I know I’m a nerd. And I love it. I am a proud nerd and anytime you want to challenge me to a dork-off, just let me know.
I’m one of those people who likes to play board games and work on my scrapbook and spend hours at a time reading. Don’t get me wrong. Going out makes me happy, too. A good dinner with friends or a highly anticipated movie night can be super fun. But for me, so can kicking it low-key. I’ve always been this way. I’m an arts & crafts person. I was even the arts & crafts director at a summer camp. So when my friend Tim saw this new arts & crafts mecca on the Upper West Side, he knew I was the perfect person to go with.
As soon as I got to Make Meaning, I was pretty much in heaven.
They had stained glass! And beads! And ceramics and soaps and paper crafts and tons of other fun things to make. You could make whatever you want. It’s an arts & crafts enthusiast’s dream come true. I painted a heart keepsake box for my rings. Tim is an artist, so he got mad profesh on a bowl by painting an intricate New York City skyline around it.
We had so much fun talking and painting and just appreciating that a place like Make Meaning existed in Manhattan. I don’t even care that it’s not a standard grownup activity. I’d much rather have fun doing something I want to do than be miserable doing something someone says I should like because it’s fun for them. Of course we should try new things. New experiences are exciting and challenging. But once we know what makes us happy, those are the things we should focus on. Not what anyone else thinks we should be doing instead.
I get lots of emails from readers asking for advice. One issue I’m hearing more about lately is how teens are feeling pressured to do things with their friends that they don’t want to do. This problem has been around for a really long time, but I think it’s even more prevalent today. Here’s the advice I give them that I wish someone had given me:
Being unique rules. If you’re going to make a difference in this world, that means you’re going to stand out in some way. You can’t stand out if you’re an average person who’s following the herd. Part of the way you distinguish yourself is by having courage. Having the courage to live your life the way you want to is really important. So if your friends want you to go to a party where everyone’s going to get wasted and end up puking on themselves, it’s okay to be like, “Um, that sounds super fun? But I’m good, thanks.” True friends would never force you to do something you don’t want to. True friends love you because you are awesome.
I didn’t learn this the easy way. When I was in college, I felt the same pressure from my friends and people I wanted to impress. I thought that if I went to a few frat parties, I’d make some new friends. And get the attention of this guy I liked in one of the frats. So when his frat had a party, I was there. I was there fake-sipping my beer because if you didn’t have a drink in your hand someone was going to put one there and I wanted to fit in. So I’d tilt the cup back as if I were drinking, but I didn’t actually drink. Why? Because alcohol makes me extremely sick. My system is sensitive – even caffeine makes me feel disgusting. But when I’d tried explaining that to people, they’d just give me a weird look and walk away. So I didn’t bother trying to explain. I just keep fake-sipping like a total loser.
Living the life other people think you should live instead of the life you want to live will not make you happy.
We all want to be happy. Being true to yourself is the only way to make that happen. So let’s not waste any more time trying to fit in. Let’s not let other people decide what we should be doing. We’ll do the things that make us happy and give our lives meaning, even if other people think we’re huge nerds for doing them.
Some people are sad because they conform to everyone else’s expectations.
Some people are happy because they refuse to let anyone else dictate their choices.
Who will you be?