the group organize and that I don't actually fit in with the people I hang out near. It used to make me really selfconscious and super aware of what they were thinking about me. Then this year I just stopped caring. There was too much stuff going on that I had to focus on and somehow… it worked out. I realized that the people I always hang out with are always there for me. They are the ones that I should care about not a group that I am trying to insert myself into. Now, by just being myself I have realized that I am happier than I could have ever been with the people that have always been there for me.
"…conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth." ~John F. Kennedy ____________________________________ I had a decent amount of friends. I still have a decent amount of friends. The same friends since 5th grade. I used to fit in with them, but I feel like I don't really belong anymore. Ever since Sophomore year began I began to mentally drift apart from my group of friends. I don't feel as if I am on the same page with them anymore. I'm more into academics while they are more into having fun. It's not that I don't like them, we just have different interests now. I'm scared to hang out with another group of people who are more like me because what if it doesn't work out? Then I'd be all alone without any friends to talk to. As Junior year gets tougher it's hard to "fit in" when your mind is constantly preoccupied with grades and school. My social life crashed sophomore year and I was determined to revive it this year. Everything seemed okay for a while until the "beginning of school" phase began to ware out. I'm beginning to feel like I don't belong again because I'm so into my work. My friends get annoyed when I talk about school all the time and so I talk to other people. But those other people aren't the same as my dear friends who I can spill my guts to (nonacademic stuff). I'm stuck in the middle not knowing what to do. Where do I belong? I don't have fun with my friends anymore when we go out because I just don't find the things they think are funny funny. At the same time I don't have those inside jokes with my more academic friends. I seclude myself from my friends to study while they have fun. I don't know where I fit in anymore. ____________________________________ Everybody wonders when they will fit in and one day we just do. In my freshman year I thought I fitted in perfectly I was wellknown and what people might call “popular.” I had a 5
ton of friends but I never felt like I fit in. I ended up deciding to start all over with new friends and a new type of life. Everything seemed like it was going well for a while but then I hit my sophomore year. I went through that year with some health complications. I took many tests and for the longest time my health was deteriorating. During that time I had never felt more alone, my friends were there for me but it just wasn't the same. It felt as if I was looking into a place where I had known no one and I felt like I lost touch with what normal could possibly be and I kept wishing I would be back to my old self. I often spent time not saying much or just trying to make jokes about my health so people wouldn't comment on it and look at me differently, I thought that maybe by joking around it wouldn't be true. Unfortunately, till I accepted the truth I would still be that outsider and be looking around at the blur of high school. Soon I decided to accept it and find out about others, because that is what fitting in is , learning about others and relating to it.
me if I don’t fit in with everyone or if my group of friends isn’t the entire school. After high school, and even college it won’t matter anymore. It will be the quality of the connection, not how many you have.
"I don’t hold with abroad and think that foreigners speak English when our backs are turned." ~Quentin Crisp ____________________________________
Fitting in became something that was constant ly underneath the surface. A lot of the pressures I felt to fit in were in the Monta Vistan tradi tion, grades, colleges, and all that good stuff. Freshmen year it seemed like folks divided into two factions. They were either chasing Ivys or had no clue about college. I was in the latter category, and I felt awkward every time my friends discussed college. There were other stuff too, less omnipresent but more hurtful.
In my time here at MV, I haven’t really fit in very much. Sure I have a small group of friends, but other than them, I can’t say I fit in the people who are considered “popular” I don’t know why, but those popular people that everyone reveres seem so different from people like me. I’m not really shy or timid; I guess I’m just different. But I still wonder, are they popular? Or is it that they have such a large group of friends that every where I go, somebody knows them and so it seem that the entire grade levels knows that one person, making them popular. But in any case, I don’t really care about all of that. It doesn’t matter to
"When we lose the right to be different, we lose the right to be free.” ~Charles Evans Hughes ____________________________________ When I was in middle school, I didn’t have to think about fitting in. In middle school it seemed like everyone were friends. And no matter what we did or what quirks we had it was okay. Sure, we teased each other about boys and clothes and all that stuff, but it was never out of meanness. Something changed when I entered highschool; maybe it started in 8th grade, maybe the first semester of freshmen year. I don’t really know what caused it, but suddenly it felt like all my friends were gone, and I was left to drift among the crowds of peo ple.
