The Problem with Trying to Be Cool

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The Problem with Trying to Be Cool

A personal story…

As I watched this video of Mr Rogers appealing to the US Senate for funding for his and other shows, I was moved by his absolute humility. He was unapologetically a wonderful human.

This has always been an inner struggle for me.

Inside, I am quite a shy, gentle person. But somewhere along my time growing up in the 70s and 80s, an idea crept into my thoughts that being “cool” was better than being “good”. And I feel that it was mostly media influences.

Maybe it was watching Grease and listening to them sing “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”… making fun of her innocence and the fact that she’d never smoked or drank or had sex. Or Happy Days where everyone wanted to be “cool” like the Fonz… Or the iconic movies like The Outsiders, Pretty in Pink, Revenge of the Nerds, The Breakfast Club where being considered cool was the only thing that mattered. Everything else was social suicide.

For me, I always felt like the typical nerd in high school. I had acne, non-existent breasts, wasn’t interesting-looking and to top it all off, I was smart and shy. Whether I actually was or not, I felt like the exact kind of nerd that they practically tortured in “Revenge of the Nerds”.

Revenge of the Nerds – 1984

The Outsiders – 1983

My Turning Point

And then, there was the final straw – my sad turning point.

It was Grade 9 history class. The teacher was truly horrible. Everyone was failing the class – except for me. At this point, I still enjoyed learning. I liked aiming for 100%. Up until this point, regardless of how bad the teacher was, I would simply read and study more – because I knew that I wasn’t going to learn anything with this guy. The power of peer pressure hadn’t actually changed my behaviour… yet.

One day, he gave a test to the class that was completely unfair. If it wasn’t bad enough that his classes were totally confusing, he even included a pile of stuff that he hadn’t covered at all.

The whole class understandably failed – except for one person – me. I got 100%. Not because he was a good teacher or because I was so interested in the subject. That was just who I was. I was studying independently of him anyway. His teaching was irrelevant to me.

Instead of quietly commending me on my test mark, he used it to shame the rest of the class. He stood in front of the class and screamed about what losers they were and how they would never amount to anything! And then he topped it off with “And don’t you even think about saying it was due to my teaching. KATRINA GOT 100%!!!”

OMG. Social suicide.

I honestly wanted to die.

The Beginning of Apathy

I didn’t die. But something did die inside of me. The joy of excellence. The joy of learning. The bliss of innocence. The feeling that it was OK to love reading, being a girl guide, and just loving life because I was alive.

It felt like my survival was at stake. This shy girl was going to drown in the hell we called High School.

And so, I joined the druggie crowd. They were definitely the coolest in my eyes. If there was anything that could tarnish my “goody-goody” persona, it would be hanging out with them. OMG I wanted to be cool and popular so badly. The innocent girl within me wasn’t allowed to play anymore. It was time to be cool.

The following weekend, a new friend and I  got a bottle of whiskey, and drank it straight on the way to a teen dance (I was 14). I had never drank before. I was completely drunk in no time… The rest of the night is quite a blur… Until the police were called… I have vague memories of having to walk a straight line… next thing I remember was being locked in the back of a police cruiser… and then the jail cell.

Well, I guess I was cool now.

That was one of my favourite Mondays at school. I was the topic of “cool kid” conversation… OMG you ended up in jail!! Whoa!! I started smoking – cigarettes, pot, hash… I was full out party girl.

This was the beginning of my strange double life – that I still struggle with today.

Our Double Lives

On the outside I wanted to be whatever those around me thought was cool. And truthfully, I liked the cool vibe. There is a sense of power in being cool. There is power in not caring – in being apathetic – in being angry at “the man” all of the time.

Of course, this power doesn’t create or build anything. The point of the apathy is to absolutely affect nothing in society.

It came from making heroes out of people who truly had tough upbringings. The heroes of the 70s and 80s were tough teenagers who had been abused by their parents and had developed super tough skin. This tough skin came across as strength because they couldn’t be manipulated by the school system, police or other “powers that be” in society.

And deep down, we like that because we don’t want to be controlled either.

But that wasn’t my story at all. I was raised with so much love. My parents were wonderful. I had two sisters who to this day, I am super close with. I never had to wonder if there was food on the table or if I could join the swim team or not. My childhood was filled with love, respect and safety.

I became such a fraud.

This double life has shown itself in all kinds of ways – even in my teachings. I taught Kundalini yoga for over 10 years. But there was always some part of me inside (which I fought with) that wouldn’t let me excel. I wasn’t going to do yoga every day. I wasn’t going to be that “good”. In the early yoga days, you would be labelled “one of those yoga-freaks” or “flakey” or “new-agey”.

And so, on the outside, I taught teacher trainings, taught meditation and yoga in hospitals, shelters, the YMCA and wellness centres. And I loved it.

But I never put 100% of myself in there… there was always something inside of me that just wouldn’t put everything into it. And this has always eaten at me. Yet until the writing of this article, I didn’t know why.

Similarly, in teaching tantra, I often have two selves.

Sometimes, I get to be as fully spiritual as I truly am. My experience of tantra (and life) is one of truly meeting God in every part of my life – and especially in intimate, sacred lovemaking. But society says that you can’t say “GOD”. You will offend people. Don’t say “Tantra” or people will think that you just go from orgy to orgy or something. Don’t be too weird. You’d better appeal to everyone out there. Don’t be too flakey.

And then there came a point where, ironically, I began getting angry that people DIDN’T think I was smart. I felt that new people looked down on me a bit when they found out I taught yoga or meditation – like I was “just a hippie”… Now suddenly I was fighting back with “But I have a math degree! I AM smart. I choose this because it’s important and healing!!!”

It was like no matter which way I went, I was WAY too concerned with what other people thought (or what I thought they thought).

And so, there has been a constant push-pull between trying to “do what is acceptable to society” (another way of saying “be cool”) and sharing my honest truth about what I am teaching.

Perhaps writing this article is me finally “coming out” and finally shaking this double life.

Here is the truth:

  • I am not whatever “cool” is.
  • I love to learn and study.
  • I love this world and the people in it.
  • I have faith that there is purpose in the Universe.
  • I believe that I am one with God/Spirit/Consciousness.
  • I also love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, doing jigsaw puzzles, staring at my children, swimming, running barefoot, and I’m addicted to doing Logic Puzzles.

Phew.

I think my journey of the last 20 years has been to truly recapture that joy and innocence before I got some strange ideas in my head that made me afraid to share who I really was…

I think I’m doing OK… Because I think I finally realize that life is too short to try to be “cool”.

– 1984 –

– 2018 –

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By | 2018-10-05T17:53:25+00:00 October 5th, 2018|Categories: Hope, Spiritual Growth, Spirituality, Teen angst|0 Comments