The Perks of Branching Out of Your Social Group
becauseiminsane should change her name to becauseimhilarious. —SparkNotes editors
Here's the picture: You've been hanging out with the same four kids since third grade. You're downright comfortable in your current social situation. You know who your friends are, and, more importantly, you know who your friends aren't. Just look at the people sitting with you at lunch for an answer about your social group—are you a nerd, a hippie, a druggie, an athlete, a reject, a goth, an AP Scholar? (You see what I did there? That was an asyndeton. Be proud of me, Mrs. AP English). It seems Janis Ian got it right when she drew that map of the cafeteria in Mean Girls.
Yep, life is made up of divisions and stereotypes. But look at the big picture: if we hide in one social group, we miss countless opportunities to connect with people who may have something to valuable to share with us. Maybe that something is an opinion, or homework help, or a cupcake. So before we force ourselves into one social group forever, maybe we should look at expanding our boundaries. Could you really be friends with that girl with pink hair? Quite possibly! Let's examine the benefits of having connections in multiple groups.
If you're friends with...
The Student Government Representative:
You know the Homecoming date, theme, and ticket price before everyone else. You may be "randomly selected" to help design the float and partake in the subsequent pizza. Your announcements always get read first on the loudspeaker.
Who needs self-defense class when Jake from the football team is walking right next to you, discussing how he totally broke that guy's clavicle during the last game? Assuming Jake wasn't blessed with strength, looks, AND brains, you might have just found yourself a new tutee, good for cash—or, you know, service hours, if you're into that.
No one else can tell you where to buy purple lipstick when you desperately need it for your Halloween costume. Bonus: if you stand next to your goth friend in the class picture, you look like you have a delicious, golden-brown tan.
You hate group presentations. In fact, you're dreading one right now. But suddenly, you remember that your partner was the lead in the last 465 school productions, and is therefore unlikely to suffer from your rare form of stage fright (you know, the one that makes your usually-college-level vocabulary descend into "um, but, yeah" territory before you fall into a narcoleptic fit). Guaranteed A+.
Okay, I take it back. There's not a benefit to being friends with everyone. Stay away from them. Seriously. You don't want the police to rip up the seats of your car during their search for marijuana just because your "friend" "really needed" a ride home. Good luck explaining that one to Mom.
Will fix your computer. For free. Because, despite the social awkwardness, they really just want some interaction.
I'm not talking about the kid who brags about being in two honors-level courses. I'm talking about the kid who silently laughs at that kid. The guy who, when he takes over the world, will need someone like you for help. But I'm really preaching to the choir on this one, aren't I?
They really are just like normal people. They just wear tighter pants. And they have no apparent means of transportation apart from a strip of wood with some wheels on it. But most of them have delightful taste in music, and ALL of them have surprising insight into important issues like politics, religion, and why on earth Julia broke up with William just when things were really looking good for them.
Sure, their stories about how they finally topped Level 180 in Ultimate Dungeon Champions 2 may get old during class, but when you actually get to watch them play, it's awesome. Ideal for long field trip bus rides.
They may not smell like roses, but they're champions at looking on the bright side of things. When you complain to your dreadlocked friend, you know words of cheery reassurance will come pouring out of his mouth.
Music Department Kids:
...often fit into one of the aforementioned catagories. Wo/men of many talents, capable of extreme multitasking and scholarship. Also, they can move their fingers really fast. Tantalizingly fast.
Likely intelligent, likely willing to proofread your English paper. For the third time. Without complaint. (Thanks, Yoon.)
So maybe I'm planning too far ahead on this one, but someday, in the not-so-distant-if-you-really-stop-and-think-about-it future, I hope to get married. To have a wedding. Egad, to have a boyfriend. And when that someday comes, I'm going to need a wedding singer to produce sweet melodies for our first dance as Cinderella and Prince Charming, as Nutella and Pretzel Rod, as man and wife. Oh, to be swept off my feet and look into those eyes, like endless pools of water...or chocolate...or night...I'm really not picky. But, hey, this isn't about me—you'll need a wedding singer too!
You barely managed to survive basic level Food and Nutrition, but your brave new friend has successfully navigated through four years of cooking classes and is now taking Advanced Culinary Techniques IV. What does this mean for you? Why, daily treats, of course! Yesterday was Penne a la Awesomesauce, and tomorrow looks like crème brûlée.
While visions of sugar plums dance in your head, consider this: Would any of these things be possible if you hadn't stepped out of your comfort zone and made friends with that weird kid? Befriending one unexpected person may be the key to a whole new circle of friends. Use your imagination, and you'll realize that there's more to people than their label. Make new friends (but keep the old!), for you may discover that the least likely candidates are the most awesome.
What types of people do you befriend who are out of your comfort zone?
Related Post: Tips for Meeting New People
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