I remember the first time I heard my friends trash talking another girl, I felt surprised, be cause the things they said were cold and hurt ful. Things like, “she’s a slut,” or “she’s a fat bitch” were said without a single batting of the eyelids. You hated it, but you could never stand up and say that’s wrong, you shouldn’t talk about people like that behind their backs. At least I never did. It’s unconscious, it’s unsaid, it goes without saying, that if you interrupted a 6
gossip session you invariably become the focus of one. Girls really are mean creatures. Things didn’t change much sophomore year or junior year, except now the gossip turns to wards grades. Thing’s like “he/she is a failure.” “omgsh, really? Asian fail or fail?” “fail, not just asian fail” I have a friend who’s a guy, and I’ve always been envious of him because he’s always stood for his friends. If people bullied them, he’d speak up for them, and if people trash talked them, he’d be there to shut them up. He had a diplomatic way of solving problems, a way of diffusing social bombs with ease. We’re both seniors now, and I look at him everyday and I wonder whether I should have stood up my friends the way he did. I’d tell myself it’s hard er on a girl than it is on a guy. But then again, maybe that’s just an excuse. Often I’m racked with guilt thinking back to all those occasions that I didn’t speak up. But..then, maybe that’s just the price of fitting in.
"The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone." ~Henrik Ibsen ____________________________________ Truthfully, I believe many of us are and will be figuring out how to fit in and adapt to different environments our whole lives. In high school the social and academic pressures bring on a subtle discomfort for each teenager, each strug gling to simply be happy during the four years of growing pains and rewards. I graduated from Monta Vista many years ago and went off to college where both of my roommates were African American, from Inglewood. Although I didn’t hang out with them outside of the room, they were good roommates. I probably could have tried harder to befriend them, but I was comfortable with the friends I had natural ly made through classes and such, and so were
they. Much like how the majority of my col lege friends were Asian, all of their friends were African American. I feel like in college you become friends with the people in your classes, in the clubs and organizations you join, or in your dorm hall. Most likely you become friends with the façade of common interests or transitory goals. I became friends with differ ent types of people; different majors, different backgrounds, different goals, and by contrast, different personalities. After college I lived with two of my friends who were very different from me, both Asian. Yet after awhile I found myself not fitting in with them. We shared common interests in terms of experiencing new restaurants and such, but were almost opposites in other more important areas of life. I defi nitely struggled with the outrageous fact that people with skewed concepts still get away with things that I am so adamantly opposed. Then I became more assured that race and cul ture don’t make a person nowadays as one’s values, upbringing, and future goals. I still like these people that I befriended in college, but I guess they are not the type of lifelong friends I had been searching. I worked as a research associate in a microbiol ogy lab with many exceptional doctoral and medical scientist candidates at UCLA. Though definitely not qualified in terms of credential and knowledge, I was chosen because of my adaptability—to learn, to adapt to the swing of things and the quirks of each stressed re searcher. In the lab I tried to fit in by keeping alert and diligent about my work. In that envi ronment, the pressure to fit in ended up being a positive and motivating force. I guess we learn and intrinsically know what is best for us; in terms of what kind of environment we need to abort and what kind of environment we want to fit into. I wish everyone the best of luck in un folding and developing more of themselves in high school, college, and the many years after that.
"Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called." ~John Stuart Mill ____________________________________ For all my life, I knew that I needed constant reassurance, guidance, and support for every thing I did; decision, choices, and new endeav ors. In middle school, I had this; I had friends whom I loved and laughed with all day, our lit tle clique that I never wanted to change. I did n’t like change. But very soon, everything changed, drastically. My best friend in our group moved away, and soon another girl was “inducted” in. Everything started off great; we were laughing and talking together like nothing had changed. I thought she was a great friend, and I came to believe our little group had gotten bigger. I was wrong. All too quickly everything fell apart. This new girl had decided to hate me, or at least didn’t consider me enough of a friend to be in our group. We grew apart, and I was ignorant enough to not even notice. By this time she was close friends with all of the others, and to my surprise, I became distanced with everyone and everything. They had changed. I didn’t know what was happening, why every thing had changed so fast. I didn’t know if the others had noticed what was going on, I didn’t know if they cared. Every time I tried to talk, they all gave those weird looks, exchanged glances, laughed, and turned away. It seemed like I was always say ing the wrong thing at the wrong time, and I was expected to take all those looks and scoffs and just disregard them, with a “Just kidding”. All of them are best friends now, and I just be came another face in the crowd.
