Sunday, August 3, 2014

No I Won't Keep Calm (Part 1)

When I was younger, I didn't like yogurt. My mom kept thinking that if I tried the right flavor of yogurt, I would like it. I tried regular flavors like strawberry, dessert flavors like key lime pie, and even cotton candy, which is normally a favorite flavor of mine. Finally I realized what the problem was. I said, "Mom, yogurt has a flavor of yogurt, and that is the flavor I don't like. No matter what flavor the yogurt is, it's always going to taste like yogurt."

I am all in favor of making things more fun and enjoyable for people, but sometimes we have to realize that not everyone likes something, no matter what you try to do to make it better, and we need to just stop forcing it on people. 

When I was in elementary school, my friends and I got on a discussion of whether we liked school or not, and the general consensus was that everyone liked pre-K. Everyone except me. My friends all asked me why I didn't like it. Pre-K was mostly fun and games after all. But the thing is, there was nothing especially bad about my preschool. Before I started school, my grandma used to take care of me, and I liked that. I liked being just with my family, I liked playing by myself, and I liked being able to do what I wanted when I wanted to. I didn't like having to be with other kids and be on a structured schedule. There wasn't anything wrong with my specific preschool - going to school just wasn't for me.

When I was at Colby, a classmate was talking about a boy in the day camp she worked at who kept acting out. He would do things like grab markers out of other kids' hands without asking. Eventually his mom pulled him out of the camp and said that she didn't think it was good for him because there wasn't enough down time. My classmate rolled her eyes and said to us, "Well, I'm sorry we plan lots of fun activities for your kids!" Everyone else was in agreement with her and didn't see what his problem was. But I understood exactly how this boy was feeling. Day camp just isn't for everyone! When I was younger, I didn't have much interest in organized activities, especially programs that took up the entire day. I liked being home, playing by myself, and being able to do what I wanted and not be on a schedule. When I was young, I only did summer activities that lasted an hour or two a day, and that was enough. When I got to be about 11, I enjoyed a couple weeks of day camp during the summer for a change of pace, but again, that was enough! If I had been at day camp all summer, I would have been absolutely miserable and probably would have behaved exactly like this boy did. Kids aren't always at summer camp by choice - parents have a jobs and their children need to be taken care of somehow. And some parents push their kids to stay at camp when they don't like it because they think it will be a good experience. No matter how much fun you try to make a summer camp, it doesn't change the fact that the day camp experience just isn't for everyone. I was very glad that this boy had a mother who was able and willing to pull him out.

Colby has this program called COOT, which stands for Colby Outdoor Orientation Trip. You go on a camping trip with other freshman for a few days before school starts and you're supposed to bond over it. I hated COOT but everyone else loved it. They loved it so much that they couldn't even conceive the possibility that someone else might not like it. When I tried to talk about how horrible it was for me, they kept saying, "But you had fun." Not a question, a statement. Because nobody doesn't have fun on COOT. Whenever I said that I didn't like COOT, everyone always asked me what was wrong with it. And what I realized after talking to lots of people was that they always expected that it was one issue that could be fixed. And while it was true that there were a lot of different things wrong with COOT, a lot of elements that could have made it better, the fact is, NOTHING could have made it okay. I just don't like camping and there is no amount of fun or bonding that can change that. And I will take it a step further and say that I probably still wouldn't have loved COOT all that much if we were all staying in a five-star hotel room together. While not camping would have been a HUGE improvement, I still just don't like that experience of being isolated with people I don't know and being forced to bond with them for the whole course of the trip. Everyone I talked to kept insisting that there must be just one thing wrong with COOT that could improve it. The problem is that IT WAS COOT and there are some people in this world who don't like COOT! There is nothing you can do to fix that. Cotton candy flavored yogurt still tastes like yogurt!

And quite honestly, the yogurt metaphor applied to Colby as entire school. There wasn't just one thing wrong that could be fixed. Every thing was wrong with it. Colby IS a very specific flavor that is not for everyone, a flavor that everyone thinks IS for everyone and if you don't like it then you must just not like anything. Everything had the Colby flavor. I wasn't in dance club, I was in the Colby dance club. It wasn't a Harry Potter fan club, it was a Colby  Harry Potter fan club (okay, that was technically a book seminar, but with Harry Potter it's kinda the same thing). You get the point. "We don't offer pizza here, we only offer pizza-flavored yogurt, which is even better! Yum!"

I do support making things more fun and enjoyable, but at some point we have to accept that everyone doesn't like yogurt and just stop forcing it down their throats. 

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