Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Social Drifter


"Some people call us loners, or outcasts, or misfits."

Every school and colleges has them: the jocks, the nerds, the "in" crowd. Cliques. Groups. Yet among the throngs of students traversing school hallways every day, there are those who don't quite fit into one particular group, those who cannot be categorized quite so easily. I am among this unique group of people. We are the drifters, the ones who can move at will among all the different social circles at schools or colleges.

Some people call us loners, or outcasts, or misfits. I disagree. All those terms have negative connotations, for one thing, and they also imply that we have no friends. Nothing could be further from the truth. Admittedly, I would say I don't have any close friends, those to whom I can confide in regularly and who I talk to every night on the phone. But that doesn't mean I have no friends at all.

On the contrary, I have many friends from all social circles. This makes lunch very interesting, as where I sit and who I sit with varies from day to day. Sometimes I can be found at the popular table, other times with the jocks, sometimes with another drifter, and many times simply by myself, reflecting on the day's events and life in general.
I've heard a lot of arguments for the many benefits of cliques and groups, ranging from a support network in times of need to easy homework help. Some are certainly valid reasons, and I have nothing against cliques; for some people, they provide the support and friendship that are needed.

But it really bothers me when people start on the accusations, calling me a loner or socially unstable. One health textbook even went so far to suggest "low self-esteem" and "emotional instabilities" if one didn't have close friends they spent a lot of time with. Maybe I don't have friends that I hang out with all the time, but I don't have a low self-esteem and I'm certainly not emotionally unstable.

It does get lonely sometimes, and occasionally I'll wish I had a close-knit group of friends who would always be there for me. But every time I think I'm all alone, I remember why I choose to be a drifter: the freedom. I can say whatever I want, whenever I want, without worrying about who I'm going to offend. I can wear anything I like, unconcerned with whether or not it's in style. Best of all, I'm not tied down or restricted to one group of friends, one ideology. I can move about as I please, changing ideas from day to day, looking at issues from all sides.

Different things work for different people. Some people like the security and close-knit atmosphere of a clique. Others prefer to keep one or two close friends they can confide in, share experiences with, and talk to. And still others are like me: drifters, fitting in both everywhere and nowhere. No matter how many friends you have, or what social circle they're from, the most important thing is to stay true to yourself. That's the only way to be comfortable around anyone—whether it be a group of casual friends, a few close friends, or just yourself.


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