Not one look back; like I was never missed, and no one noticed or seemed to care that I never hung out with them during brunch or lunch anymore. It seemed like I was replaced and that that was the way it should be, like I never belong with them. I seemed like I wasn’t loved anymore, and I wasn’t. I didn’t fit in any more, and I won’t. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to say. I thought about anger, hatred, and then about sadness and pain. I thought about what I did to have made it so bad, and how this would change my life. I wondered if everyone went through this, or if it was only me. I didn’t fit in anymore, like an outsider, an out cast; to my very own best friends whom I used to think that were my best friends, forever and ever. Though now we are on friendly terms, I know that things will never be the same for us. I don’ think they ever realized how much they hurt me, how much they still hurt me. I see them now, around school, talking and laughing like old times, and I remember how it used to be, how it used to be me. I never asked for an apology, all I wanted was a reason. I write this article as an anonymous entry that in hopes that one day, one time, one of them might see and know how I truly felt, how I tru ly feel. I hope they realize that this is who I tru ly was, and truly am. I know that things will never be the same, and I know that I will never forgive myself or anything that has happened. I have regretted, recovered and moved on.
"Everyone’s quick to blame the alien." ~Aeschylus ____________________________________ There is this kid at school. He knows the 8
freshers, sophs, juniors, seniors, alumni, and to beMontaVistans. He knows the football kids, the drama kids, the rally court kids, the academic court kids, the 711 pot kids, the cheer kids, the speech&debate kids, the teachers, staff, and anybody and everybody on campus. If he doesn’t know you yet, he’ll get to know you. He’s completely at ease with everybody. He fits in everywhere. But sometimes I wonder, does he really fit in everywhere? Or does he feel like a drifter, just trying to fit in everywhere? I sincerely believe that he actually does fit in everywhere. I really want to be like him. But it is a very rare individual who can be that kid. And it is more likely that there are more drifters at school, just trying to find their space. Their place. I hope I find my place some day. And I want to say thank you to this kid, who showed me part of who I aspire to be. "Life isn’t about fitting in, it’s about standing out." ____________________________________ When you're new When you don't know anyone When the environment is unfamiliar When everything just seems so different That's when you have to learn how to fit in. Monta Vista was a really new and eyeopening experience for me. I came from somewhere outside of US and things were pretty different. At first, people thought I was weird, I was dif ferent from everyone else. What they didn't know was, I used to be a very social and hyper kid; but when i arrived here, I just sorta kept to myself. Some people did try to get to know me, but not many made the effort to be my friend or to accept me into their clique. I was used to moving around and switching schools and had always been able to adapt really quick
ly. So when i wasn't able to make more than mere acquaintance after a few weeks, I was starting to feel pretty upset and depressed. Why can't I fit in here? I felt like I didn't belong. I felt like I wasn't myself anymore. I would hate brunches because everywhere around me, peo ple would be with their friends and I would just be walking around school aimlessly, waiting for brunch to end. 15 minutes seemed so long to me then. Lunch was even more horrible. I would wish really hard that I would see or bump into people I know, but no matter how hard I wished, all I saw was unfamiliar faces. When I saw people laughing and chatting with their friends, I would wonder if I'll ever be able to do that again. I knew everyone probably thought lunch and brunch were too short, but to me, they felt like eternity. I felt like a loner. And in fact, I was. I missed my old friends and school and just being with people I knew. How ever, i knew that I didn't want to stay a loner for my entire high school life, I'll probably die before that happened. So, I started opening up and getting braver. I gradually began to make friends and had my own little clique. I became "myself" again. People who meet me now would probably never imagine me being a lon er. I'm really hyper and happy (most of the time when I'm not stressing about grades). I've final ly became what I thought i was never gonna be again, I'm one of those people who laugh and chat with their friends. Now, I would say Hi to a bunch of people when walking around cam pus. Brunch and lunch used to drag on forever and ever but now, time never seems to be enough. Everything I wished for, came true. I probably have a lot more fun with my friends that some people at MV do and I might even know more people than kids who have been here longer than I have. Also, I always make an effort to welcome new people, because I know exactly how it feels like. The whole point of this really long rant is, be more welcoming to the new kids! They may seem weird, or they may seem different, but seriously, you never know. Maybe they're even cooler than you. Just 9
invite them to eat lunch with you or tell them to hang out with you're friends. I know for a fact I would have been eternally grateful to anyone who would say those kind words too me. But, sadly, not many did. I know we all feel like MV has a really nice and welcoming student body, but really, how far would you go to make the new kid in your class feel like he or she be longs?
