I’m gonna guess that if you’re reading my blog, you are no longer in middle school. Or, if you are, you have somehow hijacked your parent’s computer and are frantically trying to Google “How to delete browser history.” Good luck with that.
Middle school is awful. For most of my life, I have believed that Middle School is the closest thing that humans get to understanding what Hell is like. For that reason, I have given orations on why Middle School should be outlawed. It’s like a Medieval battle out there – no rules, no supervision. Just blood and guts and crying children wherever you go.
Still, there is hope.
Looking back, I now realize that a huge reason I am who I am today is because of Middle School. No, it wasn’t pleasant. But, like every other horrible experience in our lives, we can either let it eat our souls or manage to come out on the other side with a bit of perspective. Although my perspective sometimes includes the desire to track down my tormentors and “pants” them on their front doorstep, usually I realize that they taught me a lot of things that have made my life awesome.
7 Lessons That You’re Supposed to Learn From Middle School
1. There is No Such Thing as “The Top.”
Guess what? Just because those 8th graders look like they’re a lot bigger and older than you are, doesn’t mean they’re the coolest, most powerful people in the world. I remember looking at these behemoths and wondering what it would be like to be “The Top,” as in, “The Top of The School.”
The truth is, there is no such thing as the top. Life ebbs and flows all the time. You might be the top of the school this year, but next year you’ll be the crappy Freshman pariah that still brings a sack lunch. Keeping this in mind, it is vitally important that you treat people with kindness, regardless if they are “above” you or “below” you. The tide of popularity and circumstance changes in an instant. Even when you are all grown up.
2. Being Popular Isn’t Worth It.
OMG! LIke, it is SUPER-AWESOME to be popular! The problem with this statement is that it is complete horsecrap.
When you are in middle school, all you want to do is fit in. Don’t stick out, don’t be different. Do the things that the popular kids do, wear what they wear. You know what happens to kids that manage to do this? They become robots for the duration of Middle School. Their friends think for them, tell them what they like and don’t like, what they should do or not do. A lot of these people are secretly really unhappy, but at least they fit in, right?
You have to learn that being just like everyone else isn’t worth it. Do you really want to give up wearing your favorite sweater just because your friends tell you that it looks stupid? No, no one likes being told that they are weird or different. Still, people who manage to keep their individuality through Middle School have this incredible advantage: They were able to maintain a sense of what THEY thought was cool and right when no one else could. It makes you a stronger person and you don’t have to do, say or wear anything that you don’t want to.
3. The Loser’s Table is the Coolest Table.
When I was in Middle School, there was this dramatic moment on the Friday of the second full week of 7th grade. I came from the lunch line, walked over to my table of friends that I had been with since 3rd grade and started to sit. One of them turned to me and said, “You can’t sit there, that seat is taken.”
Obviously it was not, but when I said it, this girl just said, “You can’t sit with us anymore.”
This was a hard moment, and I am sure you remember something similar in your own MIddle School experience. Whether you were the victim, the perpetrator or a silent observer, you remember that Middle School is about politics, popularity and pressure. I just happened to be the wrong kind of element to sit with the “popular girls” any more.
This put me at the loser’s table.
You know what? After the initial embarrassment of being relegated to the table where all the cast-offs went, I realized how lucky I had been. The losers LOVED me! They were so COOL! They were band nerds, drama geeks, dance team psychos and D & D players. They knew what it was like to be hurt and scorned, and so they never did it to anyone. I am eternally grateful for the girl who told me I couldn’t sit in one of the 6 empty seats at the “cool” table. If she hadn’t, I might have grown up to be just as bitter, unhappy and friendless as she did.
4. Shake Your Pom-Poms if You Want To.
Okay, so Dance Team is for nerds. So everyone tells you that they’re cheerleader wannabes, and they all look like fat versions of Gloria Estefan. You have two choices – do what is popular, or do what you want. You just gotta learn to do what you want.
I still remember doing a dance team routine to “I Feel The Earth Move,” for the 7th grade basketball games. It was nerdy. I got made fun of for it. One time, a popular girl threw a basketball at my head and knocked me sideways. That totally sucked. But, I really loved shaking those pom-poms, so I did. I learned that there are some things I HAVE to do, even if it physically or emotionally hurts to do them. People who don’t learn that lesson are doomed to follow the path of least resistance and find it very difficult to follow their dreams. Good thing I took that basketball to the skull.
5. Everyone Feels Suicidal, They Just Don’t Say It.
Here is a secret that you may not think anyone knows: some days, you want to die. Not like figuratively: literally. I was bullied. I mean, I was bullied A LOT. We didn’t have cyberbullying back then (it was back BEFORE THE INTERNET, kids! Told ya grandma was old!) so my little Middle School had to stick with good, old-fashioned in-person bullying. I was pushed, spit on, hit, threatened, made fun of. One time, that same girl who hit me in the head with a basketball shared some jerky with me (Oh my gosh. Maybe we could be friends again!), and then laughed hysterically at my with her group of 6 friends when I found out that it was a dog treat.
You know. Because I was ugly as a dog.
What she didn’t know is that I went home almost every day and cried. I went into the kitchen and looked at the knives a lot. She didn’t know that. She was too busy being HILARIOUS.
The key here is, just because it feels awful, doesn’t mean you can’t handle it. I went home every day and considered that it would be easier to die. Then I went into my room and read some Stephen King or made dollhouse furniture or played pretend with my little brother. Being at school hurt, but being dead would hurt more. I just focused on surviving every attack. That’s called tenacity, kids. You can do it.
6. Love Violently, Cry Recklessly, Laugh Endlessly.
I found my journals from Middle School. I am surprised I didn’t have an pheremonal explosion every day for the three years of middle school. Each day, there is a new boy that my heart is unabashedly devoted to. “Robbie passed me the ball in 4-square 3 times today. I think he likes me.” “Jude is the cutest boy on the planet. He gave me a note today.” “I’m in love with 4 boys now, Jude, Robbie, JR and Kevin.”
It seems impossible now that I loved so many people with such passion all at the same time. And yet, I type their names and I still feel that surge of feeling – that thrill of unadulterated passion that I felt all those years ago. The ability to be passionate about life, about people, about learning has set me apart and given me so many experiences that I would not have had if I had learned to be “grounded.” Learning to live with passion is risky and painful, but a worthy lesson at any age.
7. It’s Okay to Be In-Between.
Argh! Being in Middle School is in-between by definition! You have a child’s brain and a woman’s boobs. You are in love with everyone but feel nauseous when a boy tries to hold your hand. You still love playing barbies, but only when your friends aren’t around. You tell all the dirty jokes, but you still don’t quite understand them. At least, that’s what I did.
It’s okay to not know who or what you are. The truth is, we spend most of our lives asking that same question: Who am I? It outlasts Middle School, High School, College and beyond. In fact, it is in the act of asking it that we continue the journey to finding more of the puzzle pieces that fit with our souls. Enjoy the middle.