Growing up girls were placed into two categories: Those who were popular and those who were not. In the 1980s if you were popular you most likely wore designer clothes, kissed a lot of boys and flung your hair from side to side a lot. At least that’s what it felt like.

I was a part of this crowd for awhile. Then one day I wasn’t. Looking back I can’t remember what happened. Perhaps it was a natural transition. I don’t remember a lot of drama about it. I simply didn’t want to kiss the boys or spend my days stabbing other girls in the back.

Instead I joined a group of eclectic, art-loving friends who loved to write poetry and laugh a lot. I left the mean girls to themselves and then went on with my life.

The days of my youth are well behind me, yet the popular girls still show up in my life. I spot them on the playground standing in a very small huddle. In a tight-knit circle intended to keep others out. They chat about their time in the gym and their plans for the weekend.

For a time I conversed with these women. I listened to their stories and laughed at their jokes. I come from the same socio-economic background and neighborhood. It seems natural that we would all be friends and yet once again I found myself stepping out.

Why? Because negativity forms like a cloud above this group. It’s a heavy weight that pulls them down and for awhile I went right along with it. Their conversations are filled with complaints about their children, schools and responsibilities. They are rude to teachers and school administrators.

I don’t want to surround myself with people like this. I want to live in a world where I can lift others up. So now I say hello and chat with them from time to time, but more often than not I keep on walking to a different spot.

Sometimes I think it’s easy to be mean. It takes a lot more work to show compassion and kindness. It’s easier to stand in a huddle and complain then it is to stand up and make improvements. Have you ever noticed that those who complain often do the least to make things better?

Whether we notice it or not the vibes of others tend to rub off on us. If you surround yourself with uplifting souls you will feel positive even when life drags you down. If you stand beside pessimistic people you will begin to see all that is wrong with the world rather than what’s right with it.

As far as I know we only get one chance at life. My goal is to embrace the good and keep my distance from the bad. This is as true now as it was when I was a child.