By: Jocelyn You
Who am I?
An honor roll student who has only known AP and honor classes? The fashion editor of the school’s online magazine? Someone who represented Tustin in Washington, D.C. this summer for journalism? The only seventeen year old to write for an established magazine? The senior class’s 2015-2016 vice-president?
Or do you see me as a girl who shows too much skin? A centimeter too much of my upper thighs not covered by fabric? A hoop in my nose that automatically puts me into a group of rebellious hooligans? Baggy jeans and cropped tops that make me look unprofessional? Purple hair that is so unnatural that it distracts others? Rap music blasting a little too loud from my earphones during study periods?
How does my appearance and overall being match up to my accomplishments?
Too often, I have been placed amongst some of the most accomplished students in school and have felt out of place- so out of place that it felt like I was in another universe, peering into a group that meshes well and excludes me. I have sat in professional meetings and felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there. I could feel eyes locking on me, fixating on each detail of my face and body like a radar scanning what percentage of acceptance I’m allowed in the situation.
Too often, I have felt like I didn’t belong.
In elementary school, we followed a dress code with a set list of acceptable uniforms. They usually ranged from khaki pants to red polo shirts, beige jumpers to navy blue vests. Maybe the occasional Hawaiian shirt for the first Friday of every month. We came into school without a clue of what dress code is or how we look determines our intelligence, accomplishments, or personalities. We grew accustomed to dressing the same as long as it kept us “normal” and not made fun of or put into trouble.
In middle school, most of us got a taste of individuality as the dress code broke little by little. We didn’t have to wear polo shirts and khaki pants anymore; we could wear our own t-shirts from PacSun and denim jeans with a pair of Vans to complete the outfit. Our hair was no longer in bows, but overly-straightened and awkwardly bobby-pinned back. But with this new freedom came separation. There were now cliques ranging from the cool kids to the nerds to the nobodies. Images to match certain groups formed in our minds, making us believe that only certain looks can match certain people. From here, we learned to judge from our seemingly set standards for people.
In high school, we already have preconceived notions of the people around us. The privileged kids wear Birkenstocks and Brandy Melville. The football players wear Nike sliders and bright colored socks. The nerds have backpacks larger than life and metal-rimmed glasses. We walk the halls daily, passing each “type” of person and not paying any attention to them individually because from a glance, they look the same to us.
But what happens when someone wants to rebel against those stereotypes?
Having broken out of my previously honor student shell aesthetically, I have grown to love boldness. Ripped jeans and fur coats. Dark lipstick, over-the-top nails. And with that love, I have been able to sport it with confidence outside of school. Outside of my classes, I feel accepted and noticed in a good way.
Yet I want to shrink back into that shell once I’m surrounded by people who don’t see it as acceptable or appropriate. In class, I feel like the odd one out. Inappropriately dressed compared to my peers. My love for hip hop and rap called disgusting. Questions about my nose ring. “Did it hurt? Yikes…” All the attention I love outside of school from my appearance becomes heavy and hurtful inside of it.
And so I feel like I am in between worlds. One world tells me that I can do whatever I want. Show your skin, wear crazy things. Listen to ignorant music. Do the most. The other tells me to be quiet and conservative. Cover up. Dress professionally. Rap music is trash. Education before anything.
Pieces of me are spread out in both worlds, making it difficult for me to consider myself something. So many other people in the world are just looking to be something from the fear of being misunderstood and disliked.
But why? Who told us we had to be something?
Being between worlds gives the opportunity to rebel against stereotypes and allows those In-Betweeners the chance to be themselves while holding their personal morals high.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, author of “Self-Reliance,” wrote that, “Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
To the In-Betweeners: keep being an In-Betweener.