"If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse gift will find a fitting place." ~Margaret Mead ____________________________________ We all want to be accepted. Accepted by our parents, family, but most important, our friends. There has been a time when I felt like a puzzle piece, incongruous to the “cool kids so cial” puzzle. I was one of those quiet ones, part of the group, yet not part of it. I didn’t talk much; I didn’t contribute to the ongoing discus sion. I felt left out. Still, where else was I to go? I felt “cool” just being in this group, this circle of charming young boys and girls. How ever, one day, an opportunity for my participa tion in a discussion came. It was about this girl I knew in one of my classes. I thought she was pretty nice, and cool. At first the group started talking about this girl, and I became part of the conversation as I said I knew this girl. What I didn’t know was that this conversation was about to turn into a mudslinging, trash talking, disparaging tirades of this girl. Wanting to “fit in”, I changed my whole perception of this girl in a second, believing she was as nasty as ev eryone was saying. At class, I would always look at her as the words described to me by my peers. I stopped trying to get to know who she really was. Not until a few years later, I met this girl, and she was nice, and cool.
"People who cannot invent and reinvent themselves must be content with borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out." ~Warren G. Bennis ____________________________________ In a society based on the "sheep" theory, I am yet another one of those fluffy white sheep. I'm not remarkable. I'm not unique. I don't stand out. There is nothing marking me different from all the other sheep around me. This is not a bad thing. I don't understand why people in sist on a need to be unique, when everyone's real goal is to fit in to society. You won't look any greater or more special by being "unique" you'll just look like a freak. There have been times when I do not want to be a doctor, a lawyer, a scientist, yet resist ing the magnetic force of these subjects pro vokes vulnerability and fear. I don't consider other career paths anymore, in fear that these will be considered "weird." I don't want to de tach myself from reality, yet I don't want to for get myself. Fitting in is a paradox. You work so hard to be different, and in the end all the effort was to fit in again.
"We do not quite say that the new is more valuable because it fits in; but it’s fitting in is a test of its value – a test, it is true, which can only be slowly and cautiously applied , for we are none of us infallible judges of conformity." ~T. S. Eliot ____________________________________ I used to try to fit in when I was a kid But looking back on it now, I think people didn’t like me because I cared too much, and I tried to fit in so much I shoved my real self aside and 10
became some girl I thought people wanted me to be. Fitting in doesn’t matter that much to me now, if it means I have to act a certain way that’s different from who I am just to please other people? No way, because as much as I like meeting new people, it’s just not my priori ty to change myself to be likeable to them. I have friends who like me and I don’t have to try, and if someone doesn’t like me I couldn’t care less. I let it be, I’m so tired of seeing my peers trying to fit in though. It’s so much harder to show your real self, when you can be liked for being someone else. And it’s so rare that when I actually see some one genuine, it’s like I found a diamond in a sea of sawdust. Last year I had a huge crush on this guy. I liked him partially because he was cute. But mostly it was because his personality really shone. It was unique from other people, and I could see he was just nice and himself. He was confident and he didn’t need other people to like him. But this year he changed. Maybe something happened to him over the summer, he had seen a glimpse of what It felt like to be popular or “in”. And now he’s become this person who just wants to please other people and have other people think he’s cool. And because of that, my crush that had already subsided had turned to repulse He’s trying to get attention by being outspoken, by swearing more. I saw his friends goading him on to do something stupid and mean to an other student. And he did. I would have gained so much more respect for him, and I would have looked at him with a glowing light if he just refused and said something like, “Nah, that’s not cool man.” But he didn’t. And it was really disappointing. Eventually every one has to learn that being themselves is a much better bargain than trying to fit in. And I can’t wait until that time, where all of us realize this.
