Pirates Or Ninjas

I got asked this question a bazillion times when I was in the 3rd or 4th grade. Pirates or Ninjas is the Meyers Briggs of elementary school. And it would determine your path in life through High School. 

Growing up as a pirate, I believed I had absolutely made the right choice. I had a crew of friends that I’d joke with in the lunch room. We’d congregate outside in the playground for ceremonies, picking out the toughest kids in the group through tests of speed or strength on the monkey bars. We’d cat call women and make jokes about those in our group that ended up liking some of them, citing mutiny in the first degree. 

I was part of a crew and it felt safe. There were rules to follow and I didn’t dare break them. The pirates code built lasting relationships and ensured that I liked the same things as the rest of the group. We grew up playing sports. We grew up following the paths before us. We knew what was cool or what we were supposed to like, all we had to do was look to our leaders. Most kids I knew either were a pirate or wanted to be one. We were athletes and socially outgoing.

Every so often, on the playground or in the hallway you’d see those who chose the other route. It seemed more destiny than choice. They are part of the background of any scene. Eating lunch alone or with a few others, reading a book in the hall, staying after to talk with teachers or studying after school. This seemed crazy to a pirate who wanted to party and indulge.

Ninjas have a much simpler code: pursue knowledge, and stay alive. Their ceremonies involved tests of intelligence rather than strength. Their plunder consisted of computers or books, near worthless on the school’s black market. 

Ninjas trained in their studies, or art or philosophy. Quietly completing their tasks without need for winning medals or showing off accomplishments. Each had their own quirk. I remember thinking that they seem to act on a different timezone or live in a different world.

The reason they maintained their alignment as a ninja instead of being part of the “cool crowd” was that they truly cared about being smart and excelling in their craft. They couldn’t sacrifice knowledge for popularity.

I wonder now if you are able to choose both?

Like most others, my thoughts were more directed towards keeping up with the latest sports or fashion or doing whatever I could to impress the older kids to seem cool. Getting to High school, things change a bit. The Pirates spread thin across new schools, or broke up into smaller crews. The ninjas matured, and found larger groups of their own to spend their time with. Late in High School I began to wonder what it was like on the other side. I started taking some art classes, experimenting in the dark room, and pursuing music. I spent more time alone and I found out I liked much of what I tried. I began enjoying English and and sketching class as much as time at basketball practice. 

This is what started my double life. I found that I enjoyed aspects of both sides.

But it’s hard to be a chameleon. You always feel a pull from one way or the other. Your friends wanting you to party, and your friends wanting you to study. It’s tough to find individuality when you’ve been trained to follow. We fear committing to one group kills our options. But committing to no group leaves you an outcast.

We're trained to choose sides. I think this is ingrained in us in those early years. You're either a Republican or Democrat. Religious or Atheist. Young or Old.

These lines we've been taught not to cross don't exist. 

Can someone define the line when you become old? Or why you can't have some values from each of any two opposing sides? 

Polarized. We're trained to be polarized. To be on two opposite poles across the room. Maybe its the news.

I want to come up with a new term. I'll redefine polarized. The more polarized you are the more individual you are.

Polar like a snowflake. You've chosen to unique and individual. 

No when someone asks "pirates or ninjas?" I'll say, "snowflakes"

It means both! or neither, or whatever you are feeling like that day. This isn't destiny.

LifestyleDavid Sherry