Today we have the charming Stephanie Perkins here to share some sage advice garnered from her own high school experiences. Maybe you're heard of her book ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS? Yeah, thought so. Here's the contemps spotlight if you need a refresher. And look for LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR, out September 29.
Without further ado...
A Message for the Teenage Outsider
I write about characters living on the outside of traditional alternative cliques, because that’s where I spent my own high school years. I was in band, but I didn’t hang out with the band geeks. I flirted with drama club, but I wasn’t a drama nerd. I loved artists, but I wasn’t enrolled in any art class.
I was close to so many alternative cliques that I didn’t feel comfortable in a single one. Instead, I had a very small group of friends who also skirted along the outsides. And I also spent a lot of time by myself.
It was lonely, and yet, I have never been afraid of being alone. I like being alone. Instead, I worried what other people would think about me being alone.
What other people would think.
This is one of the hardest obstacles that I’ve had to overcome. To stop thinking about what is traditionally right, what is traditionally normal, what is traditionally acceptable. To realize that being an outsider among outsiders is actually . . . a pretty darn special place to be.
It didn’t feel special in high school.
In fact, it felt really crappy.
I recently had a conversation with another creative loner type, and he described being a teen and looking out over a crowd at a rock concert, and realizing that he didn’t want to be the kids in the audience who acted and looked the same. He wanted to be like the guy onstage. The guy who was unique. The guy who held his own.
I wish I’d had this perspective when I was a teenager. I wish I hadn’t worried so hard about fitting in with the alternative crowds, and that I would have allowed myself to BE an alternative.
Several years ago, I learned a strange lesson when I began blogging. The more personal I made my entries—the more obsessive, the more embarrassing, the more I talked about what I loved—the more fun I had. When I stopped trying to be what I thought I should be, and I let myself be who I am . . . that’s when people became drawn to my writing, and that's when I made like-minded friends.
I realize that it sounds trite or naive for me to tell you to be who you are, to stop worrying about what other people think. I know that this is advice is neither simple nor something that can be accomplished overnight. But I want you to realize that the sooner you make an effort to stop worrying about other people’s perception of yourself, the sooner you will feel comfortable in your own skin.
The real world—the world outside of high school, which I assure you is SO much richer and more captivating—is not interested in another clone. They are interested in you.