15 May 2012
Long before many (most?) of us even realized we had a conscious say in being weird, our peers made that call for us. What we’re actually choosing is how to contextualize and reckon with that weirdness.
Self-definition comes long after we are defined by others. Usually, we must first choose whether to accept or reject the labels that others thrust on us. Human beings do not exist in social vacuums and who we are is a question of how we relate to those around us.
The nature of this does not change outside of high school. The difference is the level of freedom that one experiences when removed from the ridiculous structures that come with being an adolescent: teachers, home rooms, lunch breaks, curfews. I will not deny that these things have a place – particularly when one is developing and unable (or unwilling) to make responsible decisions for oneself. But we also have to acknowledge that the environment that it creates is incredibly problematic. At least, those of us who were damaged by it have to acknowledge it – even if some of us come out better for having experienced it, there are enough who don’t that for it to be worrying.
High school is a terrible place to discover yourself. The part that troubles me is that I cannot come up with anything better.