I've mentioned before that at the start of every school year I read Stargirl, the book my fifth grade teacher read to our class at the beginning of the school year. I've kept up the tradition because Stargirl meant so much to me back in the fifth grade, because I felt like I had finally found a character that so accurately encapsulated all that I felt and all that I wanted to be. Reading the book keeps me rooted in the simplicity of what I desired to be as a child, it keeps me connected to those basic morals that shaped who I was in those formative years, and it reminds me of the valuable lesson on being yourself that the book teaches.
This year while reading through the book I got really attached to one particular scene. Stargirl had transformed into a normal girl, and her 'happy wagon', which held stones to represent how happy she was, was almost completely empty. I think that scene more than anything drives home the theme of the whole novel, which to put it simply, is to be yourself. The whole book talks about this girl who is so unapologetically herself that others can't help but be inspired by her, and the book depicts an image of a girl who is a literal ray of light, and spreads kindness and love everywhere she goes. But it is this scene, where we see how truly unhappy Stargirl is trying to be the girl everyone else wants her to be, that I think the message really sinks in.
My high school was really special because it was the total opposite of the high school Stargirl went to. People could be whoever they wanted to be, and the population of the high school genuinely seemed to not care at all. All types of kids confidently walked the halls of my high school, so it was weird coming to a new school, and not seeing that same type of culture.
Its not a vicious culture that puts down people that are different, not at all. But there is definitely a vibe here, a feeling in the air, that people who don't smoke, or don't drink, or don't dress a certain way, or don't do their hair in a certain way, are just sort of left alone. They're not approached or invited places, just kinda ignored in a way that was different than in my high school, where weird kids were met with the same warmth as everyone else.
Reading that scene in Stargirl where we see how truly unhappy she is trying to fit in was the perfect reminder I needed. I'm tempted sometimes, to cave and straighten my hair, or smoke, or party with strangers in a club I'm not supposed to be in, because in my head I've convinced myself that that is what it will take to feel happy. But I remember Stargirl, and her empty wagon, and I know it won't be true. Because no matter how bad things are, they'll always be worse if you lose sight of who you are, and become someone you're not just to please everyone else.
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