Middle School is a like a large and threatening looking jungle filled with surprises at every turn. I know that metaphor may have sounded a little scary, and it was. But middle school was fun and scary in a different way. All I knew about it was that it was a place where older kids walked into and got spit out as completely different people, and now it was my time to do the same.
Before going into middle school, I heard the phrase “Middle school is the gateway into the real world,” by everyone; teachers, relatives, older friends, and anyone really. It scared me when people said that, like looking straight into the mouth of the jungle filled with expectations about how terrible and stressful it was going to be. When I actually got there, I realized that it meant these few years were there to teach you responsibility and independence. Yes, it was stressful at times, and yes, sometimes I felt like I couldn’t get through it.
The first year, 6th grade, I had to get used to independence in the form of lockers, different teachers for every subject, and stress from lots and lots of homework. However, everyone was really nice and understanding, and teachers understood that we were still getting used to being there. I also met lots of new people, and I felt more like an adult. This was the awkward stage between childhood and being a teenager, so people my age felt really out of place in the world. It was ok, at least I had people who understood what I was going through. It was probably the independence part of 6th startled me the most. You were responsible for getting to class on time, doing your homework and preparing for tests. It was stressful, but I learned to better manage my time, and be efficient instead of procrastinating like I always did. Learning a new language was also a big leap in independence, because no one else in my family spoke the language, and I had to learn vocab, grammar, and other stuff all by myself. However, my language class turned out to be my favorite class! I came into school with a lot of expectations, and left the first year with a better view of what it really was like.
Fast forward to 7th grade, where I went through more difficult stuff. Like mostly everyone who has ever been to middle school, I went through phases. Middle school was the time for drama and gossip and phases and weird body changes. This was especially hard because I didn’t know where I belonged. Being a brace face and having glasses at the same time was hard, especially when I felt like I wasn’t pretty enough. I scrutinized every detail, and cared about everything people thought of me. Even my friends went through the same things. I remember us constantly judging each other, and me secretly comparing myself to the others. Jealousy and anger got the better of all of us. We each wanted something we didn’t have, like more curves or less acne, or even a boyfriend, or just anything to be like the distorted body image we were shown by models and photoshop. But of course, like all things in middle school, this too came to an end. I stopped caring, accepted compliments, and wore sweatpants to school when I didn’t feel like trying. Doing this was the best feeling in the world, because I felt so at home and comfortable in my own skin. My friends and I stayed together despite all the hardships, and learned to love each other for our differences. I ended up really enjoying 7th grade… classes were fun, and time flew by when I was having fun. I found out that loving yourself can also be as hard as getting perfect grades.
By the time I got to 8th grade, I felt like I had seen it all. I felt very accomplished, because after all, I had got through all nighters, long projects, exams, and everything I had got thrown at me so far. At first, I was fine. I had the same amount of homework I had in 7th grade, so nothing new, and I knew most of my teachers already. I also was familiar with all my classmates, so I felt accepted. For some reason, this was the year that took a toll on me the most because of anxiety. Anxiety was like being in the jungle at night, and having monsters jump on me from the trees and tear me apart, and there was nothing I could do. Still, there was nothing new, I knew everything about middle school, and yet, I felt as if I were experiencing it for the first time. Studying for tests sent me to tears, feeling any minor stress or inconvenience gave me panic attacks, even when I knew nothing was really wrong. During class I fidgeted to stop panicking, and learned to take water breaks when I felt like breaking down. It was the worst at night when I was alone with my thoughts. I slept poorly, and felt constantly exhausted, and pressured to still do well in school. I got through with difficulty, but I learned that it was better to talk it out. My friends understood, and whenever I felt scared, I just took deep breaths and gritted my teeth until it was over. Other than my anxiety issues, 8th grade was easily my favorite year. I made lots of new friends, my teachers were way more easy going than previously, and I felt more at ease knowing that it was the last year until bigger and better things.
The hardships of middle school taught me how to get through life, and how to take control of it. Even though it was hard at times, I truly loved it, and I wish I could have taken my time going through it. From the inside of the jungle, remember to just stop and enjoy the view for a while, before you grow up and reach the end.