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Outstanding Outcast

Monday, October 29, 2012
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Dear Miriam,

I don't make friends very well. I can laugh at people's jokes, have fun with them, but I am mostly about grades, college, my career, my future, and they're all about cute boys in class, gossiping, slumber parties, water parks, roller coasters, beaches, bikinis, etc. I know I should go out there and be myself, but that never works!!!

Outstanding Outcast

Dear Outcast,

Good for you for being able to identify your strengths and distinguish what makes you different from your classmates. It requires a lot of self-awareness to write a question like this, and as difficult as it may be to find yourself surrounded by people who aren't exactly kindred spirits, know that you're not alone! There are plenty of people out there who are focused on long-term professional and academic success. Though you don't know them now, you will find them in your life.

Because you say you're focusing on college, I'm guessing that you're in high school, which is famously a time when many people suffer loneliness and feel like no one else is just like them. Then you get to college and spend all day and all night with huge groups of people who all say, "I had trouble making friends in high school because no one cared about the things I care about."

In your remaining time in high school, work on finding one or two people who may also be outside of the mainstream slumber party/bikini culture. Even if they're not going to be lifelong best friends who share all your interests, having a couple of people to hang out with can make high school a lot more bearable. Then spend time pursuing your academic interests, reading, visiting museums and parks and researching colleges. Make the most of your time with your family because there's a good chance you will miss them, your hometown and having clean laundry once you're away at college.

You're absolutely right that you should be true to who you are, but sometimes, it can also be a good experience to explore things you don't normally do. See what it's like to go on a roller coaster or daydream about the boys in your class. Though I was never really into sports, one spring when I was a teenager, I hung out with a totally different group of friends and watched a lot of hockey on TV. I knew it wasn't going to be my permanent identity, but it was fun to try on for a few months.

Keep reminding yourself that you know who you are and that's going to get you much further in life than encyclopedic knowledge of the best water parks. I wish you luck getting through a potentially difficult time, and I have confidence that the next few years are going to be exciting and fulfilling ones for you. Also, if it turns out that you're not in high school and I've completely missed the point of your question, please be in touch. In the meantime, I hope this speaks to anyone who remembers what it was like to feel different and anyone who's going through that right now.

Be well,

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