In high school, you either care or you don’t, you’re loud or you’re quiet, you’re serious or you’re irreverent. But it’s a lonely place, where people who stand differently are unconsciously absorbed into the herd.
I’ve always heard wiser people say “you are who you spend time with.” If you desire success, happiness, or motivation, surround yourself with people who are motivated. Even in theory it makes sense, for the conversations of kind people are different than those of the rude. A person craves acceptance, and to get that, carefully listen to what other people are saying, doing, and how they are acting, and mirror them. Even better, ingrain it into yourself, and suddenly it becomes who you are, and you’re following that age-old advice of “be yourself”, through your changed self might not be one you’re happy with. The effects can be innocent; If you hang around people who play a lot of video games, chances are that you will gain an appreciation for them too. But the dangerous alternative is that the people near you are walking down a path which you suddenly realize is darker than you realized.
Environment is truly important.
Back to the crowded halls and new classes of high school. Teenagers are a prime example of the “you are what your senses eat” phenomenon. Blame the raging hormones, but also the constant questions of “who am I” that make trying on someone else’s shoes so easy. But the thing is that this total shift in action and in thought can occur quickly, albeit temporarily, without you even realizing it.
The stage is set: A teacher which I have for two classes, but with mostly different students in each class. Class A is Psychology, a great interest of mine. Analyzing how people work, theories to explain my inner self, why we are the way we are… I would take it in university if it wasn’t such a hard degree to make fruitful. On the flipside is Class B, History. Throughout my years I have gained a vested disinterest. Boring, old, irrelevant. I struggle to keep my eyes open. I actually admire people who love it, because it’s one of the few classes I can easily say I don’t like.
But here’s where the interesting switch happens – The past few days, I like the History class more than the Psychology class. And I doubt it’s the subject matter. I think it’s the people who are in it.Roughly half of the psychology class is made of people who are eager to voice their disinterest. For the teacher, for the teaching, for the subject matter. We don’t get a lot of work done. It’s loud, and the noise is chatter or ridiculing laughter. There are phones out constantly, with games, texting, and obvious snapchats taken between questions. Once a day the teacher catches someone. People demand extra sheets because their other one is gone, or at home, or in their other binder (and they can’t be bothered to take notes and transfer them later). Things are tossed around the classroom. Unsurprisingly, half the people aren’t listening. And at the end of the day, the teacher is a laughing stock and nothing gets completed.
Oh, and there is also the other half the class, who are quiet and willing to endure, or even enjoy the class, but are also (I imagine) silently wishing that the people who didn’t want to be there would just leave. But they are periphery, because as always, those who are not rebellious are overlooked. Needless to say, I’m one of the quiet ones. And because of assigned seating, I’m stuck in the back, in the middle of the chaos.But the story doesn’t stop there. Let’s jump to History.History is quieter. When the teacher gives work time, it goes completely silent as the class actually does what he asks. There are students from multicultural backgrounds, who are fine with answering whatever (sometimes weird) questions the teacher asks about their homeland and experience. There is a greater sense of responsibility and of openness. There are jokes, but they serve as comedic relief rather than to raise anarchy. In general, there is more people who are interested, or at least respectful. And those who think otherwise are quieted by the overall respect and tolerance of the rest of the class. Their ammunition is sparse, they don’t have enough comrades to do anything disorderly.
The difference is palpable. Psychology’s atmosphere is closed and negative, History’s is at least neutral, and at best optimistic. Take for example the teacher’s well-meant but unorthodox idea of having a Body Break in the middle of a high school class. In psychology, we saw him bend over at the front of the room, encouraging us to do the same, and that was it. For everyone around (and me included), there was no way butts were possibly going in the faces of other people. The class stood there, gave each other disbelieving faces, and that was it. But in history, when the same idea was suggested, the class was fairly confused, but followed his example, close butts and all. We were led through a quick stretch and resumed class time. There was even one enthusiastic person who wanted to lead a body break the next day (though student interest stopped there). And the crazy thing was that this thing which I had been so dead-set against doing before, was now the same thing in which I fully participated in. And my obstinacy wasn’t only because I didn’t want to look like a fool (because I probably would’ve been the only one doing it). My mind went to the exact same place that the others’ did, that it was a terrible idea and there was no way I would go along with it. The mob mentality is strong and quite encompassing.
Even the most well-crafted gear cannot by itself change a broken machine into a cooperative one. Instead of fixing people, stick close to the people who lift you up to your best self. Because if you don’t make an effort to, the ones you happen to find yourself with will be the ones you become, whether you realize it or not.