"The young always have the same problem – how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another." ~George Chapman ____________________________________ Fitting in: definitely not something I'm good at. Growing up, between moving and switching churches and schools, I always have tended to float between friends. I can mold to my sur roundings and blend in. I am an agreeable per sonit's not that people don't like me..I have just never completely fit in. A major reason for this is the fact that I'm too afraid to let anyone see who I really am. I'm too vulnerable as my self, so I pretend. I become the person people want me to be: tough and sweet, happy and sad, outgoing and quiet. If I really get close to somebody, I may let a little piece of the true me shine though. Too many times though I have been hurt by those people, so I go back to being who they want rather than who I am. However, by not letting people truly get to know me, I have really hurt myself more. I know it sounds cliche, but seriously having confidence and not being afraid to be yourself is really the best way to fit in. When we don't blend in with everyone else and we stop trying to protect ourselves, then we have the opportu nity to bond with others. It is our differences and individuality that bring us together. Of course, you won't be friends with everybody, but if you're truthful about yourself with others then you'll find your place. Fitting in is not be ing the same, its finding people who love you for who you are. ____________________________________ "If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun." ~Katherine Hepburn ____________________________________ 11
I have seen my friends disappear in front of my eyes into someone they’re not! This is all because they want to be like everyone else, be popular, be pretty and all they are is an MV clone. Starting of freshman year I was filled with friends and especially this one special friend who we will name Janet. We had being friends since middle school and I thought she was going to be there for me in high school, little did I know she had changed completely over summer. By the time our sport season rolled around, I couldn’t stand her one little bit! She was different, A LOT different. Why was she so full of herself??? I didn’t understand, why why why?? Even now every time I see her its different. I try to tell myself the person I knew wasn’t her but since she has shown her real side, I know deep inside who she is. The feeling of disappointment swept across my mind as I see her. It will never be the same. Just u and me in 8th grade again. I sometimes feel as if I have no friends. It’s not all the time, just the time where I have crappy days. Those are the times where I wish I had a set group, people that I always go to at lunch and brunch, a group that calls me up whenever they have plans, that clique that’s been together since freshman year. I think I really realized this when everything jus seemed to be going wrong. I’d have my phone taken away and had gotten C”s on two tests making my grade a very solid C and I was tired and stressed from life, so I just started crying during my 3rd. I kept crying a bit into brunch, but I felt like I had no where to go. No group to just be hugged by and say it’s ok. Just me in the restroom trying to wipe my tears. Sorry to sound so emo, I do have friends. People probably think I have a lot of friends with the way I act and the activities I’m involved with, it’s just I don’t fit into a set group. I intermingle with a lot of people. I could go from the Asians by the cafeteria, to the white
people by the C building to the Indians of the library stairs. I sometimes just feel like I have a ton of surface level friends, but only a few people who actually understand me. These amazing few, I love so much, but alas they are all parts of different groups. To bring them all together to hang out would be a rather awkward situation. Fitting in becomes a weird thing for me because I don’t think I would allow myself to have a clique no matter how hard I tried. I chat with different people in different classes and think that there are too many people sometimes. I stay in one group one day, and another the next. I love always being able to wave and chat with people in the halls. They are all from different groups and maybe I’m not on their top friends list. For some reason, I’m ok with that. If I weren’t I’d try harder to change it. It becomes more of a balance, learning how to invest in those few people who I really care about, while intermingling with everyone else. "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson ____________________________________ I have never really had a problem fitting in. I mean, I’m not popular or anything, but I have friends. I think I figured out what helps with fitting in. You have to stop caring. When you stop caring if others like you or not, then other people don’t feel like they have to care, and they like that, so they want to be around you. I found that the more you try to fit in, the more you suck at it. I tried fit in with some of the more popular kids, and it didn’t work. They didn’t hate me or anything, but we just didn’t really click. I was kind of bummed, but I found different friends who I got along with much better. I guess I figured that If I was going to 12
