I opened the spiral notebook and clicked my pen in rhythm with the ticking wall clock. The double-beat echoed in the corner of the high school library where I was holed up. It was just me and Mr. Donaldson, the kooky librarian with an affinity for coonskin caps.

After doodling cubes and hearts for a few minutes, I began a frantic scribbling of words. This was my daily habit. While other high school students zipped off to the Taco Bell for lunch, I retreated to my sacred space in the library to write nonsense in a tattered notebook. It was mostly bullshit about cancer and hot boyfriends and people dying too young—stuff I knew nothing about. Under the humming fluorescent lights of the 1980s, my teenage angst was translated from brain to paper.

Despite my efforts to arrange lunchtime hangouts with friends, it was inevitable that one of them would have the inglorious task of telling me I was not “cool enough” for the group.

I was an oddball, always one banana clip and an ALF episode away from fitting in. When you listen to classical music on your Walkman and draw the blue Keds label on the back of your drugstore canvas shoes with a Sharpie, you often eat alone.


And so I found solace amongst the shelves of books in the empty library. Writing was my joy; words were a balm. The callus on the inside knuckle of my middle finger was a proud battle scar. Every day, my soul bled onto the pages—an homage to the silent question pinballing around in my 15-year-old brain:

“Will I ever be cool?”

The clock would tick back, “No. No. No. No. No.”

What does it even mean to be cool? Is it the way you look? The way you think? The way you act?

Or is it being what other people want you to be?

“Cool” is merely a collective thought process where a group of people glom onto an idea and perpetuate it to create a sense of belonging.

The thing is, we all care about what other people think of us. It infiltrates ordinary, everyday aspects of our lives. We leech coolness from products and add it to our image. Therefore, “cool” is a role we play and a costume we wear—a consequence of fitting in.

Today, with all the filters and curated bits we are allowed to see of other people’s lives, it seems like what’s “cool” is a perfectly placed mug on a reclaimed wood desk. Maybe there’s a bowl of fresh lemons in the upper right corner. People don’t live that way. Desks get messy. Some days we have “mom hair.” That Ramones t-shirt from five years ago now fits like a sausage casing. Lemons get moldy. Life and work aren’t always awesome. Sometimes it’s annoying and uninspiring.

And yet…

I still find myself questioning, “Am I cool enough?” when I walk into a clothing boutique. Or when I sit in my hairstylist’s chair, and everyone around me is dyeing their hair shades of pink and purple. Whether it’s writing an Instagram post, smoking a joint, meeting new people, choosing the perfect emoji, or hiding a box of tampons behind the cereal box in my shopping cart, every damn day I wonder if I am cool enough to…basically…be a freaking human being.

When I sit down at my desk each morning, I stare at a wall with a framed James Victore print that says, “The things that made you weird as a kid make you great today.” And I remember that awkward girl sitting in the library, scribbling hard in her notebook. Did she know back then that she’d write for a living? That she was planting the delicate little seeds that would one day become a flourishing body of work? That someone might one day read what her 43-year-old self has to say about the fallacy of fitting in?

Spending my teenage days writing and thinking and using my goddamn imagination turned me into an interesting person.

Suddenly, “being cool” doesn’t seem so important.

The movie Almost Famous sums up what we underdogs, misfits, and weirdos need to know about “cool.” William Miller, a teenage journalist writing for Rolling Stone, goes on the road with the fictional rock band, Stillwater. He eventually becomes part of their inner circle. On the evening of his article deadline, William realizes he’s lost his objectivity for the story he came to write. His mentor (and fellow rock critic) Lester Bangs—played by the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman—gives him this advice:

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”

Like William and Lester, I always knew that I wasn’t cool. All I really wanted was to matter, which is different than being cool. I think that’s what people want more than anything—connection with others, an “I totally get you” mentality that lets us know we are not alone in our humanness.



I guess that’s why I tell stories for a living. Pulling back the curtain on our humanity is the ultimate way to connect with others. The world doesn’t need more Insta-perfect bullshit that preys on our collective mindset of “I’ll never be good enough. Quick, hand me a pair of Keds.” Let’s share our rough edges. Talk about hope. Stand up for all that’s uncommon and offbeat and true.

Because you know what’s better than being cool? Being kind. Being creative. Being honest.

And having the courage to eat alone.


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