When I was 12 years old, my biggest fear was being unoriginal. The first time I was called basic, I went to the bathroom and cried. I felt like my entire identity was erased and that I was nothing more than a 12-year-old lemming, enticed by Starbucks and sparkles.
What followed was a yearslong quest for uniqueness, where I pretended to be disgusted by so-called “basic” things such as pumpkin spice lattes, infinity scarves and Ugg boots.
While I can now look back at 12-year-old me and laugh, I am still shaky in my identity. The ramifications of my insecurity still remain. I still struggle to tell people certain things I enjoy because I was made fun of for my hobbies and interests in middle school.
When I was about 15, I decided I was sick of standing out and wanted to fit in. My avoidance with anything smelling faintly of the dreaded mainstream did a full 180. I developed an interest that festered into an obsession with the popular. I was determined to know everything I could possibly know about pop culture. I was fixated on being on top of trends, from my clothing, to my hair, to my music, to my knowledge of movies and celebrities. Although I was a Christian at the time, I didn’t connect my actions to my faith.
When I was on top of trends, I neglected my relationship with God and was absolutely miserable. As soon as I had the trendiest shirt, the public would become fixated on a different shirt. As soon as I memorized the lyrics to the most popular song, a new song became popular. I felt like I could never be cool enough to truly fit in.
Trying to stay on top of pop culture and its subsequent trends was like trying to ride a wave in the ocean. Even if I was on top for a little bit, I would always fall. The ever-constant wave would continue on, leaving me far behind in its wake. When I was on top of trends, I would feel on top of the world, like I had no need for God. When I was behind, I would fall into a deep depression and cling to Him.
I felt like I had no identity besides the ever-shifting ocean that was pop culture. When I was in the depths of my identity depression, what got me through those dark days was remembering my ultimate identity: a child of God and a follower of Christ. It didn’t matter how trendy I was, because even if I wasn’t good enough for myself or for the world, I was precious to God.
While my interest in the popular and trendy is no longer the toxic mess it was when I was a teenager, it is still something I have to watch very carefully. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying something popular, whether it be Starbucks or football, it can be very dangerous to chase after something because others are chasing it rather than because you enjoy it or it pleases God.