have to try really hard to be someone’s friend, then it wasn’t worth it, because frankly I am much to lazy to work that hard for something that isn’t fun, which is what friendships are supposed to be. Not fitting in with them didn’t bother me much because I realized that I didn’t have to fit in with them. I could fit in in an entirely different group. I am lucky, not everyone fits in somewhere. "Don’t think you are on the right road just because it’s a wellbeaten path." ____________________________________ Everyone always said high school was going to be hard, horrible teachers, impossible tests, terrifying upper classmen. But no one ever told me how hard the real parts of high school would be. No one ever told me that everything “easy” about middle school was going to get so much harder. Now that I was in high school I felt that I couldn’t act the same way. Now that “liking a guy” meant that you wanted to get with him, I didn’t know how to talk to my guy friends anymore. I found it difficult to make friends or to speak up in class, my mind preoccupied by the thought that no matter what I said, people would judge me. And when judging me I wanted them to think the best of me possible. Now of course this thinking lead where I always leads. I wanted to look perfect, I wanted to appear like I had it all together so that whenever anyone say me they would just say wow, I wish I could be like her. I decided, in my ultimate wisdom, that high school was not about having friends who were guys, but having boyfriends. I would wake up each morning and spend hours getting ready, trying to look perfect so that some boy would like me, and all the girls would be jealous of me. So much for that plan. I spent hours every day, and yet no boy fell in love with me. I spent hours every day, and yet
no girl envied me. I was still alone, and not part of any group, and now I just hated what I was doing for attention. So I stopped. Just stopped. And what happened? Everything. Everything changed and just fell into place. It seems that the more I tried to shove things together, the more broken everything became. Just like a puzzle when you are little. I just wanted to finish the puzzle, not caring whether or not the pieces fit or not. Turns out, even if you take a little longer to fit the pieces together, the puzzle is so much more beautiful. "The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself." ~Rita Mae Brown ____________________________________ Fitting In. I think this is a touchy topic for everyone; including me. I think popularity really started to take its toll on me in 7th grade. What I mean to say is that in 7th grade I knew who was popular, and I knew that I wasn't. I had friends and my own little group, but there were definitely days that I wished I was, "hanging with the cool kids." I wanted the middle school version of the glam life. That year, I struggled a lot with wanting to be popular and knowing that I wasn't no matter how much I tried or pretended. I eventually decided that I should focus on something else because my goal was unrealistic and unimportant in the scheme of things. As soon as I made this decision for myself, I realized just how many friends I had. Not necessarily popular people, but I just knew and talked to a lot of people from different friend groups. I was fairly content with this at the time and as I moved into 8th grade my network of friends continued to grow. Of course, in the back of my mind I still subconsciously wanted to be popular. But then I became more observant of the popular group and its perils. One of my friends was 13
inducted into the popular group. To get there, she ditched her friend group and also had to change a lot. Then one day, out of the blue, they decided that they were not going to be her friend anymore. They ditched her point blank. Discarded her like she was an object and not even a person. I was surprised at her exfriends. At first, I thought it was just her and that maybe there were extenuating circumstanced that I was not aware of. Then, the same thing happened in a similar fashion to another of my friends. After that, I had no interest in being popular what so ever. It's not worth it. Sure, its fun, but there is so much pressure to be perfect, at least look that's what it looks like. Quite frankly, I don't have the time or the energy to wake up an hour early every day just so I can do my hair. I am not mean and I like talking to almost everyone. I am not exclusive. I don't do drugs and I don't get drunk. Am I stereotyping? yes. I know that not all popular people are superficial or mean. But, from the outsider's perspective, that's what it looks like. From the outside looking in it seems like a bunch of people who are friends by default; people who are outwardly rude to you or only friendly when they want something. People who go and party and do dumb stuff together. Maybe this is just my personal experience and my opinion is completely biased but, maybe not. Here's the challenge: Prove. Me. Wrong. "We submit to the majority because we have to. But we are not compelled to call our attitude of subjection a posture of respect." ~Ambrose Bierce ____________________________________ At any other school, I would be branded as a nerd, a freak. But here, I do it just to fit in. I spend countless hours studying and my weekends at the library. I have a 4.0, volunteer three hours a week, and consider a "B" a failure.
We do it to get into a good college, to pre pare for a successful life, to be happy. That's what we tell our parents, our peers, and even ourselves. But what is our real motivation? We're just trying to fit in. In my case, it's not enough. As a white stu dent in an overwhelmingly asiandominated school in an asianpopulated town, I will never be completely included, no matter how good my grades. Consider the language barrier. Recently I was assigned a group project in lit – quote anal ysis. I presented my ideas to my three partners, and asked them what they thought. The three of them proceeded to discuss – in Korean. Lost and a little pissed, I sat and brooded on whether their presentation would be any good. It would be their presentation, not mine… just as this is their town, not mine. I've lived here my whole life. I have as much right to be here, to be comfortable here, as anyone else. And yet… I just can't fit in.
