Back to school. Never in my life had I dreaded these three words more than in 1970. All summer long my stomach rolled at the thought of moving up to the junior high building. I lost sleep, had nightmares, tried to make myself have a terminal disease. I was scared of junior high.
Oh, I knew that my classmates would be the same 60 – 70 kids I’d known all my life in our little town, so I wasn’t worried about not knowing anyone. It was the five grade levels above me that I was worried about. I never paid attention to them in elementary, we didn’t have opportunity to interact. They stayed in their age group and I stayed in mine. What if one of them had disliked my aunt or uncle, what if I blurted out something totally stupid/wrong and had no idea I was doing it?
Social anxiety was very real to my little world; I had no idea it had a name. My desire to internalize all my feelings and not share them with anyone had also come very naturally to me. With no clue they were sending me out to face my dragons, my parents put me in charge of getting my four younger siblings at least as far the high school that first day back. They would be on their own for the last four blocks. Ouch, another phobia of mine, not taking care of those in my charge.
Despite all my fears, the first day of junior high was unremarkable. I can’t for the life of me remember what happened, so it could not have been as traumatic as what I had imagined it to be. The most hideous thing of junior high was that I had to share a locker with the next girl to me alphabetically, who just happened to be the most gorgeous seventh grader to ever live. We had boys around our locker every time we changed classes. I only got to drop off books and pick up new ones after the herd moved on, yet you can bet I was never late to class.
I learned so much about myself in junior high, just as you are supposed to. It helped me grow into the person I chose to be. I could have hidden behind all the fears and phobias that plagued me, but I realized I could define myself, shape the world I live in. Thanks Mrs. Betty Jacobs for introducing me to theater, thanks Miss Elaine DeFosse for giving good advice regarding bullies, thanks Mr. James Suabruai for making social studies more than history, and finally thanks to the young science teacher whose name escapes me, for sending me to the superintendent’s office the one time I let my guard down and misbehaved on purpose.
If you know someone entering junior high, give them a hug and tell them it is all going to be okay.