“Write about the middle of something, anything!”
We didn’t have middle school, not really. For us it was a straight shot from kindergarten through 8th grade, with no real demarcations beyond the grade levels themselves. But if we had enjoyed a true middle school I assume it would have been somewhere around 7th and 8th grades, which was of course back when I had my huge glasses and a complete lack of confidence in my abilities. You know, a typical middle schooler.
7th grade was all about trying to figure out where I wanted to go in life. I had the highest grade point average in my class, but I had a dearth of friends, and I was the classic definition of a teacher’s pet. Yet, I wasn’t happy with the assignation, even though it was what I guess I was supposed to want, having the highest GPA and all.
What I really wanted, though, I couldn’t quite pinpoint. I guess you could say that was when I first started questioning the teachings of the church, so going to church school became more of a challenge as a result.
At the same time I was branching out when it came to learning about the world at large. Until then I had lived a primarily sheltered life, so meeting some people outside of my narrow circle became a rabbit hole for me, an introduction into a world full of an insane number of possibilities. My sister and I had started to ride public transportation to school, and so we began being exposed to random strangers on a daily basis, and the conversations we heard shaped us for good and bad.
One day I remember hearing the F-word for the first time and realizing it was bad only because of the force with which it was said. The vitriolic nature of the word made it enticing, but I would never have had the guts to use it myself. However, the more often I heard it the more I realized sometimes I too was angry, that I needed some kind of release. Because, you see, I wasn’t a happy young man. I might have come across that way because I knew how to pretend, but when I saw how people could express their feelings in the real world I wanted it too.
The middle was when I also began to notice girls as… girls. These were creatures far more advanced than I could ever hope to be. They smelled magical, like fairy dust and baby powder, all tangled up into one. Their skin was soft, and their smiles melted the whole of my being, turning me into a puddle on the floor. But I had absolutely no idea how to interact with them beyond the obligatory “Hi.” Having a sister didn’t even help me in that regard because all of Joy’s friends saw me as this little kid, even though I was only a year younger than they were.
And I didn’t realize it was the middle of anything back then. I was just living my life, learning about the world, and beginning to compartmentalize emotions and situations. That’s how it always is when we’re going through those life changing times. We don’t fully comprehend it until it’s long gone. But I don’t miss those glasses at all.