In ninth grade, I wrote about a fantasy I had. Actually, maybe I still have it.
I dreamed that I would be walking alone in Paris, enveloped in the black night. The river Seine would be flowing steadily to my right side as I strolled down a cobblestone street. The Eiffel Tower would glisten in the distance.
I imagined myself to be almost floating through Paris, not permitting my feet to control my movements but rather letting my senses explore the nooks and crannies of the city. Cafes would dot the streets, with the smell of the morning’s coffee and freshly-baked bread still oozing from its dusty windows. It would be their closing time and their lights would shut off as the streets would breathe a sigh.
After a couple of minutes, I would suddenly realize that the city had drifted off to sleep. Magically, a charming, mahogany piano would appear, seen only by the subtle light of the moon. The moon would have a yellow hue to its normally white face. Wearing a tuxedo with a white jacket, I would sit down to the piano and, as easy as a breath or my heart beating, “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy would sing from its old ivories – ethereal and iridescent.
Clichés are often painted negatively, seen as unoriginal or trite. But there is a reason we love clichés: because they work. Clichés are like drawn out archetypes, for they are universal ideas that we all connect with.
Every time we repeat a cliché, our unique experiences breathe new life into it and the message becomes more inviting to others. There may be nothing new under the sun, but it is when experiences are illuminated and shared to others through a common thread that the world is united through story.
Not only are clichés valuable when they are lived out, they can also be important in everyday communication. Using these common phrases creates a connection between two people and allows ideas to be shared without fears of misunderstanding. Instead of overanalyzing a certain verb choice or tone implied by the grammatical structure of a sentence, simple clichés offer transparency and clarity in an idea.
Furthermore, clichés offer avenues for people to explore their identities without feeling pressured into being unique. In a world where creativity is prized above almost everything, one can feel overwhelmed by the looming societal dialogue of standing out and going against the grain. By acting in a manner similar to that of many before, you can be comforted by knowing that you will not be ostracized. Then, you can use this comfort to find hidden details about yourself and shape your identity.
In retrospect, I realize that my ninth-grade writing fantasy was a little cliché, especially the piano piece. “Clair de Lune” is, likely, the most performed Impressionistic piano piece ever and its recordings have been littered all across society’s artistic mediums. My seventh-grade self fit into this narrative as I felt that I had suddenly “understood my emotions” and had found “a new appreciation for art and music.”
However, “Clair de Lune” was my gateway to a newfound love for all of music’s wonders. Even though I fit into this universal cliché of midnight in Paris and Debussy’s impressionism, it was through this very “unoriginal” cliché that I was able to unlock a new outlook on the beauty of life and establish my unique perspective of the world, killing two birds with one stone.
Adam McPhail is a senior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, firstname.lastname@example.org.