Monday, June 15, 2015

Take a Number and Live it Up

Never at any point in high school did I take a theater class. I hung out with the theater kids and went to all the shows, but I was always on the sidelines. One of my Senior Bucketlist Items was auditioning for the school musical. I made it, and after closing night, I decided to call it good.
Until the student directed mini plays came around and they talked me into auditioning. So here I was, back on the inside again. In the theater world but not part of the theater world. One day I was sitting around at rehearsal, watching everyone group themselves into cliques, and I felt alone. People talk about sociality is a pyramid or ladder, but I decided it was a continuum numbered one to ten. And I was a one. Then I factored in all the other facets of my social life and decided, "No, I'm more of a six. Is six good?"
So I turned to the girls next to me."Hey Hannah, rate your social life on a scale of one to ten."
"I'm a four."
It quickly became a game. We called out to people passing by, who gave us every number from negative three to twelve. Then we started rating people ourselves.
"She's seven."
"Definitely five."
"He's a nine."
"Wait, what? Are you talking about me?""
Nothing, Sam. Just rating your social life."
I've seen people play the same game with physical appearance, so we didn't feel bad in the least.One common thread I noticed: When we asked someone to pick their own number, almost everybody shortchanged themselves. Including me. Here I was, a six sitting with friends in a room full of people I mostly knew by name, and I felt like a zero.

I've kicked off every summer since eighth grade with a homework bonfire. Last year, I invited six friends over, and one of them asked me to take a picture of her on our two person swing. The next day, I found it on facebook with the caption, "Nothing says summer alone like sitting on one of these by yourself." 
Both of her hands were in the picture. It was obviously not a selfie. She spent that night at the first party of the summer and probably her last. If she felt lonely, it was self imposed.
So many people in high school complain about being outcasts. They complain, even as they chose to eat lunch in the choir room, in the art hallways at the back of the school where the lockers don't reach, or behind a trash can on the second floor. Every once in a while, I've run into someone who's helplessly awkward and can't make friends no matter how hard they try. But most of the worlds loners are such because they don't try.

I spent most of my high school career far below a six. I hung out with friends outside of school once a month, if that. Party meant eating Doritos in someone's basement while a Disney movie played on a grainy screen. I thought I was some kind of pariah.
I'm a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps kind of girl, so this year I decided to give my social life an extreme makeover. In the last semester of my senior year:

I convinced a group to play hide and seek in Ikea on a double date.
I asked a boy from another school out to our prom four days before the dance. Prom is boy's choice.
I tracked down a boy at eleven o' clock P.M., chewed him out for dumping my friend the night before that same prom, and had him in a suit the next day.
I've crashed parties and been accepted without a second glance.
I played laser tag with a mix of friends and strangers at 3:00 A.M.
I went out for manicures with a friend instead of curling up and crying the day a bully tore me down in front of a silent room.
I sat and talked for hours with high school royalty I never thought knew my name.
I went shopping in a flapper dress and, without changing, showed up at a church youth meeting designed to set up my age bracket as role models to the younger girls.
I wandered a strange college campus with a girl who'd been there even less than I had.
I snapped photos of a prank proposal while our principal looked on in disbelief.
I sprinted to the getaway car after leaving random plastic cutlery on the porches of various guys I know from school.
I hurled loose change out of my sunroof to pay some guy back for the lighter he bought us to go with the cranberry scented candle we picked out for a mini-memorial service that would take too long to explain.
I added eight extra pages to the back of my yearbook to fit all the people who think I'm smart, funny, pretty, and caring.

And you know what I've figured out through all of that?
Sometimes the best moments happen when you leave a party to watch Netflix until 1:00 A.M. with a heartbroken friend.
Sometimes the best conversations happen when you sit in your friend's driveway for three hours after whatever event got you out of the house in the first place.
Sometimes the most memorable part of a school trip isn't the museums and concerts, but that time you played Uno in the hotel room with a bunch of orchestra girls.
Sometimes it's okay to go on a shopping trip and come home with only a bag of silk fish tank plants.Sometimes the best parties are when you invite fifty people, only three show, and then the rain comes down and you spend the night bailing out a girl's basement instead.
Sometimes you have more fun eating donuts and doing dramatic readings of your diary in a dark park than anyone at the afterparty.
Sometimes you don't need money to have a crazy night, just a friend's employee discount and a cup of cookies and cream flavored ice split four ways.

The key to all this?
Be open to spontaneity.
Be willing to kick something off yourself, even if it doesn't pan out.
Stay true to your friends.
Find friends who will stay true to you.
Don't close your eyes to all the amazing strangers all around you.
Love yourself, so other people will too.
Remember, even the It Boy find himself on the lower end of the popularity continuum sometimes.
It doesn't matter if you spend most Friday nights at home with a book, so long as you make your sometimes the best.

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