Mindy Kaling, the daughter of two successful physicians, attended a private school in Boston. After high school, she attended Dartmouth University. Based on the characters she portrays on television, one might think she was the life of the party in high school. In her first memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? Kaling describes a contrary experience. She belonged to a number of academic clubs, loved Latin, studied hard, and avoided parties where alcohol or pot were present. She had a close circle of female friends who liked to watch comedies on Friday night. And no, she never had the lead role in the school play.
I shared her story with students because it is important for them to realize that popular media’s depiction of high school life conditions us to believe that popularity and a busy social life are highly valued. As Kaling notes “I want ambitious teenagers to know it is okay to be quiet, observant kids.” In hindsight she feels that by staying true to her values and those of her family, she had a solid foundation for college and the professional experiences that followed.