When I Was Young

They always told me to stand up for what I believe in.
They always told me to do the right thing,
To never give in to peer pressure,
To mob rule.

And I believed them.
I trusted them.
I wore my individuality on the outside,
proud, confident, assured
That they would all be proud of me
For never conforming, never giving in,
Always doing what I thought was right, always standing up for what was right.
Safe in knowing that it would be this way forever.

I never expected
that they would be the same people
who call me naïve, who call me foolish and stubborn and arrogant, who tell me
to make it easy on myself and stop fighting things that can't be changed.

So I stopped.
Was it just to get them to shut up?
I try to remind myself of my rationale every day,
But it still doesn't prevent me from despising myself.

--Summer 1997