Does anyone remember their high school superlative categories???
I had an interesting conversation with colleagues during a recent impromptu post-work happy hour. The candid nature of our conversation made me not only grateful for having an opportunity to work with young, bright, driven, and refreshingly unique individuals but also brought up a topic I had long since forgotten about in the years following high school: senior superlatives. I assume you can all recall the yearbook pages dedicated to those peers deemed Most Likely to Succeed, Best Sense of Humor, and Most Athletic. I found out I was in the midst of two individuals who graced those pages, one for Best Smile and other for Best Person to take Home to Your Parents (which made everyone at the table laugh).
I told the slightly disconcerting story about how my high school had a Most Beautiful category separate from the coveted title of Beauty & Brains. I know that I’m not the only person who found the former title a bit insulting due to the latter, but to my knowledge both categories existed long after I graduated. Oh, high school… you were fun but you make me shake my head sometimes.
Once I finished my happy hour snacks and headed home I started pondering if I had ever heard of a superlative category that my 33 year old self would be proud of. I began running through each one as I paced frantically home in the arctic tundra that was New York City last week. Here’s hoping my Texas blood begins to thicken soon.
Below were the musings of my intrigued but progressively freezing mind on that stroll:
Most Likely to Succeed – How does one define success? My definition is drastically different than it was at 18. Actually it’s drastically different than it was only a few years ago since I decided to focus on healing.
Best Smile – Thanks, I guess? Hopefully it means I smile a lot because I’m grateful and subsequently have a lot of joy in my life. I practice gratitude everyday because, like yoga, I learned the hard way that it’s not something you just develop master level skills in overnight. In fact, the practice itself is what heals and makes you joyful. Shout out to Brene Brown for the consistent reminders (If you don’t follow her or read her books, please do! She’s a game changer).
Best Sense of Humor – This depends on the type of humor you enjoy. I tend to lean towards dry and occasionally dark. This is not everyone’s cup of tea. My mother can attest to this.
Most Photogenic – This just makes me laugh because I am notorious among my friends for looking like the painfully awkward person in group photos. When someone counts down while holding an iPhone everyone seems to effortlessly fall into optimally angled positions and smile in a way that radiates off the screen. I, however, manage to half smile while haphazardly placing one my hands somewhere near my face giving it the likeness of a claw. One of my friends actually says, “Paige, control the claw!” when photos are taken. I’m not ashamed of my awkwardness, and I no longer attempt to perfect my camera angles. However, it goes without saying that this superlative is just not a reality for me. Moving along…
I started to draw a blank at this point. It may or may not have been the -5 degree windchill.
So what would I be proud of and what wouldn’t spark my slightly snarky, self-deprecating reactions to compliments?
It came to me… Most Likely to be Unapologetically MYSELF. My Jeopardy watching, 80s music blasting, pun loving, slightly caffeine addicted, dog obsessed, smart a$s with a heart of gold self.
Think about it this way: What do you find the most endearing and magnetic about people? I’ve had the good fortune of maintaining many friendships throughout my life, but I find it interesting that some of the people I am closest to are ones I have met in the past 1-4 years. Logically this makes sense since this is when I essentially turned my life on its axis and made a fresh start. That being said, I took a moment to consider what it is that draws me to this newer friends in my life and what keeps me close to those certain few that I have had the pleasure of knowing for years.
They are unique, and they don’t apologize for it.
They have quirks that they own them with flare. They also appreciate this quality in me and have inspired me to let it blossom. These friends will look me square in the face and say I love you even though you make weird claw shapes with your hand in photos, insist on playing early 2000s rap when we get ready for a night out, and struggle with anxiety sometimes. People who are authentic spread their self acceptance like a wildfire. It catches you off-guard when you’ve spent ages trying to be perfect and fit yourself into a socially “ideal” box, but it’s the biggest breath of fresh air you can imagine.
I spent years putting my actual hopes, dreams, and desires on the back burner in an effort to please those around me and follow the path I felt was expected. I now realize that my actual self, quirks and all, is 100X more interesting than any of the hollow paper mache masks I constructed over the years. Your true self might not be for everyone, and it’s not supposed to be. You might not be the most athletic, you might not have the most Vogue September issue worthy smile, and you may never have a sense of humor palatable enough for the masses. What sets you apart is so much deeper than that. I hope you realize it at a younger age than I did, but if not, welcome to this exponentially happier and healthier side of life. This is the one where the only superlative you’ll ever want to aspire to is to JUST BE YOU.