Popularity has never held much interest for me. I had enough of a struggle finding real friends, why would I need fake ones? I’ve always just wanted to be accepted for who I am. I never cared about having loads of people around me or reaching higher levels of influence. I’m a Hufflepuff, man. Not a Slytherin or Gryffindor. Plus, I’m painfully introverted. Why would I want to go to parties all the time? That sounds like hell. No, popularity was never going to be my thing. Talking to people in general was never my thing. There was no way I was climbing any ladders. And honestly? Never cared much for the whole process. I always genuinely enjoyed just befriending the “weird” kids, because they were always true to themselves and quirky independent lovable weirdos. I still stand by that. But then I started doing theater.
For some reason, while I never cared about popularity elsewhere, I was always obsessed with the theater hierarchies. Who were the “cool kids”, who were the “wannabes”, and who were the “outcasts”? It’s not like these social hierarchies were subtle. The same kids always got the leads and they tended to stick together. The dancers were really cliquey and had their own subset of drama. Us chorus kids were always the ones who no one really knew why we were there. Most of us managed to climb up the ranks eventually, but a lot of us didn’t. I made some headway, but not a lot. A few small parts in classes and in One Acts. A tiny role in the school musical one year. It wasn’t a lot, but it was something.
But the hours I devoted to obsessing over these cliques and popularity ladders was honestly ridiculous. I could still chart who was friends with who to this day. It was even worse with my theater camp. The same kids always got the leads and they were all best friends during the school year too. Everyone else had to scramble to get themselves noticed. Some did better than others. You pretty much got popularity points if you had a lead or you were a senior. That was it. Or you were friends with the “right” people. It was the same High School bullshit you see everywhere. And I cared waaaaay too much about this nonsense. Wondering why I didn’t fit in. Longing to be a part of the “cool kids” (who really weren’t all that cool in the grand scheme of things. They were still just theatre kids). Wondering why I wasn’t “good enough”.
But, when I got to college, things changed. All of those stupid social rules and templates were thrown out the window. Nobody cared about who you were in High School anymore. Whether you were popular or not. Whether you were in honors or academic classes. Whether you were interested in sports or music. What clothes you wore. Nah, all of those stupid judgments went away for the most part. Instead, friendships were based on personality traits, interests, and hobbies. Maybe a little by proximity too. There’s legit psychological evidence of this out there. It was a miracle to get out of that narrow-minded popularity bullshit. I became friends with people I never would have had the courage to speak to in High School. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve wished I met some of my High School classmates in college instead of High School.
So when I went back to my old summer camp in college, I thought that the whole popularity thing had just been my insecurity. These people weren’t really “impossible” to talk to. That’s crazy talk. I was just consumed with teenage angst and I made things more complicated than they really were. Thing was…I was totally right. Going back reminded me of all the nonsense. It was like nothing had changed at all. I had to rework my brain into navigating the High School bullshit. But I ducked my head down, got used to the rules, and found my place again. Made a few moves and crawled up the ladder a bit. Then, once I’d reached a place I was comfortable with and stopped caring about the nonsense, I bid the camp goodbye. Well, I also bombed an audition earlier that summer. But I prefer my version of the story.
Today was a shitty day. I was working with a High School girl who is total “popular girl” material. It’s exhausting having to put up with this needless drama again. It’s so much better working with adults who know how to interact and have learned a little bit about the world. To cool down after work, I met up with an old friend from my summer camp to see a play there. I saw many kids who I’ve known since I was literally 10 or 11. Who I’ve spent many summers with. Who claim that this place is a place where everyone is at home, accepted, and loved. Who then proceeded to ignore me the entire night. It was fine. The feeling was mutual. I understand now that this camp lives in an eternal state of High School politics with their own set of popularity rules. It still seems ridiculous to me that they hold true to those rules well past High School though. Maybe it’s just me.
As a 22 year old, I don’t believe that popularity is important. Having friends is good and having people who accept you is great. But popularity? I don’t need it. People who care about it are immature. People who follow these stupid rules need to grow up. But that’s none of my business. I wasted years trying to climb the ladder. And, admittedly, I still see cliques everywhere I go. I’m a Survivor fan. Like, the TV Show. It’s in my blood. Either way, popularity isn’t worth what you’d think. Learning to be friends with all sorts of people in College really opened my mind to a whole new way of living. It’s so much better than trying to gain popularity points or being friends with the “right” people. The people I remember from High School aren’t the cool kids that I pined after. Nah, it’s the ones who were standing in the trenches with me. At the end of the day, those are the people who really matter.