A Journey to 30
Day 4: Junior High a Journey of Self-Acceptance
We flip through the yearbook, and ya there I am, that’s me. You know the girl with her pants up to her ribcage. The girl whose hair was untamable flying about her face. You’ll find me listed under Chess Club, Editor of the School Newspaper, Zookeepers, Speech and Drama, and as Manager of the Volleyball team. By the time I had hit Junior high I had already dealt with two huge moves, the loss of a parent, the gain of a stepparent, the stresses of poverty, and being a huge part in helping my parents to raise my two brothers while they scrambled to make ends meet. To me life was so much bigger than how my clothes were not brand names, or the names I could be called.
Don’t get me wrong I wanted to be popular, but I wanted to be popular for my genuine and bubbly personality. I made the effort to memorize everyones’ names; to wave and make each person feel special. I went above and beyond to memorize birthdays of my classmates (even those I had never spoken to) so I could help add to the specialness of their day. As I bounced through the hallways I made sure to wave with great enthusiasm and smile to each and every individual I passed, recognizing them by name, as if they were just the person I had longed all day to see. I was so filled with joy and excitement all day (now over-diagnosed as mania) that I would catch myself humming tunes most the day, gaining many sideways glances.
As one can imagine my form of popularity was not so popular. I was met with much expected ridicule and resistance. “Nerd” was the most common reference, which was a title I wore with honor. “That’s right, I’m a Never Ending Radical Dudette,” I’d agree. “Loser,” they’d cry, and I’d grin and say, “Yes, I’m Living Off Our Saviors Everlasting Righteousness.” In fact when I finally reached my true bout of depression in ninth grade, it had nothing to do with the fact that Josh spread sauerkraut in my family’s lawn or T.P.ed my house. It was not because Jacob cried out “Rat Girl” as I climbed onto the bus. It was not because Allison shoved me on my back, ripped off my off brand KEDS, reading aloud, “Hanes her way” then tossing it across the gymnasium while laughing maniacally after volleyball practice and demanding I “go fetch”. Instead my deep depression was about longing to be closer to my father, missing my friends and family from an earlier chapter of my childhood. My suicidal thoughts had nothing to do with fitting in or the very insignificant issue of my social life. In fact I love my bullies, they taught me how to forgive, and how to love unconditionally.
It was just about a year ago that a bully from Junior High contacted me out of the blue and apologized for the shenanigans he had pulled oh so long ago. He was quite surprised I was aware he was the mastermind, and probably even more surprised I came out unscathed. I let him know I had forgiven him long long ago.
I knew who I was, and I loved who I was, just like I know who I am and I continue to own myself. There is not an aspect of my personality in Junior High that I would have changed. There was not a moment that I felt weak or unpopular. I had great friends and I owned who I was; and I thank my bullies for helping me to realize that so early on. I will continue to embrace me, and I hope to raise my daughters to love themselves before those hard and cruel years of junior high.