Last year, our friend group shrunk, became bigger, and then shrunk once again. Minus one, plus one, minus one; just like a math equation except not quite so simple. Over the summer one of our friends moved away. Then, at the beginning of freshman year our beloved friend group acquired a new person. She had lost many friends coming to our, school and we were glad to have her. Unfortunately, as one friend drew closer, one friend slipped away. I was not even aware of it at first, I did not realize that she stopped hanging around at lunch or walking with us to our lockers. Eventually, it got to the point where when she came to hang around with our group she no longer knew our jokes, our discoveries, and what was going on in our lives on a day to day basis. The truth of the matter was, she was no longer a daily part of our friend group and it 14
affected our friendship. I am truly sorry this happened to you. I can honestly say that what happened to you I would wish upon no person. I am glad you have moved on and that we are regaining our friendship. Yet, I also know that it will never be like it was again. You know who you are and I promise that you will never be just another name regardless of what happens in the future.
"Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~Howard Thurman
conformist. And with what I say during discussions about things, this fits me perfectly. The truth is, I hate hate HATE the conformity of cliques and social groups, BUT I would love nothing more than to fit in. If it means succumbing to the conformity that is the basis of cliques and social groups, I don’t really care. If it means doing a few things that I normally wouldn’t do (not drugs or anything like that), I don’t care. If it means completely throwing away what I have believed in for all my life, that nothing good ever comes out of cliques and the elite “in” status, I can do that, and just ignore my feelings and tell myself that I don’t care. I just really want to belong, somewhere. Is that too much to ask?
A friend of mine whose thoughts and opinions matter to me greatly considers me a non
FITTING IN WITHOUT SELLING OUT Rev. Rick Sherrill The only qualification I have to write this article is both simple and complex, painful and triumphant: I survived high school. If you were to ask random adults if they would trade their current lives and relive their high school years, my guess is that most would offer an emphatic “no.” Even with the sometimes crushing responsibilities of adulthood, the four years of high school were the most difficult of my life. I would rather walk over hot coals (ouch) or listen to Britney Spears songs (double ouch) than go back . Let me be clear. It wasn’t the mean teachers or the academic pressure that make me cringe when I think about Elk Grove High (ironically, the home of the “Thundering Herd”). In the grand scheme of things, these challenges were easy to overcome compared with the social dislocation I felt in varying degrees for the entire four years. While we all struggle with “fitting in” for the entirety of our lives, the raw pain is never more acute than in the turbulent social cauldron known as high school. It is clear from your responses in this issue that not much has changed. With over twenty years of distance from my own high school experiences, I wish I could talk to the sad, lonely, frightened kid I once was and offer some comfort and advise. Alas, the best I can do is offer the same to you. I hope this helps. 1. Get Comfortable in Your Own Skin – While this is far easier said than done, it is absolutely, 15
positively the key to finding your place in any social group. This isn’t just about “finding” yourself or “defining” yourself because these things really aren’t that hard to do. You probably have a pretty good idea of your current likes, dislikes, values, strengths and weaknesses by now. If not, keep exploring every option. As so many of you have expressed, the problem is getting to the point where you are able to show the “true you” to other people without being scared or ashamed. This takes something more than guts. You’ve got to make the decision to love yourself and then stick to that decision no matter what comes your way. If you don’t love yourself, you will drive other people away because nothing is more toxic to a social environment than chronic insecurity. 2. Surrender Your Masks – We all have masks we wear in life, some that are intricately designed to keep others from knowing who we really are. These masks can show almost any emotion or state of mind – happy, sad, successful or indifferent, to name a few. Even when we are relatively comfortable in our own skins we still tend to project an image that others will like. This can become an endless game of anticipating what others hope to see in us and working hard, sometimes very hard, to mold that image. It’s not only extremely tiring but also almost always unsuccessful. The longer we hide behind masks the lonelier we feel, no matter how many people we have in our social circles. In this case, being vulnerable is for the strong, not for the weak. 3. Expand Your View – Once you are comfortable in your own skin and are willing to be vulnerable, you should quickly discover the capacity to see your world differently. Once you get beyond your own insecurities even slightly, you will discover that there are lonely and hurting people all around you. Even the socalled “popular” people at your school stumble and fall with great regularity. I don’t remember a great deal of what my mom said to me during my high school years, with one huge exception. One day when I was lamenting the fact that I didn’t have many friends, she said, “You have to be a friend to have a friend.” I have never forgotten that, even though I sometimes fail to live it out. Each of us has the capacity to reach out to others with genuine kindness. If you don’t feel accepted then find someone who needs acceptance and pour yourself into that person. You’ll be amazed how quickly friendships grow when you offer yourself in service to others. 