Who was I in high school?

October 03, 2016
High school can be hard, especially when you're as big a nerd as I was. But you know what? I didn't have a bad experience. In this post, I talk about who I was in high school and what that means to me.

Recently I’ve been bingeing on the Vlogbrothers YouTube channel, because I haven’t watched it in like, two years. Last week I wrote a post about studying science which was inspired by one of Hank Green’s videos, but this week I wanted to do something inspired by one of John Green’s videos titled ‘Who was I in high school?’

As an introduction, here’s a little about me.

I’m Beth. I have a Bachelors of Science in Physics from the University of Exeter and I am a Young Adult author. I was first published traditionally back in 2012, when I was seventeen years old, and have since had three novels and a short story published.

If you guys spend long enough clicking around my blog and website and my about pages and any news articles I’m in, you’ll find out that I had my book deal just after I applied for university.

When I was little, I loved books. I mean, I loved them. Belle was (*is) my favourite Disney princess because she was always seen by the people around her as weird and bookish. I really related to Hermione. I loved creative writing but shared my passion for this with literally nobody until I was about fifteen. I mean, I didn’t tell a single one of my friends or any of my family.

To be frank, I never felt cool.

I had friends up until I was about sixteen who I always perceived as ‘cooler’ than me. I always felt awkward and weird. I was mousy and had awful acne and I just never felt confident about anything. I also did pretty well in school. I got consistently good grades. Actually, I was top of my year in our GCSE exams (the ones you take when you’re 15-16 years old before you go on to Sixth Form college and do you A-Levels for two years). So you know, I was your textbook classic nerd.

Then there was Wattpad.

I say it like it was this huge milestone or a turning point and honestly, there was never one particular day that I remember and I think, ‘Yes. That’s when I became a new person.’ But Wattpad was a huge deal for me.

A friend at the time introduced me to the site, and I was all, ‘Hey, free books!’ and I found out that people – teenagers like me, most importantly – also liked writing. I mean, obviously there are people who like writing. But I finally had access to a community, full of other young people who shared this interest. I began posting online and found a huge source of support from Wattpad users who were reading my works.

At the time of my sixteenth birthday, I sent a short story in to a teen magazine. Something I would never have had the confidence to do before Wattpad. This was my first ‘published’ work, I guess. But I was so excited I posted a picture of it on Facebook and people were like, ‘Oh, that’s cool, I didn’t know you wrote.’

To which I would reply, ‘Yeah, I’m posting a story online and it’s got a few hundred thousand reads.’ And they didn’t really know what to say to that.

In brief: I was also hired to write a novella on Wattpad which you can read here and then I got my GCSE results and then I started Sixth Form. This was summer of 2011 for me.
Something happened during this time that made me stop worrying about what people thought of me so much.

This is something that was a huge deal for me. It’s literally like I just started thinking one day, ‘You know what? I like things. These are things that make me happy. Why am I embarrassed by them, or hiding them? This is who I am and I want to be that person.’

Also: I used to be embarrassed by the fact I liked writing. I didn’t know many people who liked it, and I felt like if I told people they’d insist on reading whatever I wrote and they’d think it would suck and I was pretty convinced my writing did suck. I just carried on because it was fun. I didn’t keep writing to become a good writer. I kept writing because I liked creating stories. But I never knew how to tell people that. I thought it was weird.

I guess it was easier once we started Sixth Form. Same school, same people… But I started making new friends. Not the ‘coolest’ people, I guess, in the high-school-hierarchy sense of the word. But we’d play Pokémon and Uno in the common room and we decorated it at Christmas. It was fun. We liked things.

Not that my old friends didn’t like things. But they liked different things and I guess that we didn’t gel so much. I always felt like I was trying hard to be more like them than to be like me. I made friends with people with whom I felt I could really be me.

I like writing. I like music and art and books and creating new things, and I like being able to share some of those things with you guys. I also like fashion magazines and shopping and painting my nails, and tagging my friends in memes on Facebook. I like reading articles about Proxima B (which is that new Earth-like exoplanet they found near our closest star) and I like picking up issues of New Scientist focusing on particle and quantum physics.

I like a lot of things, and I am unreservedly and unashamedly enthusiastic about all of them.
One of the other things that actually really helped me become comfortable with who I was, was the Nerdfighter community. I got into Vlogbrothers back when I was about sixteen and I just thought, ‘Hey, these are people who also like things, and they like a lot of the things that I like, and they’re so enthusiastic about things! And they’re so accepting!’

My family will call me things like quirky and weird and a nerd, and honestly? I don’t mind. I like being a nerd. I embrace it. I like being enthusiastic – about a cute new scarf or nail varnish or the discovery of a new exoplanet or a Harry Potter trivia game.

After GCSEs I was confident enough in myself to own up to who I was. I was a nerd and I liked writing and I liked physics. I didn’t care if people thought I was ‘cool’ or not.

I knew I wasn’t ‘cool’. I just didn’t care. I was happy.

I don’t care if it sounds stupid: having acceptance and support online, mainly through my work on Wattpad, enabled me to become confident and comfortable in real life. I was more open.

When I started university, I didn’t change who I was. I didn’t want to try hard to make people like me by being someone I wasn’t – I’d done that for far too long already. And people were happy to accept me for who I was. They might have thought I was nerdy and stuff, but they just thought, ‘Yeah, that’s Beth.’ It’s not like they were repulsed by the fact I was really into some things they maybe hadn’t even heard of or didn’t personally care about.

I was lucky that when I became published, I was able to attend events that helped me to gain more confidence. And now I’m starting a new career, that’s been really useful for me – to be comfortable and confident, especially in new situations and around new people. (But even that can be intimidating sometimes.)

And I know it’s not easy to just turn around and suddenly become confident. It can be really hard. And especially when you’re in high school and you want to fit in.

I know it’s hard because I struggled with that for a long time too, back in comprehensive school (high school).

But here’s something important I learned from high school.

It’s okay to like different things. It’s okay to like the same things as someone else.

It’s okay to like what you like.

(And I’m aware this is another very long post, but I have a lot of feelings about this too. I get a lot of messages from people still in school who aren’t confident, usually with regards to their writing – like, they’re worried people will laugh at them for it. I just wanted to let those people know that don’t worry – I went through that, too. You’re not alone.)

I just think the most important thing you can do is own up to what you like. Like I said in my post last week: enthusiasm matters. It’s hard, but I truly believe it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself.

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