If you're the kid in grade school, middle school or high school that the other kids shun and label as 'weird' this is for you.
I'll start with a story of my own. By the time I was 10 I was pretty much a pariah in my school. My school had close to 1,000 students. I had 1 friend at the school, everybody else hated me. Even the other kids everybody else hated too. I was weird and different. Harmless, but I didn't conform. I didn't know how. Kids live in a dangerous world. A world where they have very little power, so they seek safety in the herd. Whenever there is something that they don't understand, their natural inclination is to shun it. The popular kids do not understand the weird kids. They fear and marginalize them. This was me. Wearing what everybody else wore, but marginalized all the same.
My grades suffered. I wasn't dumb, I was just disinterested. I had more important things to worry about, like walking the halls between classes, or avoiding that kid who wanted to torment me because he looked less weird to the others when he did it. But my grades were so bad, they made me take a test to see if I needed to be in special classes. The first part of the test was spelling and recognition. You keep spelling words until you make a mistake. Each word gets harder. I did well until I misspelled 'Champagne'. I spelled it 'champaigne'. I was mad at myself for making such a stupid mistake. The remedial teacher saw this and told me that no one in the school had got it, in fact no one had ever gotten that close. I wasn't remedial, she decided, I was just a kid in desperate need of validation. She was right. Shortly thereafter I was transferred out of that school. Things got a little easier at the new school but it was still less than ideal.
Weird kids need validation. We need to hear that our flights of fancy, our ideas and our non-linear thinking is praiseworthy. Well, let me tell you right now your flights of fancy, your ideas and your non-linear thinking is not only good, it's exceptional. You are exceptional. Right now in the environment you are in, that is a bad thing most of the time. But your time will come and soon. And guess what, it will be your time for a LOT longer than the time at school.
First, the bad news: The popular kids can't be relied to give you any validation. And they probably won't ever accept you fully. On top of that, they will remain popular. Their lives, for the most part, will be easy. To add insult to injury, you'll have to listen to them complain about how hard life is. Even later in life they will be popular, but once in the real world, their worlds will grow smaller. Because popular people are nothing special. And in order to tell themselves they are, they have to shrink out anything that betrays that lie. So their world gets smaller and smaller as time goes by. In contrast, yours will get bigger because you are special.
This shitty world in which you live ends the second you go to college. There is no ramp down period or gradual shift. The reign of the popular ends in a flash. They will still be at your college but you'll probably never see them again, except in passing between classes. If they do approach you it will be because they need you, or maybe even that they have grown as people. Either way they'll be compliant and nice because college is your turf, not theirs. They are in the land of the weird. Non-linear thinkers. Artists and savants get scholarships here, not wedgies. You will meet friends and lovers you will keep for life. You will meet popular people who always liked the weirdos because they too see your value. You'll find job opportunities and a desperate need for what makes you weird.
You see, the world needs weirdos. Popular people can manage men, and trade stocks and rise to middle management. They're good at that. They're not very good at landing a man on the moon, and they're terrible at getting that man back when things go wrong. They've never had to struggle or think outside the box. The box has always been warm, and safe and forgiving. They've never had to make their own box. Stick that man in a room with just a few parts and duct tape and ask him to make a re-breather and you'll get a very well constructed discussion about how it's not his fault he failed. Stick a weirdo in that room and Apollo 13 gets home alive.
The world needs art and beauty. The world needs those who take the other path, who don't think linearly. The world needs people that merge the creative with the constructive. From Temple Grandin's pioneering work in animal sciences to General George Patton (a man who quoted his own poetry on the battlefield and believed he was reincarnated), the world benefits from you. The world needs doctors who empathize with the plight of their patients and it needs math whizzes who take a fresh look at age-old problems.
The world needs weirdos. We create, we invigorate, we dictate. When shit hits the fan it's the outside thinkers, the non-linear doers, the ones who take the different path who come up with the solutions. This is you. Right now the world seems cruel, deliberate, unending. But that's because you are trapped (through no fault of your own) in a very small, very animalistic part of the world, where strength is the only key to the kingdom. Teenagers are barbarians. This is known throughout the universe. But this will end, overnight, like the death star blowing up. And that night is coming soon.
So here's what you need to do.
- Endure. school isn't forever, even though it seems that way. And I promise you it will change overnight.
- Don't change for anybody. Don't give up what makes you unique.
- You are not alone. Not ever.
- Do what you love. You're good at it.
And remember Apollo 13 - A popular kid wouldn't shoot for the moon, let alone know how to get back.