Thursday, November 10, 2011

Birds of a Feather

            People tend to arrange themselves in pretty predictable patterns. It’s something that can be observed in almost any setting, not just high school. I was once given an English assignment that asked whether I believed “birds of a feather flock together”, or that “opposites attract”. Hah. Opposites attract? Yeah, sure, if we’re talking magnets or genders. Otherwise, fuck that shit. When’s the last time you thought I need a new friend, but he’s gotta be the complete opposite of me, in every conceivable way, so that we have absolutely nothing in common and no mutual interests? As much as I wouldn’t like to admit it, I associate myself with people who are extremely similar to me, at least at face-value. It’s not because I’m narrow-minded or stubborn or bland (though I may be), that’s just human nature. I want friends who I can make jokes with, play sports with, and do dumb shit with. That isn’t to say those are my only friends—obviously some variety is healthy and necessary—but macrocosmically, we’re inclined to surround ourselves with similar personalities.
We see this principle manifest itself every single day at school. The physical compositions of groups in the hallways, where people eat lunch, where they sit in assembly, are all a result of this default mindset. There’s a reason you can easily put labels on most of the groups in our school, because a couple adjectives can usually sum them up enough to identify the individual members. I used to think Park was above clichés like jocks and nerds. We aren’t. I hesitate in this territory, because I really don’t want to stereotype anyone too heavily, but in essence, that’s what I’m doing. Or rather, not what I’m doing, but what we have done to ourselves. But I digress. Words like jock and nerd are somewhat outdated and misleading, but at their core, we still have the same dichotomy: the kids that are into sports, and the kids that spend more time studying and pursuing academic interests. It’s certainly not a strict dichotomy, however, and there is undoubtedly a significant amount of crossover between the two. My point, though, is that many students would feel comfortable placing themselves in one group or another. Once you have those initial categories, you can split them into even more sublevels. And those final groupings are often your “friends”. There are so many other categories than just the athletes and the intellectuals, but they follow the same concept. I’m simply drawing the connection between common characteristics and friend groups.
So you get it, blah blah, my friends are exactly like me, etc. What’s the problem with that? There isn’t one, I’d say. But, but, we need to integrate! you plead. I acknowledge the reasoning for variety, and I definitely agree. I would get bored of my friends if they were clones of me, too. I’m not really arguing anything here, but rather attempting to rationalize the tendencies of students at Park. There are kids in my grade who I’m fairly confident I have never had a direct conversation with. That’s kind of sad, but at the same time entirely understandable. The reason why, quite bluntly, is that I share minimal similarities with those people. I still respect them as individuals, appreciate their unique personalities, and will treat them with utmost courtesy and decency. We are just inherently different people, and there is no reason to force a relationship that disobeys natural instincts.
I love the fact that there are groups at our school. We’re like a collection of distinct, little families that interact and learn collaboratively in an academic environment. We have friends from other families, too, and sometimes we’re even members of two or three families. Social clustering is not a bad thing, it’s a natural thing. It can turn vicious when the families start becoming exclusive or aggressive, but as a fundamental idea, there’s nothing wrong with it.