It turns out Adulting is much like the schoolyard, only with better toys, more lunch money and a later curfew. There's still a cool kids table and a corner for the jocks who only like the popular girlie girls. There are still the wallflowers who are underestimated and misunderstood. And let's not forget the 'I wish I had a little more of this and a little less of that' body-conscious chicks—only now having credit affords many the opportunity for a nip n' tuck. (insert drumroll) Then there are the bullies, the people that don't know who they are, so they make fun of you because, well, they don't know who they are!
High school is now called the workplace. Funday is the staff party, and afterschool clubs are known as happy hour. Assembly is the dreaded staff meeting, report card day is the end-of-year review, and teachers are nothing more than annoying supervisors, only now, in most cases, you are probably better qualified to do their job. Bullies are called Negative Nacy's and Karen's, who always have a problem and find fault in everything you do—usually, these folks have no life of their own. There, of course, is still that one person that's the butt of all the jokes and, on the flip side, there's the most charismatic individual that everyone gravitates toward. AKA, 'the popular kid' that it's more beneficial to befriend than to be enemies with. Like I said, adulting—nothing more than a playground for grown-ups.
In the ninth grade, I remember it was back to school time, and one of my older sisters was taking me to get new school shoes. At that time, the fad was for girls to wear boys' shoes, thick socks and uniform skirts above the knees. I, of course, wanted to follow suit. My warden (I mean sister) wasn't having any of it. She adamantly said no and proceeded to buy me the shoes that she deemed appropriate. Even thinking about it now, I wanted to burst into tears. Picture it; backdrop, the 90's, a time of L.A. Gear and Travel Fox. But NO, I had these black, laced Oxfords, with about a 2 ½ to 3-inch heel. (Jesus, just call me home now, please!) I was mortified, and she was unbothered. Her stance simply was, 'You'll look like a decent young lady as you should.'
As was expected, that first day of school was something right out of Carrie (the horror movie). Suddenly, there was a spotlight on me like Queen Latifa being surrounded by the cops in Set It Off. It was playing out like a scene from Mean Girls, and my shoes had just earned a spot in the burn book. Everyone was talking about 'the girl with the heels.' As I walked down the halls, I could hear the snickers and the whispers, "Gee, you see her shoes?" I wanted the earth to open and swallow me.
Let me tell you, for at least a month, the attention was a bit much, so I took that time to finally utilized my library pass. While I didn't let on in those moments, naturally, I was not too fond of this feeling at all. It was one of my first encounters of 'owning it' or at least pretending to. When I was seen, I was strutting like I was the genius behind this shoe choice. At the end of the semester, there was a huge sigh of relief, and while kids had long since stopped talking about it, that feeling of being mocked lingered. I'd made it through 4-months of self-consciousness, but I can't say it was unscathed.
Fast forward to the next semester. To my shock and awe, everyone had shoes with a heel on them. I'm no fool to believe I was the trendsetter as much as I was the unwilling forerunner. Everyone else kinda had no choice. That year, that shoe style was what all the stores predominantly carried (sigh, island people problems). I could only smile to myself, thinking of the irony. The very thing I was ridiculed for was now embraced, and anyone who wasn't wearing one was now the oddball.
Similarly, I experienced the same issue in the workplace. I was a part of a group chat with my co-workers that sat in my immediate area. Only to learn, there was a larger group that I wasn't part of. So I asked one of the young ladies, "Hey, why was I not added to the group? I like jokes too!" She smiled and said, "Take it as a compliment; there nothing in that group you need to be a part of!" Lesson: Just because you can fit in doesn't mean you belong.
Some people are popular because they are likeable, some for what they have, others for their looks, then there are those who are because of who they are connected to. Popularity can be a double-edged sword like in the case of poor Malia, who merely wanted to live her life. But instead has been publicly shamed for everything from wearing daisy dukes to going to a pool party all because her last name is Obama. Yet, the rest of the world can post ratchet pictures for the likes and be praised for it. AKA, influencers.