4. Build Up Instead of Tearing Down – While it may seem fun and oddly liberating to pick on someone to enhance your social standing, this is always a bad idea. First, you can do serious and lasting harm to the person who is the butt of your jokes. Second, the tables can turn quickly and without warning and suddenly you are the one being tortured. I’m not naïve enough to believe that any high school can become a “hazingfree” zone. However, each of us has the choice to participate or not. Do yourself a favor and choose not to. Even if you become the new target, your selfrespect will be intact. Helping others discover their own gifts, talents and innate goodness will do more to change the culture of your school than anything else possibly can. 5. Choose Your Close Friends Wisely – Friendships are always twoway streets; both parties give and receive care and support. It’s easy to get into a rut and chooses to give, give; give without receiving much in return from your socalled friends. If you are constantly being dragged down by the people you spend time with, then it is definitely time to “tradeup.” Each of us needs to have at least one person who will be there when the going gets tough. Don’t ever settle for someone who sucks the goodness and mercy right out of you. 6. Create Your Fit – It’s perfectly acceptable to change yourself to fit in with different social groups 16
as long as you know why. If you want to hang out with the band, learning to play an instrument helps. If you want to hang out with soccer players, learning something about soccer helps. If you want to hang out with serious students, diving into our coursework helps. I’m not suggesting you try to become someone you’re not. However, expanding your horizons and discovering new things opens doors for conversation and increases your chances of finding common ground. It’s OK to adapt to the circumstances you find yourself in as long as you don’t forget what makes you unique. 7. Embrace Change – When I started high school my friends were almost all runners on the cross country and track teams. By my senior year my friends were mostly from the debate team. Only a few of my friends were constant from beginning to end. High school may be the most volatile four years of anyone’s life. We grow more rapidly and change more abruptly than at any other point in our lives. Some friendships are lifelong; some are built for a specific time and place. Don’t feel guilty about moving on from those friendships that no longer have a unifying factor. 8. This Too Will Pass – When all else fails, remember that high school will come to an end. This may not be good news for everyone. The people who currently “rule your school” will scatter to the four corners of the earth and everyone’s reality will reset. The criteria for “popularity” will change radically. Your gifts and abilities that may be ridiculed now may be highly valued in just a few short years. You very well may find that college and adulthood are where you finally hit your stride. Life is a series of chapters and we each have the ability to control how our story is written. There is always hope that each chapter may be better than the one before. For some of you, the 15 minutes you have for brunch may seem like an eternity as you wander the campus alone. For others, the time flies by in a flurry of conversations and laughter with beloved friends. No matter which scenario best describes your current reality, you have responsibility for your own identity. It is an act of courage and daring to fit in without selling out. Rest assured that the result is worth the investment. Reverend Rick Sherrill is a pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Cupertino. Resources from the Verdadera Staff
Teenissues.org at http://www.teenissues.co.uk/TipsForFittingIn.html. This website contains information about various ways teens can fit in better. It has advice on how to fit in better but at the same time be yourself. Teenadvice.about.com at http://teenadvice.about.com/cs/friendships/ht/. This website has advice on how to help teens go through a developing part of their lives. It also con tains a collection of articles about these topics and issues. This website is part of about.com, a website which is useful in many areas.
Fitting In Is Overrated: The Survival Guide for Anyone Who Has Ever Felt Like an Outsider, by Leonard Felder. This book has 10 chapters on questions people can ask themselves to keep in check. AntiHate Line 8006490404 A service, partnered with the Human Relations Commission, for listening, reporting, and followingup of incidences of discrimination and hate crimes. Upcoming Issues and Submission Deadlines Issue
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