I was talking to one of my students the other day and they mentioned something in passing that made me hardcore LOL just a little bit. We were talking about Harry Potter, because obviously, and he looked me dead in the face and said that I was “so cool” and that he wished he was “as chill” as me, or something to that effect.
I KNOW, RIGHT!!!
There’s really no way to mask the fact that that sounds like a big old humblebrag, but it’s been sticking out to me because I don’t think I’m cool. Like, at all. In fact, I’m the furthest thing from it. I’ve never been cool, and I don’t think I really set out to be cool.
The fact of the matter is, most of the coolest people you know feel the same way.
Sure, I think my job is cool, and I think I have the coolest friends in the history of ever, and I may know how to lay down some wicked running man dance moves with the best of the cool cats, but these may not be things that would necessarily classify me as “cool” in the eyes of others.
If we’re being honest, which I will always be with you guys, I was so incredibly awkward in high school, and that feeling is never really something I shook. I was friends with nearly everyone, went to all of the football games and dances, and even played sports, but I never really felt like I fit in, like I had a niche. I was nerdy, shy, and had a monkey barrel full of insecurities. For four years, I felt like I was standing on the outside looking in, mostly because I was afraid of my uncoolness slipping out, revealing what I was trying so desperately to hide. It wasn’t until I went off to college that I really started to own that uncoolness. One of the big things that began to resonate with me was that my weirdness–my nerdiness, my deep obsessions for the things that other people might try to suppress–was what was most honest. And that was what people resonated with.
So I stopped trying to be cool, or cutting edge, or innovative. I just tried to be myself. I started to listen to what I really wanted to do. And that stuck. And I guess people began to call it cool.
Cool is a construct, and what is cool to one person will be profoundly uncool to the next person. It’s all a matter of personal taste. And there are people who will tell you to eff cool, to forget about cool, that cool people are the lowest form of our society, put on this earth to make everyone else feel inadequate, but I don’t think that’s quite right either.
The coolest thing, I have learned, is just being yourself.
Cool is only unattainable if you don’t believe in yourself. But the minute you start doing that–believing in who you are and what you stand for and what you have to do and say in this beautiful world–you instantly become cool. That’s all there is to it. It’s not trick. It’s just a funny thing called self-esteem.
That’s what I aim to do everyday. Sometimes it’s hard, some days I just want to burry my face in a pint of Chunky Monkey and call it a day. I wasn’t always my biggest cheerleader, and it took my a very long time to get here, but I’d like to think that I believe in myself. I guess that’s a bit of a rarity in this world. But I stand by what I do and what I love, because I know in my core, my from head all the way down to my tippy toes, that I love it. I get weird, corny and cheesy. My dad jokes are lame and off-kilter, and I obsess about Harry Potter and One Direction and other random things that maybe a grown woman shouldn’t admit to still loving, but here we are. I never do it to make a point, or to project a certain level about anything about who I am or what I’m trying to mold myself into.
What you see is what you get, I’m afraid.
There of course are people in my life who are infinitely more stylish, or smarter, or more attuned to the worlds of politics, the environment, world news or even just being a grown up, and I am constantly trying to learn from them. There are people, men and women, who are infinitely cooler than I will ever be, and I admire them. There are people who are funnier than I am, because they always will be. And I always want to be there. You’d probably find the world an awfully dull place if you were the apex, the coolest, the most of the most. After all, what else would there be to achieve (besides perfecting the folded fitted sheet because that one will forever remain a mystery)?
I want to look up to others; I want to be blown away by the things that they’re doing and saying and starting. I want that! But I also want other weird kids to look up to me, to help them realize that they can and should believe in themselves. If I own my uncool coolness, it’s only to really pave the wave for other people to think they’re cool too. You have that right, you know. Nobody will stop you.
It’s okay to think that you–yes, you–are cool.
So as weird as it is when it happens, I’m extremely flattered when people call me cool now. And I momentarily think back to that deeply uncool girl, wondering what she would think if she could hear those words. I am still her in a lot of ways; that girl is still there, she is still very real. I still feel deeply uncool and unsure about 95% of the time. The difference is simply that the uncool high schooler has learned to be more comfortable in her skin. But most of all, I genuinely hope that instead of trying to be similarly cool, they aim to be themselves. Bravery is cool, too, and being yourself in a world that wants you to be anything but is probably the bravest (and, therefore, the coolest) thing you can do.