Say, “happy, Chicago and orange!” I stood in a group of 7th grade boys and girls at my new school and they giggled at my Midwest accent as I repeated these common words back to them.
In 7th grade, my family moved from a Chicago suburb to Arizona and the way I talked was funny to my new classmates. . . apparently.
I remember feeling like I did not fit in or knew where I really belonged. I appeared to be social and outgoing, but on the inside I always felt a bit insecure about how to be a friend and who I was. That insecurity showed up in many different ways. I sometimes chose the wrong friends. I sometimes talked too much in class. I secretly was relieved when I was “in” with the popular girl because that meant I wouldn’t be talked about that week. I sometimes talked about other kids to fit in with the popular crowd.
I was known by teachers and parents as the social girl. The one who didn’t put much emphasis on her studies. The girl that was boy crazy and WILD . . . yes wild. I definitely was not known as the good girl.
This behavior lead to my house becoming known for all the social gatherings. Our house was often the wild one with dozens of kids over at a time, which meant we could get away with things that didn’t happen at the other homes.
I knew that other parents didn’t like when their children were at my house and I knew that there was always a sense of mistrust for my parents and me. I didn’t feel good about that because I had a secret.
Underneath what appeared to everyone else that I wasn’t good, I actually felt really bad about that because I wanted someone, anyone to see that I was in fact a good girl just like everyone else.
Middle school years were tough for me and when I look back 27 years later, I kind of want to cringe at who I was.
I’ve been told this many times and it is coming to fruition again. The times in our lives that were hardest and are unresolved in our adult life will show up for us when our children are that age or meet the same challenges. I’d like to wish that wasn’t true, but it is.
In all the causes that are important to me in life, I never thought that advocating for middle schoolers would be on my list . . . but it is now. I have a middle school son!
It is because for many, it’s a tough, complicated, confusing time and it isn’t cute like the toddler years.
Deep down inside, I had a wish that someone saw my goodness instead of my goofy, careless, loud, and obnoxious middle school behavior. Or saw that this behavior was a youthful and misguided attempt to learn how to relate and be in this world.
What wasn’t seen was that school was actually hard for me and I wished that it was easier. Nobody knew that sometimes even in the best of families you can get lost and forgotten about and will do anything for attention. And what appears to be popular and social, has it’s own set of complications in navigating friendships that are often difficult and hurtful.
What wasn’t seen was that underneath all my imperfections was a sensitive, vulnerable and kind girl trying to find her way. Isn’t that true for all of us?
So what this life lesson is teaching me is that our kids are good even with the things we don’t like or make us cringe. Sometimes we need people to have faith in us. Sometimes we just need someone to see past our imperfections and current mistakes, and still love and care for us deeply anyway.
Beginning this fall the Beverly Yoga Center along with other neighborhood businesses is spearheading a initiative called the Beverly Speakers Series: Meaningful Conversations for Parents and Educators. The initiative this year will focus on understanding the difficult time of the middle school years. Stay tuned for more to come.