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To Be Like the Others or To Be Yourself

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

January 2018

I'm a teacher and often when I step into my classroom, I feel as though I should be ready to engage in battle. It's the Queen of English vs. 125 middle schoolers who don't believe my class has any relevance. There are days I feel I have won the war and my students accept that reading and writing just might have some place in this world. There are other days I feel defeated and have to abandon curriculum to stop and talk about shoes and sports.

Yes, this week I had one of those white flag, I surrender moments when a student was more concerned that I wasn't wearing stylish Nike tennis shoes than what we were supposed to be learning in class. Welcome to my castle .... er, classroom.

Now, I've never been one to care much about whether or not I am wearing the latest en vogue name brand. Unless, of course, someone wants to surprise me with a little blue box from Tiffany's. #breakfastattiffanys Ever since I was young, just I've never felt that desire to keep up with the Joneses, if you will. I'm happy with who I am, and I like my style - which happens to be whatever my mood is that day - or perhaps how late I may be running. Do ya feel me, ladies? Most students understand that I'm quirky and different. But, when you work with teenagers, as I have done for many years now, they love to point out the things they believe could make you a better person. It's not a job for the faint-hearted.

So today, in the middle of my lecture concerning the thematic messages in "The Third Wish" by Joan Aiken, a student - who had obviously not heard my valuable words of wisdom about appreciating what you have and respecting others for who they are - suddenly burst out and asked me if I owned Nike tennis shoes. Clearly, what I was wearing on my feet were so distracting that the story became irrelevant because this opened up a whole debate on the most en vogue brand of tennis shoes, and I had to explain that, for me, it's not about "cool". I told my class that life isn't about who has on the most expensive, popular, or "lit" brand, but about what fits you, what you like - in short, what feels good - and only to you. If Nike makes you feel good, then just do it.

I went on to explain that I shouldn't be judged on what others feel is good or right for them. It's my style. It's my preference. It's what I love. And so, I choose to be myself, to seek out my own style, to be an individual - and stand out from the crowd. Wearing Asics or Nike or any other brand is external.

What someone wears is not necessarily a reflection of who they are on the inside. Some days I'm a tennis shoe girl. Other days, I'm Audrey Hepburn. I don my best Texas cowgirl boots for rodeo season. And even though I'm over 40, my glitter and sparkle days still make me feel like a princess. Or, a queen living by her own rules. Each morning, I choose to create myself based on - let's be honest - what looks most comfortable because what others think should never matter. It's about the feeling of choosing happiness over everything else because isn't that what life is all about?

Are you doing what makes you happy?

With love,

"This above all: to thine own self be true." - William Shakespeare

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