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Letter 18: Don't Run For Class President

What would you tell your teenaged self if you had the chance?

The Hindsight Letters is a place to share all the things we wish we had known as teenagers.

You can find this post at The Hindsight Letters.

Letter 18: Don't Run For Class President

Dear me at 13:

One of the qualities that I love most about you is your optimism.

In spite of being chronically unpopular, you still enter each school year with the belief that "this will be your year". That "this year everything will change".

This is a big year for you, granted. Grade Seven. You graduated from Elementary School (as the valedictorian, no less) and moved on to Junior High. A whole new crowd of kids. A whole new group of potential friends who know nothing about your former status as the resident pariah. A fresh start.

Within your first weeks of attendance, you learn that the student government elections will soon be taking place. Grade Seven will be looking to elect a President.

"This is my chance to shine", you think to yourself as you enter your name in the race.

Now honey, I say this with love, really I do, but PLEASE. DO. NOT. RUN. FOR. CLASS. PRESIDENT.

"Why?" you might ask. "I was President of my Grade Six class. I was valedictorian. I aced all my exams on the Canadian government in social studies. I'm responsible. I'm a great student. I'm PERFECT for this role!"

You're right, honey. You are perfect for this role. You would make an excellent President. You would never miss a meeting and you would be on top of all your duties one hundred percent of the time. But here's the thing:

It's a popularity contest.

And currently, the only person that will sit next to you at lunch is the ESL guy that wears the really tight track pants.

Let's be honest here. Your altruism is indeed a factor motivating your campaign, but you also have an ulterior motive: You seem to think that being elected as Class President will instantly make you a star. You are of the belief that as Class President, all the cool kids will suddenly flock to you and you will attend all the cool parties and have lots of people to eat lunch with.

Sadly, this is not the case.

Me as the Valedictorian of the Grade Six Class

It's reversed: in order to become President, you first need to be popular. And that is a feat that cannot be accomplished in the two-week span before the ballots are cast.

You will run for Class President. Your Mom will help you create an "Ad Campaign" to promote yourself. It will be cute and clever but will quickly become your Albatross. You will no longer be the Anonymous unpopular girl. You will now be Kyra. That girl with the super dorky posters (sorry Mom) that lost in a Landslide election in favor of Adam Whats-His-Name. You will now be singled out on a regular basis as the token object of ridicule whenever the popular kids get bored.

I know that your efforts are coming from a really good place, sweetheart. But there is a bigger lesson to learn here:

You have (and will continue to have) a tendency to tell everyone who you are. To want to make sure that everyone around you knows what you're about. Later on in your adolescence this will manifest itself in crazy hairstyles, clothing, and piercings. They will be your personal billboard to the world, proclaiming your brand: "Look! I'm not actually a geek! I'm a punk rocker! I'm not cool because I don't want to be cool. Na, Na, Nabooboo."

Here is the thing: it's actually way cooler to let people discover who you are. On their own terms. To watch your actions, the way you live your life, and make their own assumptions. The fact is, they're going to do that anyway. Manufacturing your persona, and then pointing it out to people only tells them that you care way too much about what they think. And that's never cool.

So maybe pack away your posters and save your campaign for another year. Scope the place out a little. Observe. Be wise about the friends that you make. Maybe volunteer to help with the election in another way. Join some clubs. Take up some hobbies.

Most importantly: focus first on understanding who you are. Focus on loving that person, in spite of her flaws.

And if you can get that down pat, the popular kids are bound to feel the same.


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