This week while dropping the children at the school gates in the morning, I suggested a shortcut across the field in the afternoon. This back exit would save considerable time while walking home. Imagine my surprise when I was informed that no cool people use the gate by the field. Okaaaaaaayyyy? I asked for clarification. Apparently geeks who hang out near the library would be the ONLY people to use that gate. All the interesting people us the front gates.
I sat exasperated.
Gosh, I don’t miss being a teenager. All those unwritten rules which are subtly communicating to the world your place amongst your peers. Your bag, your friends, your hair, your phone, and where you hang out. And who decides this stuff!? And the funny thing is we all remember feeling on the edge of acceptance no matter who we are! I admit I largely remember hiding in the music block at school. I was a long long long way away from cool!
But, on reflection, as adults we still construct all kinds of subtle codes which communicate about ourselves, our status, our significance and our place in the world. We use all kinds of symbols, labels, places to hang out, and other codes to express ourselves – sometimes consciously, sometimes not.
Sadly, It is sometimes tempting to try and communicate an enhanced version of ourselves, the glossy best bits, in the hope, just like a teenager, that We will find our place in the playground of life. Fortunately friends and family are the antidote to this temptation, and it is when we are most accepted that we communicate our true selves – warts and all.
So, while I yearn for my teenage girls to rise above the pressures and conventions of school culture, I also accept that our more sophisticated adult versions are just as prevalent, and no less exasperating when you think about it.
I’ll keep travelling on the road to authenticity, and hope and pray that what matters most shines through most clearly.