That weird kid in high school will grow up to be your boss

That weird kid in high school will grow up to be your boss

Just wait until college.

I knew a lot of self-described “weird kids” when I was in high school. One boy employed no otherwise abnormal behavior besides constantly chewing a safety pin, but described himself as a nonconformist. Another girl drew with Sharpie on her Converse tennis shoes and laughed about how “weird” everyone thought she was for doing so. It bothered me that people claimed that they lead alternative lives only because of external presentations like bowl cuts and skinny jeans.    

When I was applying to college, I was skeptical. Every college book I’d read and every person I’d talked to used the two adjectives “weird” and “nonconformist” to describe liberal arts students. I thought liberal arts students would be like the “weird” kids in high school. I didn’t think I’d fit in.

After visiting, however, I realized that nobody needed to yell of his or her “weirdness” from any bell towers. As a high school student from a fairly conservative town and school, I thought the weird kids at liberal arts schools were so amazing. The brochures showed boys who rally for women’s rights, but loved to play football and the girl who quoted Charlie Kaufman movies, but had a soft spot for molecular biology. I hoped even a girl like me could attend.

I did attend a liberal arts school, and I'll never regret it.

Socially, I would get to know many of my idealized “nonconformist” students. There were many diverse people who were passionate about not only their major, but also about their school. I gained fervor and inspiration through people who were passionate about life. 

But attending this kind of institution didn't eradicate--and instead extenuated--this kind of performative nonconformist lifestyle. Students came to class in their girlfriends' pajama pants and flannel button-downs because they were up to late at night discussing philosophy and eating vegan food. Others gave up bathing. A number of students dropped out because they thought that attending a liberal arts school would mean smoking a bowl and painting watercolors all day, not completing science requirements.

For me, weirdness was a sort of divisive issue in my college education. I wanted so badly to be different in high school, perhaps deciding on a liberal arts education for this very reason. But in college, a lot of students were in sororities and played on the basketball team. I did poorly in my freshman year because I wanted to attend too many parties that required the purchase of glittery fairy wings to get through the door.

Then, I wasn't any better than the boy I knew in high school who chewed on safety pins.