I used to feel anxious when someone would ask to look at my iPod (or, later, iPhone).

I would watch as they slowly scrutinized my taste in music, their expression gradually changing from neutral to disbelief to outright astonishment.

If the person was nice, then I would be met with a forced smile at the end and an obviously fake compliment. (My favorite was “You have very eclectic taste.”) If not, then I would simply get a rude “I can’t believe you listen to that stuff.”

I found myself having to defend my music choices—a bad sign, to say the least.

Sometimes I made excuses—“Oh, I downloaded [insert title of a Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus or Jonas Brothers song] years ago. I just can’t figure out how to delete it.”

Eventually this ritual became so embarrassing that I stopped letting people look at my music. It might have been entertaining for them to see my complete collection of Justin Bieber or my extensive “Classical” playlist, but it was the exact opposite for me.

Once I stopped sharing, I was able to enjoy my music in peace. In fact, people even began to forget that I was a Belieber.

Then high school started, and I decided to be more open. I convinced myself that it wouldn’t matter if other people thought my music was respectable.

So I started sharing my iPhone again.

Needless to say, my plan to ignore all the harsh comments failed abysmally.

The Justin Bieber jokes returned, along with new ones about One Direction. But instead of going into seclusion again, I decided to stick to my resolution.

I learned to laugh at the jokes and actually started expanding my musical library to include artists such as Lana Del Rey, The Hush Sound, Imagine Dragons and Keane.

And I even began to take pride in my strange musical enjoyment. I like a little bit of everything—except rap, which just gives me a headache—and am therefore able to participate in the majority of musical conversations.

Looking back, I’m glad that those mean middle schoolers made fun of my music. If they hadn’t, then I would have never had the motivation to try new music.

Who knows? I might have ended up liking only the iTunes top 10.

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