Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Return to Middle School


So, this morning, a group of seniors from the two local high schools headed over to a middle school in the area to talk to the eighth graders about the "high school experience" and such.

And can I just say... four years is quite a long time. Four years since I sat in one of those rooms hearing very similar stuff to the things I said today. So much has changed since then, and all of it for the better.

I'm not sure about you, but my middle school experience was NOT the most pleasant. My eighth grade year sucked, mostly due to separation from my then-best-friends. High school, though, has been amazing. I mean, not like AMAZING, but it's been pretty dang good so far as I'm concerned. There have been bad parts and mistakes and the like, but seriously... nothing that made the entire experience awful.

Seeing my old middle school teachers reminds me how quickly time passes, and how quickly you can forget people. They all seemed to remember me, which surprised me. How memorable can each class of students be to these teachers? After so many years of teaching, how is it that some students-- or potentially all?-- can stay in their memories?

If they don't remember everybody, then I feel honored. I was significant enough to them to be remembered years after I have left the confines of their classrooms, and even though it's only middle school, that feels kind of important. It does to me now, anyway, thinking about how much different I am now than I was back then. I'm sure it's a curious sensation for the teachers to see the tiny little tweens they knew change suddenly into teenagers, ones that are adults so far as most places are concerned. How bizarre it must be for them to look at us, these vaguely familiar faces of years past and partially forgotten, blurred together into maybe decades of teaching. How strange it must be to look into the faces that hold echoes of children you knew once and realize you no longer know them.

What runs through their minds then?

Who is this person? This child no longer? What do they DO? What's different? Are they the same deep down?

Back then, I thought that everything I did MATTERED. The grades I got all through middle school MEANT something to me, and I measured myself against my academic success. I was terrible at sports (I tried out for the track team once... I ran a personal best at the time, 10 minute mile or something terrible), and... well, I was painfully socially awkward. I thought it was important that I had won the school spelling bee (it was a joke, but still, I thought it mattered), and that I was in the first violin section in the orchestra.

Who am I now, in comparison to that?

I mean, now I know that nothing I did back then really mattered *that* much, because once you leave middle school, nobody cares about how stellar of a student you were in middle school. I don't measure myself by grades now. I do, to an extent, but I know better-- that's not all there is to me. I'm decent at sports, and I love cross-country (I used to hate running, if you couldn't tell-- and my PR is quite a bit faster than 10!). I have awesome friends, and I seem to be finding more friends everywhere these days. And orchestra... well, I gave up on that one a long time ago, but I am not musically inclined. It doesn't bother me, though.

It's forcing me to think, though. Does that middle school me exist somewhere, still?
(I mean, other than preserved in the pages of myspace.)

Am I still the horribly awkward girl that sat at the front of classrooms, always ready to raise my hand when comfortable, or the girl that shrunk to the back of the class to be forgotten when confused? Am I still the girl that was a burden to her friends, exiled from lunch tables overandoverandover again for silly reasons that I didn't even understand then? Still a girl worth insulting? The one picked last for teams, last for projects, shoved into the corner when better options abound?

Because honestly... I don't think so. I hope not, anyway. Parts of that girl still exist-- I mean, I'm still quite awkward, but at this point, it's no longer the "awkward stage" of not knowing who I was, who I wanted to be, and what everybody expected of me.

And I am very glad not to be that girl anymore.

At the same time, I'm quite fascinated by who I was then. That's why I haven't deleted the myspace that I probably should delete-- it holds her, the Aly of what feels like so long ago. The one that saw the world in black and white; the innocent girl that believed that everybody was kind and that even the people that treated her poorly were still good; the one that believed in absurd crushes and impossibilities. The one that believed in so much without question. That is the me I want to remember from back then.

Years from now, what will I want to remember from NOW? Will I laugh at myself for thinking I understood myself? Do I even understand myself now?

That's it I guess. Middle school was awful, High school's been pretty great... but it's ending and I'm ridiculously excited to move on.

Happy February 1st!