Week 37 Review: Is it Possible that Middle School Wasn’t All Bad?

This week ended much differently than it began.

I had two very bad days this week. I was absolutely down in the dumps and was certain things couldn’t possibly get better any time in the near future.

Nothing changed job-wise, but there were a couple of perspective shifts this week, including one that was quite unexpected, that helped to improve my mood.

The first was coming to an agreement with my husband about how much detail he’d go into about the play-by-play of his job search. We decided that he would share with me the facts (company name, location, dates of any interviews), but he would limit his speculation to the nature of the job and the company itself.

So he could say, “This job sounds like it’s mostly benchwork and there are no direct reports. I wonder if I would be happy in a job like that?” But he couldn’t say, “I wonder what it would be like to bike commute in the winter in New Jersey? I wonder if there are homes we could afford close to the site of the job in New York? I wonder if we could still get by as a one-car family in Maryland?” Those are the kinds of questions that have me scouring the internet at all hours, getting anxious, getting attached, then feeling despair when things don’t pan out.

Together, we’ve decided that I can support him by helping him talk through pros and cons of various jobs and companies and by proofing changes to his cover letter and CV, but we’re going to leave the talk about the location of the companies to a minimum until it comes to a point that we need to discuss it. So far, so good. That kind of frantic fact-finding is pretty addictive to me, though. I have a feeling it’s going to take some strong resolve to keep from looking at home listings.

The unexpected thing was more closely related to the Friendship focus of this month. I blogged yesterday about how my friend Jenny had posted quotes from notes I’d written to her in middle school. I felt more than a little agitated at the thought that my 13-year-old self was still alive and well and set loose on the internet. But as I thought about it more, I realized how valuable this turn of events was for me.

I’ve been avoiding all thoughts of middle school ever since we moved away at the end of eighth grade. I had filed the three years between 6th and 8th grade that we spent in Ohio in a folder marked, “Nothing Good Can Come of Looking in Here,” and left it at that. When thoughts would percolate up about that time, I would shove them back down saying to myself, “It was an awful time and now it’s over. End of story.”

When Jenny posted the excerpts from my notes, I had some fancy reconciling to do. I knew that she hadn’t posted them maliciously. In fact, she’d done it to be nice to me. This kind of friendship didn’t mesh well with my dismissing the entire experience as awful.

I discovered that there were some really great memories I’d hidden away with all of the painful memories and refused to think about. I remembered that the friendships I had during that time were the most intense of any in my life. I remembered how all-encompassing they were and how wonderful it was to feel so accepted and loved by my friends even as I felt so lost in the culture of middle school. I remembered the fun we all had writing together, how the notes were the first time I’d really engaged in that kind of play with the written word. I felt confident as a writer at that time. I felt powerful. It’s amazing to remember those feelings because mostly over the past 20+ years, I’ve remembered only the awkwardness and terror of being caught being different (which I unavoidably was).

I did not expect to end this week reframing my middle school experience as something positive after all these years. But here I am.

I also had some great conversations with friends from other stages of my life this week, And I got to hang out for several hours with many of my local friends during my daughter’s early birthday party Saturday. My new perspective on middle school has delivered benefits in my current life remarkably quickly. I feel less reserved and more free around my friends today than I did before Jenny’s post. There’s a peace and a connection that I feel with my friends that I think has been eluding me. It’s almost like Jenny’s post and her comments to me outside of the post have opened up the possibility that people hold me in their hearts even after decades apart, and that it’s possible to remember an awkward and confusing time with something other than fear.

I have a tendency to feel doubtful that I mean as much to other people as they do to me. As a result, I tend to approach relationships cautiously. I don’t want to get in too deep if that’s not going to be reciprocated (which of course becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy…if I’m not open to a deeper connection, I’m not going to get a deeper connection). Jenny’s post helped me recognize that I mean something to people, which makes it easier for me to let people mean more to me.

I don’t think I could have come up with a better Friendship Month resolution than this one that just happened to me without my intending it.

3 Replies to “Week 37 Review: Is it Possible that Middle School Wasn’t All Bad?”

  1. I feel like I don’t mean as much to some as either I’d like to or think I do. Sometimes I don’t and when I don’t it’s very obvious to me and I usually, over time, stop contacting them as much and try to not ‘care’ as much. But I usually approach a friendship thinking we care about each other the same. It’s just not always the case.

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  2. That is great to hear! I am glad that something wonderful has come from Jenny’s post!I am also glad to hear about the decisions you and your husband made regarding the job search details. I believe you have the resolve to stick with it. Good luck!

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  3. I think it’s great that you rediscovered some gems from that age instead of just the not so great. I have to agree that you do mean more than you realize. I also have gratitude and fondness for you from our teacher training days. I wasn’t able to accept a lot of the support given at that time, but I am grateful that you and the others kept giving it anyway. I filed some of it away and I’ve been sipping from it ever since.

    And more good news: you’ve made it more than halfway through friendship month and the not-crazy diet. That’s pretty amazing

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