Ah, high school. The social and academic proving grounds where so many of us learned so much about ourselves. It taught us a lot: algebra, history, social mores, and preparation for college, but it taught me an amazing lesson about writing that I haven’t forgotten to this day. For some of us, those four years were our prime. Thank god I wasn’t one of them. Others kept their heads down, blending into their cliques and peer groups like the camouflage of a chameleon… stuck in one hue. For plenty of us, however, it was Hell with a capital H. Now I need to make something clear-I wasn’t bullied, I wasn’t outright ridiculed, but I was forgotten and lonely, which at the time seemed just as bad.
Most of this was because of me. I wasn’t the best student in the world. I was one of those guys who was intelligent, knew the material, but didn’t apply myself. Could’ve gotten into the AP classes, didn’t even try. The only classes I made consistently good grades in where the performance classes where my grade depended on what I did right then and there instead of what I did at home… which was nothing. In addition to this I was very socially awkward. I was that guy that acted out a joke ‘so well’ that people thought I was serious. I’m sure you guys know someone like that. Because of this I wasn’t the easiest guy to get along with, and it’s a wonder I wasn’t bullied on a daily basis. Because of this I wasted four years of my life pining for groups who didn’t want me.
But was it a waste?
It wasn’t until the summer after senior year that I met the group of friends who accepted me for who I was, an awkward social mutt. I remain connected with them to this day, and I’m indebted to them for helping me come to a great realization about who I was as a person, it literally(and I’m using that word correctly) hit me overnight. It was July 5th after a spectacular night of fireworks. I took an honest look at all of the attempts I had made to fit into each group, and made a mental list of everything I genuinely liked. It’s a long list, but I’ll shorten it.
In my attempt to fit in with the Rockers, I found my love of Incubus, Dave Matthews Band, and a great respect for musicians who put on a good live show, thus leading me to John Meyer, Brad Paisley, and Maxwell.
From the hip hop crowd, who hosted a freestyle cipher every day at lunch, I developed a healthy respect for the rhetorical devices used in the genre. Seriously. Look past the subject matter and the profanity; there’s good stuff there. I developed a love for Jay-Z, Talib Kweili, Childish Gambino, and Eminem -I sometimes find myself using his brand of alliteration in my writing-.
The peer group from which I originated were the Theatre Geeks, and of course I found my love of theatre here, in addition to Indie Film. My social ineptitude was being rehabilitated here, forcing me to develop emotional intelligence and a performer mentality. And from this I discovered I could dance and sing, leading me to…
The Choir Geeks, who turned me on to Classical Music, gave me a new respect for the various religions and belief systems around the world through their music, and I discovered the Mozart of our time, Eric Whitacre. Look up Water Night, and if you have ears, you will be moved.
The Gamers taught me much. I didn’t appreciate the strategy of American Football until Madden, and Final Fantasy VII remains the shining example of how a video game can make you feel emotion through interaction in a way no other entertainment medium can. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, ask one of your gamer friends about the death of Aerith.
In the end, I became a living breathing amalgamation of guilty pleasures born from each attempt to fit in with a particular crowd, an amalgamation that I genuinely liked. There was no compromising of values, there was no facade, just pride. And here lies the lesson in writing that I drew from this experience. If you find yourself reading and writing one genre, whether it be Romance, Science Fiction, Mainstream, or something else, and you feel like you’re doing quality work, I commend you. I envy those who have held steadfast to a chosen path, and one day I may read your book and be blown away. But if your personal library and your writing are a kaleidoscopic clash of different genres that sometimes leave you disoriented, take a trip back in time, open some of those books, analyze them and yourself, take from them what you genuinely like, and wear it with pride!