My middle school days took place in a small K-12 private school. Even though I was only there for four years it’s something I’ll never forget. It was the worst time in my life.
I was pretty quiet in sixth grade. I listened and observed more than talked, and I kept to myself with brief moments of initiating contact with others. I was feeling out the crowd and finding ways to fit in, much like I am right now at BU. Then the most popular girl in our grade decided we were best friends. It was short-lived because she was the type of girl who became best friends with every new girl and in seventh grade there was a new new girl and I was demoted. But it was fun while it lasted. We had sleepovers where she introduced me to the Pussycat Dolls, Rihanna, and the fact that flavored condoms exist. I’m still scared of the blue raspberry condoms.
Seventh grade I got really sick and began a six-year run of hospital visits. I would be in the hospital for weeks and then come back to school and scramble to catch up. I wasn’t fun to be around. I was always asking questions about a class that happened a week ago or asking to borrow notes and as soon as I caught up I was hospitalized again. This went on for two and a half years. Eventually I got better and would be hospitalized less frequently, but in the beginning that was the pattern.
Along with scrambling to catch up on work, I would stress over why my peers didn’t like me. I was avoided and isolated for the most part but there were instances of cyberbullying. I don’t think my peers didn’t like me, I think they didn’t know how to be around me. It’s hard to connect to someone who is never there, and believe me I’ve tried. I was an unreliable friend and an easy target for ridicule.
Even now I’m far more discrete with providing information regarding my illness and I tell very few people. I’ll tell those who directly ask me because, being a direct person myself, I respect directness, but I feel no obligation to tell others. Even when I’m hospitalized, I’ll tell five people tops, two of which being my parents. Whenever my health determines whether I can fulfill a social or academic obligation I avoid telling the whole truth through vague statements like “urgent medical situation”.
I think I do this half out of independence and half out of fear. Middle schoolers and college kids are very different. I’m hopeful kids my age are more forgiving towards other people’s limits and shortcomings, but I still have moments where I fear if I tell someone my illness as soon as I leave they’ll turn to someone start gossiping. I’m especially afraid of telling girls because in school the majority gossip about me stemmed from girls. Most people now don’t ask even though I have multiple scars on my body. I think it’s because of societal expectations of “minding your own business” but I admit I like it when people ask because it makes feel cared for.
I don’t know anybody who openly says middle school was the best time of their life; in fact most people agree it was horrible. Middle school really shaped the person I am today, for better or worse. It’s funny, middle school is essentially a time when a group of miserable young adolescents make each other miserable, but it’s where we find our compassion.