A Bad Reputation This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     My whole high-school career I’ve worried about how people perceived me - was I cool, weird, or, even worse, a loser? Every kid worries about how they are viewed by others because reputations can make or break a high-school career, but I can tell you from experience that an adult’s perception does more damage than any teen’s.

For eighth grade I switched to a public school, where I had the chance to start from scratch and be whomever I wanted. I chose to be the kid I thought others would love and did anything to make them laugh, and it worked. I was an overnight hit at my new school. Teachers also found me amusing and I never really got into trouble since my humor was in good fun. I started hanging out with the kids I considered popular and it felt amazing.

Just as the friends came quickly, so did the girls. In fact, the girls came at me so fast that I was dealing with more than one at a time. Keep in mind that just a short time before the idea of a girlfriend had been weird. Girl after girl came after me and I was rude to them, which was not how I was raised, but they seemed to like it. Their parents knew what I was up to, so they were told, “Don’t hang out with that boy, he won’t do you any good,” but the fact that parents didn’t like me made me even more appealing, and so I thought it was good to be the topic of conversation. I was controversial, something I had never been.

I started high school with tons of friends, which is what everyone wants. I’ll be the first to admit I submitted to peer pressure, but at the time I thought it would boost my reputation to move on to a rougher crowd - still popular, but popular for the wrong reasons.

One night I will never forget is when my so-called friends had a bottle of alcohol for my friend and me to split. Wanting to show off, I carried it around as I drank, telling everyone how drunk I was. I felt like I was the best thing to happen to this town, but before I knew it, I was walking home alone through a cornfield, missing my shirt and a shoe. I walked in my house, completely drunk, and talked to my parents. I was quick to tell them I was not drunk but then passed out on the living room floor and woke up next to the toilet. My cover was blown, and I had been hit with a wonderful case of alcohol poisoning. Why would my best friends let me do this? Didn’t they care if I made it home? The answer was that they were more concerned about their reputations than helping me.

Word spread from parent to parent that I was bad news, someone you didn’t want your child hanging around. I lost a few friends during this ordeal because I no longer had the trust of their parents, which I deserved. But these were four-year relationships I was losing just because I had tried to fit in. I think the only positive thing that came out of this was that I learned what alcohol can do to a person, and it’s nothing good.

After that experience, my reputation was shot. I wasn’t trusted by parents, which was horrible. It’s hard to explain why people do things - why would I put myself around alcohol and drugs? Although I wasn’t using drugs, the people I was with were notorious for it. Once people realized I hung out with them, I was immediately tagged as a drug user. Parents are always going to jump to conclusions, and although it may seem as if they overreact, they just want to know what their child is doing, and with whom. Where I live, gossip is like a pastime with parents. There was, and still is, one group of parents who love to make me the topic of conversation.

I have been accused of everything: doing drugs, selling drugs, drinking, you name it and someone has probably said I’ve done it. I have been searched for drugs in front of friends, and to be honest I felt disgusted that someone would think I am involved in the drug world. Although the experience has been rough on me, I think it has been even worse on my parents. My dad is well-known, and when he hears what many are saying about me, he must feel extremely embarrassed. I find myself apologizing to my parents all the time, but for what? My reputation, which continues to follow me even though I’ve kept out of trouble for a year now. The past is something you can never get rid of; I wish I’d known that what I did would stick with me.

If there is one thing I recommend, it’s not to worry what others think of you, just do what makes you laugh and what’s going to make you and your family proud. You should make sure the people you hang out with are true friends, and stay out of trouble. Your reputation will follow you, so just make sure the decisions you make are the ones you want to be remembered by.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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baseball mom said...
Jul. 6, 2012 at 8:51 pm
I wish there were more stories out there like this one, I have a 14 year old and he is going down that road himself, gifted ball player and I believe his reputation and rumors has got him kicked off the team.  His actions didn't help either they just validated there suspitions. Thank you for sharing.
 
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