Dare to Be Yourself, Part 1 by Caie Kelley
We asked teens around the world: Is it possible to be your true self in your community? Caie Kelley, a teen in California, responds.
If somebody had asked if it was possible for a person to be authentic in my community five years ago, I would have laughed and shook my head. My home, a little bubble next to some of the most liberal cities in the world (Berkeley, and San Francisco), was far from welcoming when it came to differences. My classmates and I wore the same clothing, took similar-level classes, belonged to the same swim clubs, and participated in the same after-school activities.
A person who dared to break the mold did so with the knowledge that he or she would be labeled an outsider. For many years, it felt like it was nearly impossible to feel authentic, because so much of middle school and those awkward-transition years revolved around fitting in to a set standard. Gradually, I’ve realized that even in a community that can feel stifling with its high-achieving measures and “Type-A” students, it is certainly possible for a person to feel – and be– authentic.
To me, authenticity simply means that a person is what they say they are, and really, the opportunity to be truthful about oneself is always present. While I prefer books to parties, and sometimes feel like that incites a certain label from my peers, there isn’t anything stopping me from being exactly who I am. “Of the opinion, there is no dispute,” my Latin teacher always says. When it comes to preferences, people in my community can be quite accepting of each other’s authentic traits. The girl who sits next to me is convinced that vampires exist, but I spend entire nights watching Ted talks about finding inspiration in words, so who am I to judge?