by Kimberly MacCarron
If there’s one thing I can say with absolute certainty about my teen years it’s that I don’t regret my friendships. Not one. It’s not because they were all perfect friends with perfect life views. It’s not because they fit into a mold that was given to me by my parents or my church or any authority figure. It was because all my friendships were different. My friends were different.
My daughter Megan said to me just this morning, “I love my green day lunches and my blue day because I have different sets of friends.” I’m paraphrasing because the comment came before my coffee, but the idea made me smile. That’s the way I felt all through my teen years.
Sometimes I felt like I was cheating on one group of friends while I was hanging out with a different group, but overall, all my friends filled a need in me. The need to stretch my ideas and see that the world was an open place, and for me to fit into that world someday required me to be open to the differences in people.
I had my cheerleading friends and my youth group friends and friends from school. Sometimes they overlapped and sometimes they didn’t. I went to a Christian high school, so I suppose there was way more overlap than I thought at the time.
There were groups of girls that were deemed a little looser than the girls that were “saving themselves for marriage”. There were girls who wore makeup and flirted and made out with boys, and then there were the girls who were more interested in grades and their future.
Where did I fit in? I still don’t know. I walked a tightrope between them. Having done that and enjoyed the differences in those friendships has taught me so much about adult relationships.
Sometimes people grow into better people. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes those catty girls grow up to be catty PTA members or dance moms in your community. Sometimes people change and sometimes they don’t. The key is acceptance.
We don’t know why that overachiever felt the need to be perfect growing up. Maybe they had overbearing parents who never gave them unconditional love or acceptance. We just don’t know.
My friends today come from every kind of background, every political party, every religion—from Evangelicals and Catholics to Buddhists and Muslims. I also have friends who are Atheists, and once again I’m not even sure where I fit in any of these groups. Just like my friends, my ideas don’t fit into a mold.
Two of my favorite movies growing up were DEAD POET’S SOCIETY and THE BREAKFAST CLUB. Both were about conformity. Both were about fighting against the stereotypes we place on people for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s out of fear or ignorance. Most of the times it’s what some authority figure in our lives has told us to believe. We generally hold firmly to our parents’ beliefs until we actually make our way into the world. And finally breaking free to become your own person is a gift you give yourself.
We should all spread our wings. We should all look at the world and the people in it with acceptance.
This is one of my favorite scenes from the DEAD POET’S SOCIETY:
(Keating stands on his desk)
John Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?
Dalton: To feel taller!
John Keating: No! (Dings a bell with his foot) Thank you for playing, Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.
This past week in my community, a beautiful high school sophomore took her own life. I didn't know her, but I cried. I cried the tears of a parent. I cried the tears of a washed-up teen. I cried because I'm human. There were many reasons discussed, but in the end we will never really know why she took her life. Sadly, she will become a statistic. An ugly, frightening statistic of teen suicide. My hope is for teens to realize that they are never alone. That just because they don't share the same beliefs or world views of someone else doesn't diminish them. We are not alone! This is for adults as well. Too many people struggle with their views, their hopes and dreams.
It's okay to be different, to march to a different beat than the others. It's more than okay. It's perfect! Until we open our minds and hearts to others, we won't know that. I will end this blog post today with the letter from THE BREAKFAST CLUB because it’s how people generally see each other unless they are forced to see things from a different perspective.
Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us…In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…an athlete…a basket case…a princess…and a criminal…Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.