A little more about my childhood thinking, since no one cares.
Like I mentioned on my short thoughts page, I loved junior high completely. I think other people struggled with identity and belonging and a bunch of other stuff, but for me, I feel like in a large way I found myself, embraced my dorky nature and went with it, and it was freeing.
When I think about it, I don’t think I ever really wanted to be cool. I just wanted to be happy, and for the most part as a kid, I was. I think I had a really happy childhood. I never moved, so I had an established, if small, group of friends. And we had a good time, even if we were never a part of the cool group.
There was just one thing I wanted that I didn’t have: normal relations with girls. I dunno if it was an immaturity thing or what, but when I was really young, you know, we thought girls were gross. And they were. Is gross the right word? Maybe boring, or embarrassing was more accurate. But yeah, we didn’t want to interact with them too much.
But then somewhere in the tail end of elementary school that kind of changed, and they weren’t so gross anymore, but kind of intriguing. The problem was, we kept acting as if they were gross and we didn’t want to play with them. But I’m not sure if any of us really felt that way. I’m not sure why we kept acting it though. I think it’s partly because as long as we had been friends we had acted that way, so it would have been strange to change one of the foundational attitudes of our friendship. But I dunno.
Somehow though, the cool kids did it, and that was one of the defining characteristics of being cool. Cool guys talked to girls and vice versa. And the rest of us uncool didn’t. I mean, we talked to girls, but we didn’t really talk to them if that makes any sense. Yeah, it doesn’t, and I can’t explain it, any more than I can explain being cool, but that’s how it was at my school.
My world was so simple then. If you were athletic, you were cool. If you were smart, you were a nerd. Everyone fit somewhere on that graduated scale, but those two things (being athletic, being smart) didn’t intersect. And this conception of the world didn’t change until – I’m not joking – I came to Stanford. Where I found smart people who were both cool and athletic. It shattered my worldview. I could not have been more shocked. Weird, huh?
Anyway, the one thing I wanted in elementary school that I didn’t have was to be able to talk to girls and that was something only the cool kids did. So yeah, that’s the only reason I wanted to be cool.
Anyway, I got to junior high, and I guess it was the change in environment or something, because all of a sudden we were talking to girls. None of the girls from our elementary school, though. Only girls that from other schools. Very very strange. And like I said, that’s when I found out that nerds could have girlfriends. And again, that shattered my worldview.
I think I’ve written about this before. But I had my first girlfriend in junior high and it took me a while to accept it. Meaning, I couldn’t believe a girl could actually like me. I was convinced for the longest time that it was just a huge joke put on by this girl and her friends. It didn’t help that they were so giggly. That just put me on edge. What the heck were they giggling about? I thought it was me. I thought as soon as I believed that this girl actually truly liked me the giggle floodgates would open and everyone would have huge laugh at my expense, at my naivete, that I would actually believe that someone could like me. I guess I had insecurity issues or something.
But yeah, she did like me, and I still don’t understand it, but it’s true, and it shattered me. Just, that cool conception was so firmly ingrained in me. Only cool guys have girlfriends. Only cool guys have girlfriends. That’s all I knew.
So that’s why junior high was so great for me. Just, it broke that last stronghold that coolness had over me. The only thing about being cool that I wanted, I realized I could have without being cool. And it was absolutely freeing. I’d say it had a big impact on who I am today. Just, since then, I’ve never ever tried to be cool.