How much have you changed since high school?

High school was tough times, man! You’ve seen Mean Girls, Clueless, The Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink! The lines are clearly drawn as to who is popular, a nerd, a band geek or a loser. So much of what you did was scrutinized – who you hung out with, which classes you were in, what clubs you belonged to, what you wore, etc. It’s not a time I’d ever want to relive. Ever.

So a couple weeks ago, I ran into one of my high school classmates at an event. We weren’t friends back in the day (although we had a mutual friend), but I knew who he was – I think everyone did. But it wasn’t because he was popular or a star athlete; it’s because with his long black hair and faded heavy metal t-shirts, he completely stood out from all of the other students wearing Guess, Cross Colors or FUBU. You might not have known him personally, but you knew of him.

Fast forward to today: With his long dark hair and faded heavy metal t-shirt (all right, maybe was hard rock), my former classmate was instantly recognizable among the 500+ party crowd. We chatted a bit and I discovered he worked on the corporate side of Hot Topic, the music/pop-culture retail store, which seems to fit him perfectly. What struck me about seeing him again is that he hadn’t changed at all – well, at least on the outside.

While most people I know, including myself, are proud of how much they’ve changed since high school, here is a guy who has always known who he was. What’s more, he has always been secure enough with who he is to stay true to himself regardless of what everyone else was doing, wearing or thinking. Granted, I don’t know him at all, but that was my interpretation and when I left, I had a newfound respect for him that I don’t think a lot of other people could warrant.

High school may have been all about fitting in but when you step out into the Real World, it’s all about setting yourself apart from everyone else. What makes you different or better than other college or job applicants, co-workers and of course, in the dating pool? It was really refreshing to see someone who doesn’t seem like he has ever tried to please others, fit in or set himself apart by being different. He has always been himself, despite any strange looks or rude comments he might have received, and how many of us are confident enough in ourselves to say that?