Popular Kids


A few weeks ago I found myself in the middle of the mountainous desert with no water, a body that had long given up, and a mind that was full of fear. I tried my best to encapsulate the sensation in a post about running through Bryce Canyon, but outside of the humor within the adventure was the underlying, self-denying realization of how weak and powerless I am in the world that I live in.

The reality of being miles away from a finish line, body already exhausted, and resources ran dry is terrifying. I’ve joked about it many of times with people that I’ve met, exaggerated to really bring about the humor, but rarely around others have I reflected of how undeniably mentally lost I was. I had no idea what to do out in the desert. I had no idea how to make it back to the finish line of the race because the sun was so hot, the rocks were so sharp, the mountains were so tall, and I was so thirsty.

I’ve told many individuals that I was in over my head in relation to that race, but I don’t think through words it truly resonates with them, or myself on how true that statement really was.

It is hard being friends with the popular kids. Perhaps the term popular isn’t the ideal terminology outside of the education system, but for the sake of argument in this piece we will stick with that identification.

Make no mistake, there is nothing that the popular kids did wrong. In fact, in many ways, they do many things right. It is not necessarily envy that drives you close to them, or dreams that do. It is the hope that something magically comes off of them and gives you the ability to go above and beyond what you could imagine yourself doing. We all had our Johnathan’s, our Amanda’s, and our Alex’s. They were the ones that some of us wanted to reach when we were so young. We would spend time around them, sometimes a bit in the distances, in order to study, try to communicate, and learn about whatever it is that makes them do amazing things, and what causes us to fall short.

Popular kids are hard to understand; this is because they have an amazing drive to achieve greatness, they have the persona that inherently draws people likes moths to a flame, and even when things do not pan out for yourself, you cannot be mad at those kids. They just have “it”.

And when you struggle, and you see them rising to the top in humble approach; you suddenly find yourself in two camps:

  • Jealousy of the individual with their achievement, and the excuse on why you failed
  • Desire to try something new to see how close you can get to them

Focusing on the second option is where we find true risk. It can be exhilarating, frightening, and rewarding. Embracing our inner Icarus we fly higher, move faster then we should, and lay everything out on the table.

And we fail. And we fall. The wings melt around us, and we plummet back to the reality that we have chosen to ignore. The impact hurts us, breaks us, and snaps us back into the realm of a truth that we had earlier discarded; we cannot reach those we desire. However, truly like a stubborn child, we refuse to recognize that and we try again, and again, and again…We get damaged, we experience loss, we convince ourselves that all of this is just ‘growing pains’, and we ignore the pleas of our loved ones to stop the madness.

The true irony through all of this is the popular kid. They are working relentlessly in order to reach new levels of success, and they are a joy to be around. However, due to their own schedule, their own accord, their own dreams they fail to recognize you. It has nothing to do with them not liking you, it is just the fact that the two of you are not on the same playing field…you’re not even on the same planet.

Curiously though, this notion is one of the biggest driving factors to our own insanity. If just once we were recognized, if once we were embraced, if once we were heralded as a success then would our desire to continue, stop? Would the mission be considered a success? What is better; the recognition followed by the end of the process, or the lack of acknowledgement with the never-ending desire to accomplish more? In more simpler terms; should the barking dog finally catch the speeding car?

The truth of my own being is recognizing that nearly every time I step outside of my own door that I am almost destine to try something new; something uncomfortable. Why? Because I follow the popular kids. I see and witness their exemplified brilliance, even as adults, and I cannot help but be preprogramed to chase after that blinding light. I become discouraged. I get lost. I wind up in the desert; completely clueless about what to do next. However, I keep moving in forward motion, dreaming of the day that I can be step-in-step with those who I admire the most.


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