I don’t know why I was thinking of this earlier today, but I’m glad I was. And don’t get ahead of me thinking there was some clutch moment where that life lesson of self-acceptance saved the day. Nope, just a mundane day at work where the thought caught me and it made me smile. In fact, with this lengthy preamble, I’m already treating this nugget of life advice like it’s some unknowable secret I’ve mastered that you probably haven’t figured out yet. Psh.
It was a scholastic book faire, circa 2006. I’m in middle school, and I should preface (some more) that I went to a tiny, tiny Lutheran private school – and yes, it was about as cool as that sounds. It wasn’t because of any sort of privileged position, either. Just that it was right by our house and my mom wanted to do her best as a parent. In truth, I would now as I would have then traded in my time for the same years spent at a public school where I could have begun cultivating meaningful friendships sooner.
At the Lutheran school I attended, it was Kindergarten through 8th Grade with around 120 kids – total. TOTAL. That meant that if you didn’t fit in with your 15 or so classmates, it was tough nuts, because you were stuck with those same 15 kids your entire time there.
I did not fit in with my classmates.
By my memory, their interests largely ranged between baseball, horror movies, Top-40 pop music, none of which interested me. Baseball? Not a sports guy. Horror movies? I’ll take a comedy, thank you. Pop music? I like Metallica. And I played D&D and read manga, things that only nowadays are sniffing “cool” territory (except you, manga, you’re still a pariah from what I hear).
So yeah, book faire.
We peruse the pencils, browse the books, and excavate the piles of colorful erasers looking for favorites, and exit into the gymnasium. Two other boys, we’ll call them Jimmy and Timmy, are poring over their haul, namely a couple of sports magazines. They ask what I came out with, and I show them: an issue of Shonen Jump with Monkey D. Luffy on the cover.
I still remember the looks on their faces and the sound of them laughing at me. And especially as an eleven-year-old, I’d been defensive and embarrassed before. I knew the reflex to hide it in my backpack and say, “Yeah, no, it’s kinda dumb. It’s for my-” blah blah blah.
But today was different.
I don’t know where it came from or why, but a muse of some kind came out of the ether, broke into my thoughts, and said, “You know what? No. Fuck these guys. One Piece is cool, and I like this.”
It wasn’t anger behind the thought, either, just complete and total dismissal. Their thoughts and opinions on my interests could NOT bother me one bit. And I credit Luffy’s dorky grin, now that I think back on it. He felt like backup, telling me it was totally alright to enjoy the things I found enjoyable, other people’s thoughts on the matter be damned.
And good goddamn am I ever grateful that lesson occurred to me as a kid. I think we all know someone who – or maybe ourselves struggle with this – lets the opinions of others dictate their interests and pastimes.
Bottom line is this: Like what you like, be secure in your opinions because your the one who they’re for. Try new things, sure. And if someone wants to disparage your interests, like your an adult who likes video games and cartoons or someone in a biker gang that enjoys crochet, just realize it’s the limitation of that person’s worldview. Take pleasure in the things you like.
Or else, hell, what else are we even here for?
Ciao for now.