After a particularly enjoyable serving shift, I arrived home energized and grinning stupidly.
I think back to my high school years, when I strived to fit in, to be popular. I felt very alone in that time. I felt awkward and different. I hadn’t grown into my forehead or nose or 5’11” frame. I didn’t buy Hollister hoodies or Lululemon yoga pants. I didn’t own a flat iron and I never dyed my hair. I took the friends I had for granted as I observed who I perceived to be popular with childlike naivety.
I realized this energy I felt inside after my serving shift– which had been socially satisfying and adrenaline-producing– was due to a fulfilment of this old fantasy.
I felt popular.
What is popularity really though? How many people know your name? Having a close entourage? Being liked? Being respected? Having a large number of people consider you a friend? A certain number of likes on social media?
This realization that I’d come to a place I’d both consciously and subconsciously worked towards brought me satisfaction. It also made me feel silly. How ridiculous is it that we seek so much attention and affirmation from others. Assuming most humans operate on the same desires and fears, everyone is doing the same thing. So how can anyone truly satisfy other people’s needs for attention while they chase after their own?
But then I realized it wasn’t popularity. Popularity is an intangible.
No. What I felt was a sense of friendship and community. It wasn’t that so many people knew my name and that I knew theirs. It was that in one place I could see so many familiar faces; that I was part of a network of people with things in common. It wasn’t that I make almost anyone laugh as I demonstrate time and time again my horrible math skills. It was a connection only humour brings, when two or more humans throw their heads back in common appreciation of life’s best moments. It wasn’t that I could now confidently talk in french to my co-workers and customers. It was that I had expanded my reach to people of other backgrounds. It wasn’t that people took interest equally in my victories and anxieties. It was that they truly listened when I spoke and supported me as I know I would do for them.
Friendship and community. Not popularity. That’s what’s important.