What I Wish I Knew in Middle School.

Sometimes, before I remember how much I detested school, I miss still being a young student. Middle school may have had a lot of mean kids, but it didn’t have any bills. I always think that if I was to time travel back to the days of school (which by the way would not be my first choice if I had the chance to time travel, but I mean like if it was unavoidable to be a lanky high schooler again) I would be able to do it so much better. Probably not intellectually, if anything I’d probably be at a disadvantage because I haven’t thought about math or world war II or “To Kill a Mockingbird” in years. But academics aside? Much better.

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But I can’t. And ultimately I’m okay with that. But I do have some sweet young girlfriends who are just about to enter into the craziness that is middle and high school. And to these lovely ladies, I have just a few pieces of advice:

1. Despite what “scene” or “style” or “clique” you fit into, make friends with everyone who will have you. They don’t listen to the same music as you? So what. They’re athletes and you can’t be bothered with sports? Fair enough, find something else to laugh about with them and befriend them like crazy. I made it a point to only get to know the other students who wore the same band shirts as me and I know that I absolutely missed out on having lots more friends. And having more friends is always a good thing. Every single person won’t be your best friend, and you can have a group you hang out with every Friday but, still, meet and be nice to every single person you can.

2. “Cool” is absolutely 100% subjective. Those mean kids who roll their eyes at you? They don’t know anything. They’re mean because they’ve seen dozens of movies that teach the idea that to be on top, you have to put others down. They’re mean because they have to prove to their fair weathered friends that they’re indifferent to common human decency. Why is being rude a desirable trait? I have no idea. But for some reason during those years, it is. Don’t pay that nonsense any mind. After high school, no one in the entire world cares about how popular you were. No one cares who you did or did not date, if you went with the cutest boy in school to prom or just your friends (or if you didn’t’ want to go at all and stayed home with your mom), and they especially don’t care about what you wore or what music you listened to or how many sleepovers you went to. So I say, don’t waste your time caring about those things while in school! Take the classes you want to take (and push yourself to do well), wear things that you actually like (oh the myriad of clothing I bought that I didn’t even want…), and smile at everyone even if they scowl back at you. Ultimately, the person people want to be around is the one who smiles. To quote Gandhi, you do you (there’s no way in the world he said that but he might as well have – that’s some good advice). Don’t let the “politics” of cool kids and mean kids and weird kids affect you. I promise, not once in my adult life did someone wait to hire me or be-friend me till after they called up the kids who were popular at my high school to ask them what they thought of me (which is good because I’m sure the response would be, “Who? Kathy?”).

3. Take hard classes. Yes, they’ll fill up more of your time and require many many hours of studying, but doing things just because they’re easy won’t be rewarding. I seriously regret not taking advanced literature classes because that’s something that, now that I’m older, I wish I knew more about. At the time I felt I didn’t have time to read books in the evening, after all I had a very strict and filled schedule of stalking my crush on AIM (Pause: do you know what AIM is? Maybe that’s a mark of my age. Back before facebook and instagram and twitter and all the other stalking- I mean social- networks, we had AOL Instant Messenger. It was like texting, but at the computer and with a stupid screen name. I remember my first screen name was “lilangel” or something equally as lame, only I misspelled “angel” and it was actually “lilangle”. I can’t even. Anyway…). Sitting home at the computer waiting for him to log in, or thinking up a question to message him (so it looked like I needed to message him, it wasn’t that I wanted to) took up a lot of time. I couldn’t squeeze that in with reading “Pride and Prejudice”. But in hindsight, I see that the reading of great novels would have been much more fruitful. He and I didn’t get married anyway and at least I could have known more about Jane Austen.

4. And that brings me to another thing: you’re obviously going to  have crushes on boys. They’re cute and funny and you’ll like them and that’s fine. But don’t, under any circumstance, let having a crush control your life. Don’t schedule your classes around his, don’t spend all night stalking him on facebook, don’t spend hours figuring out the perfect way to word a text to him — real relationships aren’t that hard. Well, real relationships hardly exist at that age (sorry, but it’s true) but that’s beside the point. If a boy likes you, you won’t have to work that hard. And if he doesn’t, as was always the case for me, let that be okay. I liked the same boy for all four miserable years of high school and I shudder at the thought all of that I missed while I was distracted by someone who only ever wanted to be my friend. Instead of sitting around thinking about him, I could have still thought about him a little but also tried taking tennis lessons or joining drama. I should have shrugged it off and enjoyed being his friend instead of trying to trick him into liking me during all of our interactions. By all means, giggle at cute boys, but don’t let that be the biggest priority of your life.

5. Okay this one may be embarrassing, but I’m just being real here: at some point in middle school you’re going to start getting periods and it’s going to be the worst but you don’t need to be embarrassed about being a girl. Boys are going to make stupid jokes about it, but it’s only because they have no idea what is going on and they’re terrified so they’re trying to use humor as a defense. It’s a stupid defense but they don’t know better. Every single girl feels just as weird as you because it feels like everyone can tell what’s happening… but they can’t. Just keep extra things in your backpack, don’t wear white, and if something happens, I promise no one at the office will be grossed out or not let your mom drop off things for you (I speak from experience, real talk).

School is weird. And hard. And some days you’re really going to hate it. But other days you’re going to have so much fun. Just keep your head above the crazy, remember who you are in Christ, and smile at everyone. You’ll be great.

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