By: Nicole Bates Instagram: @nicolebates_
One of my favorite books (and movies), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, describes high school in a delightfully witty and honest way. When I first read the book, I thought the main character Greg’s categorization of the groups in high school was extremely limiting. But now?
I see there is quite a bit of truth in his descriptions.
Greg is a bit of an outsider and throughout the whole narrative he is extremely self-deprecating. He shares that he has “[mastered] the languages and customs of [his high school’s] various sovereign states” and from his perspective, “you belong to one nation.” However, he has devised a way to get “citizenship with everyone…just [to] be on low key good terms with everyone.”
In this short post, I can’t do Greg Gaines’ elaborate description of his high school’s social system justice so you are going to have to read the book to learn for yourself. But the gist of his message is that every high school has its basic groups. Most typical high schools have the popular kids, the nerds, the theater kids, the band kids, the stoners and the jocks. Obviously, as with everything, there is some degree of crossover between all the groups. But in high school- associating with one group is sometimes the only way to get by.
Hopefully by now we have all learned that these “social groups” are futile and they don’t really define a person’s identity. However, as a society, we never really stop putting people in boxes.
As the saying goes; high school never ends*.
People like these categories because it imposes order. I mean think about how many times you’ve talked with your friends about which Hogwarts house everyone would be in or what character from The Office you would be. People like to associate things with each other, even if they don’t exactly fit, because putting a title to something helps us think about things more clearly.
I personally don’t think that there is anything wrong with putting people in groups. Obviously when people take it too far and begin to discriminate against someone because of their “social group” then problems can arise, but the beauty of a group is it brings people together who have common interests.
All the “band kids” love playing music, and the “nerds” love to learn, the “jocks” love sports and the “theater kids” love to put on a show. I think it can be a wonderful thing to find a group of people who value the same thing as you do.
However, society’s desire to put people in groups becomes difficult when you are someone who doesn’t really feel they belong in any one group. Then you become a part of a bigger, less unified group of “misfits” or the “outsiders.”
In high school, where people rely so heavily on groups, being a “misfit” or an “outsider” can be really hard. I’d say that’s what Greg Gaines represents; he’s what some may call a “floater.” He’s friendly with everyone, but he doesn’t have a core group of friends to turn to. That’s cool most of the time but what about when it comes to prom or graduation?
Who do you celebrate these big things with?
I’d say in high school that I was a bit of a “floater.” I had solid friends that I stuck with but I liked to float around to different groups of people to keep things interesting. And I loved all the people I hung out with.
But I did sometimes experience that feeling of being an “outsider” because you saw the people with their “friend groups” who they did everything with and I never felt that sense of belonging in a group.
As I have grown surer of myself, I have begun to take this “floating” in stride. I know the kinds of people I want to be around and I know I might not find all those people in one place. I have accepted that it is ok to not have one “friend group” which is all inclusive of everyone I spend my time with. I’ve discovered it’s actually extremely normal to have different friends for different things.
I definitely still feel like a bit of an outsider, but I have learned how to hold my own better when I walk into a room when I feel like I don’t belong. Often times if you walk into a room where you feel you don’t belong, there are other people feeling the exact same way. There is a comfort in knowing that others can relate to your experience feeling like an outsider. In a way, this is a “group” to associate with: the outsiders.
The people who feel they never fit into those narrow categories in high school can form a more powerful category of their own.
Isolating yourself from other people because you feel like you don’t “belong” is never going to help you feel more comfortable. And it may sound cliché but there is always somewhere in which everyone belongs- no one is truly an “outsider.” It’s all about your mindset, you just have to push yourself to keep searching for the people who make you feel like you belong.
And if you let yourself be open to others- that sense of belonging will find its way to you.