Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 5, 2010

Truly living is being true to you

By DYLAN SUNDBERG
Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — Walking down a sidewalk on the beach with a group of friends, I see a nostalgic set of squares staring up at me from the steaming pavement. We joke back and forth about playing on the seemingly ancient court, all considering it too childish to actually take part in at our advanced age. However, after beginning a game of four-square — more as a humorous act than a legitimate match — we cannot help but have fun. We find ourselves entranced by its simplicity and captivated by the easy, friendly game-play, continuing the game for an hour and a half before becoming too tired to continue.

Many people, upon hearing this story, giggle and scoff at our joy, thinking we are strange for wanting to play such a childish game. I, like many people, used to fear this taunting, and wanted only the approval of others. I avoided taking part in anything unusual and tried to dress and act like the majority while only partaking in whatever was the coolest thing to do. But somehow, against all logic, this lifestyle surprisingly was unsatisfying.

The pressure to conform that is forced upon us often stems from masculine and feminine roles in society, but in my young mind, the idea that men and women have distinct and certain roles began to transcend practicality and enter the realm of the ludicrous and even harmful. The predetermined concepts of what socially was acceptable and what was fun affected my ability to explore new horizons, express myself and experience new things.

It was not until around middle school that I began to make my transformation into a more unique version of myself. I began to dress more how I preferred, talk to people I preferred, and do things I preferred, despite their social statuses and associations. I participated in a few plays and even sang in a choir performance, even though singing and acting both were thought by others to not be very masculine.

As expected, I gained a small amount of jeering from performing these actions, but the petty put-downs could not even come close to dampening the joy I gained from finding new friends and things I loved to do. And as I became more confident and comfortable in my newfound hobbies, the people around me became less prone to ridiculing me for loving them.

This was the principle that helped me to find what was truly valuable in my life and showed me that being part of the majority does not guarantee a good life. Even now in high school, I feel like the normal actions of many of the teenagers in my class, including partying and excessive texting, do not appeal to me. I once convinced a group of people who otherwise never would consider doing so to go to a tea bar to hang out for a night. Many of them were skeptical of the idea of a "tea party," thinking it too lame or feminine to actually attend. But after drinking a few cups of tea, talking and even singing a little, they were convinced otherwise and even wanted to do it again.

It gives me hope to see that people occasionally will step out of the norm and try new things despite the connotations associated with them. I have realized that I do not need to fear social stigmas to have an enjoyable lifestyle and by adhering to my desires, I am able to broaden my horizons, explore new experiences and find my true passions. So the next time you want to play four-square, perform in a drama production,or even have a tea party, do yourself a favor and endure any jeering you may receive for it because living life true to yourself is priceless.

Dylan Sundberg is a senior at Elk Rapids High School.