When you think of Southern California, you probably think of Los Angeles and the beach. When you think of Los Angeles and the beach, you probably think of the rich and famous. When you think of the rich and famous, you probably think about the fact that a lot of those celebrities aren't truly good people, didn't work for what they have, and are, in a sense, fake. I didn't recognize it when I went to high school in Southern California, but I would ultimately come to associate a large part of my home with fake people too.
Nearly every high school student can relate to the pressure to conform to what the "popular kids" look like and act like. For us, it was designer clothing, fancy cars, being an athlete, and fitting into the classic Californian idea of attractiveness. For others, it might involve talking a certain way, carrying yourself a certain way, or just generally changing who you are in order to make others like you. Over the summer after graduating high school, I began to see how much of this conformity my friends and I fell into. It truly is an inescapable trap, because almost everyone is doing it.
But as soon as I reached college, I noticed this trend disintegrate. It took some major adjusting to (because I was still figuring out who I was), but everyone was so unconditionally themselves, and that was a completely new environment for me. There was no reason to be anyone besides who you actually are because there are so many people that anyone stranger's judgment is completely meaningless. As I became closer and closer with upperclassmen, I met people who weren't afraid to openly and passionately disagree with their friends, I met people who knew exactly who they were and who they would become, and I met people who taught me to be the exact same way. It wasn't the smoothest or the quickest transition, but becoming a human being who couldn't care less about the next person's opinion of me truly made me, for the first time in a long time, honestly and wholeheartedly happy with myself.
Everyone always talks about how happiness is completely intrinsic and no amount of external validation can instill true lifelong happiness. For the longest time, I just couldn't see the truth behind this statement. I wanted to, but it just made no sense based on my own experience; however, after becoming my own, honest self, I am certain of the truth behind this statement.
To any high schoolers who cannot figure out why they are unhappy with themselves, the most common answer is that you aren't yourself. It is beyond important to explore who you are and who you want to be before you embark on the journey that is the rest of your life because without embracing that, there will always be a part of you that is that ugly, ugly word: fake.