Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

Y’know how everybody says that movies don’t depict realistic American high schools? I disagree – I think movies just play up certain characteristics. The biggest characteristic that’s been emphasized by film is the idea of cliques. Think “Mean Girls” or “The Breakfast Club” – you’ve got your goths, nerds, jocks, preps, and so on and so forth. Those cliques in particular aren’t necessarily accurate, but they do hold some truth behind them. That truth is this: people like to congregate with like-minded individuals. And it’s not always as obvious as associating with those of your ethnicity or gender – the average person seeks out people that have similar goals in life, similar hobbies, similar political views.

Think of your own friends – you probably all enjoy doing some activity together, or gravitate towards certain topics of discussion. That sense of camaraderie can be a great and healthy thing for the human psyche, but in excess it can result in a sense of stagnation, mindless routine, or even confinement. Such was the case for I until I started wearing sandals.

And you may be thinking to yourself, “How do shoes have to do with high school flicks?”, to which I have one response: very little for you, so much for me. See, since I was a child my father always hated open-toed shoes. Something about their sense of lax, but I digress. For years, I loathed going outside of the home because of how disgusting my feet would feel when I came back. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true!

After a semester of high school, I was sick and tired of coming home to smelly, sweaty feet. I threw my socks to the wind and bought a pair of sandals. When my father saw them, he made a remark or two (he still does less frequently), but that was it – I was free from the bondage of laces at last! Or so I thought.

As the days went on with my newly worn in sandals, I began to notice that nobody else at school wore sandals. It sounds even stranger, but I began to worry if I would be ostracized for being different, even in this slight way, a la Mean Girls.

And then I realized something that’s helped me to this day: if you don’t make a big deal about it, nobody else will. Think about it: if I, or somebody else, had made a scene then everybody else would join in too. Another example – students that wear makeup everyday sometimes feel pressured to maintain it because they think they’ll receive comments if they go bare-faced. That’s what I thought would happen, and I found that it did when I began all of my conversations with remarks about my flawed skin or droopy eyes.

After I had The Realization, I noticed that people didn’t care about my makeup or shoes (or at least didn’t vocalize it). And I found that by living my life in the most honest way, by weighing decisions against my values and thoughts instead of others, had great benefits – I felt more in control, more free to focus my energy efficiently. I’ve been able to produce more art, start up a website, run half a dozen clubs, and maintain high marks because I wasn’t wasting my energy on worrying about what other people think about me. Sandals changed my life – find your “sandals” and it’ll change yours too.

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