Okay, I wasn’t popular in high school (gasp, I know you are all shocked, especially those of you who know me IRL). I went to a gifted magnet school (let’s call it a nerd brigade). Even among these smarty-pants, I wasn’t part of the cool crowd. I was a nerd among nerd. In fact, I was a bank dork among nerds. Imagine if you can… I know it’s hard to imagine, given the fashion plate that I am now. For those who don’t know me IRL, I wear very little that can’t be purchased at Wal-Mart or Sam’s ;). Dorkdom can make for some loneliness. Of course, it helps when your whole class is a bunch of dorks. You all kind of fit in to your own little outcast world…
Now Junior High, THAT was a different story. No nerd-haven that one. It was your typical, usual popular, in-crowd rules the school kind of experience. I wasn’t part of the in crowd there either. I was a band dork then too. So, I know all about being the outcast, or at least the out-of-step. As the kid of a single mom, I know about wearing hand-me-downs and garage sale finds. I know about hearing kids snicker over the fact that your lovely new sweater that is just so pretty is their cast-off. And you know what, they wrote a book about it. It’s called Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth. Catchy titles if you ask me, of course that may be because I’m a geek.
The interesting thing is that the gal who wrote the book went out and followed 7 high schoolers through a year (read about it here). She chose people who self-identified as outsiders. These were not the quarterback and head cheerleader. These were the geeks. And her findings were very interesting. First, perceived popularity (the in-crowd) is very different from actual popularity (the people you actually LIKE). Yeah, I could have told you that. I should have written a book about geekdom. Opportunity lost, that.
Having said that, her findings were interesting. The things that make you popular in high school (being just like others, aggression (making fun of others, often) and standing out) have no bearing on happiness or success after graduation. The person who said high school is the best time of your life was one of the uber-popular. For the rest of us, life after high school is much better. In fact, it gets better every year. The thing that makes you an outsider in high school (causing you to choose not to or be unable to conform) will serve you well in later life. Apparently she notes numerous people successful in various fields who were outsiders in their youth.
Nothing about this is particularly surprising to me. People who are successful in their chosen field follow their passion. They tend to do well by doing what they are good at. In school people are rewarded for doing what everyone else is doing not for doing what they really enjoy. After all, how do you think band dorks get the tag band dorks? They play instruments in the band instead of being “cool.” In addition, doing well in the business world typically requires finding new areas, not the same ones everyone has been working in. Steve Jobs of Apple made her list, coincidence? I think not. Personally, I hope my girls will find themselves nice nerdy guys ;). And my boy, well, clearly I hope he’ll find a book-reading band dork like Mom ;).
Happy Nerd Mania!