Concluding Stories from Middle School


But how much has my handwriting really changed since 7th grade.

While I packed away my high school stuff (read: the 5% of work I deemed worth keeping) into a large plastic bin, I found some of my middle school writing- mostly academic assignments from my English classes, from a time where I cared about my school writing and knew that it would be read. Somewhere in high school, I lost that motivation. 1

But alongside those assignments (and a daily diary), I also wrote other things back then- namely, the pieces that would later become Stories from Middle School, a combination of A) true personal experiences and B) true personal experiences disguised as fiction. And four years later, all of them have been made public.

I like to think that these stories span a variety of topics. There’s a story about the guy in the year above me I stalked throughout 6th and 7th gradeThere’s 2 stories about how I enjoyed nerding out to math problems with my peers.  There’s a story about a lunch ritual I did with my friends that involved Yoplait yogurt. There’s a story that I refused to admit was about an elementary school crush (but it totally was). There’s a story about how my entire grade seemed to idolize one of my best friends and how I dealt with the resulting inferiority complex. There’s a story about my 6th grade math teacher that I must have annoyed the hell out of but gave me some odd sense of identity.

My writing notebook, a wide-ruled composition notebook from 6th grade, is still on my bookshelf. I used to handwrite stories 2 or 3 times before typing them up on a computer. First drafts were a bunch of segments that had no coherence, and crossouts, arrows, and doodles littered the pages.  Each rewrite was a chance to string together ideas until they made sense- very much the way I write nowadays.

Emotionally, I mostly just remember balancing the fear of sharing my writing alongside the desire for it to be seen, especially when I got mixed feedback about my writing. My teachers usually liked my writing, but my friends didn’t. (Looking back, my friends were the honest ones.) The only compliments I ever got were that my writing had “voice” and flowed well, so much that I questioned whether that voice was even good and whether “flow” was just a generic compliment.  I was picked as one of 7 students in my grade to enter the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition, but even with extensive help from my English teacher, my piece didn’t win anything. This happened two years in a row, while my friends always got awards. Talk about feeling inferior.

I have one last story that I still don’t feel comfortable posting (or even rereading.) It’s a 10 page story- to date the longest I’ve ever written- from the end of 6th grade about how one of my friends had changed upon entering middle school. It drew a lot of judgement from my other friends and essentially marked the end of a friendship. Yikes.

What do I think of my middle school stories now? Some make me cringe, some make me laugh. Some of these stories are undoubtedly silly. And I could choose to remember middle school as a place where an idiotic me did idiotic things, under the premise that my brain wasn’t fully developed or that I was underexposed.

But on the other hand, in some of these stories, I see a raw and innocent energy, that same desire to write down ideas and experiences, that same desire to connect my life into a narrative, a less refined version of that same “voice”. These stories embodied the experiences I cared about enough to write and then to share, experiences I could proudly embrace and call my own. And given a choice, that’s how I choose to remember middle school instead, because chances are, I’ll look back on high school in much the same way. 2 3

  1. But actually, if your teacher is reading and grading 100 essays in a night, is she really reading them. 
  2. I’ve contemplated putting together a series called “Stories from High School”, but I’ve decided against it. If a story needs to be told, it’ll find its way into a post. 
  3. Reminder to self: You just graduated high school, not middle school. Stop thinking about middle school. Also, stop with the consecutive footnotes. You’re not Wikipedia. 

Dissecting Middle School


“I don’t know how they do it. I don’t know how anybody does it, waking up every morning and eating and moving from the bus to the assembly line, where the teacherbots inject us with subject A and subject B, and passing every test they give us. Our parents provide the list of ingredients and remind us to make healthy choices: one sport, two clubs, one artistic goal, community service, no grades below a B, because really, nobody’s average, not around here. It’s a dance with complicated footwork and a changing tempo”

-Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson

In middle school, I saw education as a chance to become as smart as possible. Learning was a moral issue– how could I dare to contribute to society without knowing how things worked? Often times, I found that if I didn’t know something, I wouldn’t simply not know it- I would “know” the information incorrectly. My education was a chance to fix up the misconceptions in my broken mind. And this was my youth, when I would absorb the information the quickest- why not take complete advantage of this? But in the reality of carrying out these noble motives, I could often only see immediate numbers and not wanting to disappoint a teacher. I got A’s in all my classes without any special effort.

However, I would get frustrated at only getting 95s on tests when my friends got 100s. (Literally, when my class made a “dictionary” with a definition of everyone in 7th grade, one of my synonyms was “Not Quite There”) I checked my grades online less than 3 times throughout all of middle school and learned to avoid the question “What did you get?” by simply saying that I didn’t know. I told myself that these tests were merely a test of accuracy, not knowledge (I made and still make a lot of stupid mistakes.)

And an the midst of Mathcounts competitions and quizbowl tournaments, as close as one can get to an approximation of a purely academic competition, I began coming up with (unfounded) justifications of why I wasn’t doing as well.

  • I don’t have teachers and coaches to teach me the fastest way to solve all the problems
  • I don’t soullessly memorize lists and formulas.
  • I actually enjoy what I’m doing.

But who was I even to say anything? (Even assuming that everything above had valid ground.) I could complain and justify my actions all I want, but at the end of the day, they still knew more than me, still did better than I did. I wasn’t willing to put in the sweat and tears they had. Any dislike I had was really just secretly jealousy…right?

…To be continued