Why am I saying all of this? Well, different is vying to be the new black. Nothing ever becomes popular until one person dares to do it. It only takes a bold enough soul to say, "Yea, this is bussin'," before the masses jump on the bandwagon. If Gretchin (in Mean Girls-the movie) was comfortable in her own skin, she totally could have made 'fetch' a thing. While popular means being liked and admired, it's as if everyone is longing to be known for putting a twist on the last hype thing. Though it really shouldn't be because if all of our purposes were the same, then where is the variety it that?
For most of us, if you've already done the self-work, you'd find your purpose isn't considered popular. It doesn't lend to having great likeability, especially in these social media streets. Post something of substance and depth, 2 likes. Post a scantly clad picture, #followmybliss: 12,000 likes, 250 shares, 4,000 comments, and 11,065 saves. However, most of what we've been created to do calls for us going against the grain, not being part of the 'in-crowd.' If all you want is for people to like you, then go join a pageant and work hard to be Miss. Congeniality, 'cause this here real world is far from sugar and spice and everything nice.
Let's take, for instance, Moses. I mean to go from being one of the slaves to growing up in the palace, yass, every kid's dream. More than Ramesses, Moses was mentioned as the prince of Egypt. I suppose by today's standards; I'd say he was known and popular. His hashtag would probably have been #palacebae. I mean, who doesn't love the King's kids, right? Yea, until one kid turns out to be an Israelite and not an Egyptian. It was all Prince of Egypt Moses until he rolled up and said, (in my Kevin Hart voice) "Pharoah, God said to tell you, let My people go!"(see Exodus 5) His popularity turned into notoriety (being famous for a bad deed) real quick!
Popularity is not to be confused with fame which is what I think most people are after. In general, fame refers to the recognition, and popularity refers to likeability. So ask yourself, "Is it that you want to be liked or be known?" I don't know about you, but I feel popularity ain't as breezy as it seems. It can easily slip into people-pleasing. What you don't ever want is to start fueling purpose with applause.
In the spirit of transparency, when I first started my blog, I sho'nuff thought this was gonna blow up like Will Smith in Independence Day. Whew, chall those subscribers were scanty, few and far between. I looked at those stats like, "Lord, for the amount of time this labour of love consumes and these gems I 'be dropping, Sir, what happen!?" Then the question came to me, "What if you never get your name in lights, would you still do this? What if only one person reads your blog every week, would you still write with the same quality and intensity as you do for the masses?"
When I look at popularity, I have to ask, "What is our motive for wanting to be seen or heard and known? Is it because we genuinely have something to say and a genuine incline to help people or because we want to fuel our ego?" "Or are we like the schoolgirl I was, mortified when our difference pushes us to be on display, against our will? Or, can you be like a Moses and go back to the people that you partied with or worst who hurt you and be the message of salvation?" Oh-Em-Gee!
When I look in the mirror, I see an amazing person. Smart, talented, funny, down-to-earth, a little lippy, but that's okay. I mean, really, all I'm interested in is Jesus, jokes and coffee. Yet, in every arena, I entered I encountered people that didn't like me. Folks, drawing conclusions about me never having had a conversation with me. I won't lie; that was confusing and difficult. It bothered me like you won't believe.
My aim was never to be popular, but man, could ya not scowl when I walk by? It took a minute for me to be okay with not being everyone's cup of tea. And now I see why I was set apart, even amidst my undercover shenanigans. Imagine being popular, then having to go through a valley experience on display. I soon became very grateful no one knew my name. Cause here's the thing; isolation could quickly spin into depression.
Chin up, though; there is hope! May I remind you that you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). One thing this blogger life has shown me is that popularity is not an indication of quality (Vanna Bonta). It’s also not the hallmark of what you should be doing. Everything always boils down to two options, and I'll put it to you like this: When you say “yes” to something, that means you are inherently saying “no” to something else! (unknown) The only real question now is, "Do you want to be popular, or do you want to be effective?"