And to be honest, I don't know that I've ever spent more than a few moments put together thinking about my time in seventh grade. If you look through my Flashback Fridays, even, there aren't many (if any) stories from that period. Middle School was hardly a blip on the radar for me and I never thought to cast my mind back to my time there.
UNTIL. Then I listened to This American Life's Middle School episode. All of a sudden, the memories came flooding back. The awkwardness. The insecurity. The changing attitudes and moral principles and life plans and (shudder) bodies. The dances. But mostly the awkwardness. Honestly, I don't know how anyone makes it through middle school unscathed. I am so glad I only had to do it for one year and I wish everyone else could have had the same privilege. Not that high school is a rainbow-striped happy land of sunshine and flowers, but on some level, at least, it's a better, kinder world than middle school when nobody knows who they are but they're all out to prove...well, something.
In middle school, I was worried I wouldn't find a locker partner, and worried that when I did find one she would be cooler than me, and worried about whose locker would be next to me, and worried about changing in front of people for gym class, and worried about all the kids who came to middle school from those other elementary schools and maybe they were all cooler than me and my friends. I was worried about my clothes because they consisted entirely of hand-me-downs from my two older brothers. I loved Spanish class and I excelled in it but I had to rein it in so my classmates didn't think I was too good, you know? I hated having to do that. I read the entire Spanish textbook on my own in my spare time, then pretended I didn't know stuff in class and took care to miss a question or two on each test in case anyone saw my scores.
I hated how mean the boys got in middle school and I worried that I didn't understand their dirty jokes, that I'd laugh at something I shouldn't or not laugh at something totally innocent and everyone would make fun of me. I was scared of the eighth-graders who appeared to be members of some kind of gang (but who probably weren't...maybe?). I never looked forward to lunch time and the uncertainty about where to sit (I still almost dry-heave just thinking about that anxiety). If I brought a lunch from home, I worried that it wasn't cool enough. If I brought money to buy something from the lunch line, I worried about choosing the coolest items (a bagel with cream cheese, tater tots, or these tasteless cardboard packaged chocolate chip cookies were the only acceptable choices, and YES I STILL REMEMBER THAT).
I wanted out of there, and thanks be to God, I got out of there in one year flat.
The TAL podcast reminded me of all that, but it also reminded me that I am not alone in my feelings about middle school. Heck, even the middle schoolers apparently feel that way. And I wish them strength on their journey through that difficult period of life. Because holy cow, they're going to need it.