You won’t believe me. You can’t. You show up to junior high and see two sets of humans: Those in and those out. Damn what’s up with those girls, right? How do they just know how to dress and do their hair and flip it just right and smile and talk and giggle? You look at them and are simultaneously star-struck and disgusted. You see through it. You know there’s more. But it’s alluring, fascinating. It seems real and fun. When nobody’s around you wonder if there’s something wrong with you, how come you can’t be one of them.
When I was in 7th grade I had acne. It started in 6th grade. The kids were horrible. They stood around and called me “pizza face” and asked what was wrong with my skin. When I got home I didn’t tell my mom or anybody else because I was ashamed. I thought there was something wrong with me.
I used to lie there and wonder what it would be like to be a CHEERLEADER. Ooooooooo.
I was too out of touch to even know I could sit in a classroom at lunch instead of around them. The boys terrified me. The girls intimidated me. If my one best friend wasn’t at school I would walk around while I ate so people would think I had somewhere to go and not notice I was terrified and lonely and desperately uncomfortable. I scribbled it all in my journal day after day, read Steinbeck and listened to the Grateful Dead and wondered how the hell to wear my mom’s blue eye shadow. (You’re way better off than me, love.)
Things got better in high school, sort of, but junior high? Junior high is bullshit.
I’m still saying the wrong thing and I have a messed-up sense of humor and see normal stuff in odd ways, and I still have no idea how to dress, and YEP I’m a misfit and weirdo and wonder sometimes if I’m alone in all this and you know what? This is precisely what makes me a writer (well, that and that I write).
I’ve always seen the world a little differently. It made me a freak then. It makes me a freak now, BUT IT GIVES ME SOMETHING TO SAY.
And it will give you something to say, too.
It’s all been done. It’s all been said. It’s all been painted and drawn and formed. So be delighted, be freaking overjoyed, that you’re a little off, for godddmanit you might paint or draw or write or form in a tiny new way.
Life is about that, my friend. My daughter. My beautiful child. That’s it. Hit the world a little new. Hit it a little fresh.
Watch the wonder unfold.
You got this.
Right now it’s all about fitting in. For the rest of your life it will be about setting yourself apart.
You see, as soon as you get out of junior high and high school it’s the misfits doing cool things, the brains running the show, the jacked-up dorks in the Museum of Modern Art, writing the music and the books, the nerds making the money and the movies and the plans for the new NASA project. Or cooking food people pay bazillions for. Or planting gardens in the middle of town. It’s the people with heart and enthusiasm, the ones ridiculed for caring, for seeing more deeply, for emailing the autistic child and being her friend.
Because it’s creativity. It’s individuality. It’s finding yourself unwilling to act like a fool, to violate who and what you are, to “fit in” with a bunch of kids you don’t actually like. It’s the ability to see through all that, to seek real friendships and real humor and conversations. It’s an interest in life, in the teachers and what they have to offer, in learning. It’s curiosity. It’s talent. It’s reading and ideas and imagination (maybe even a little too long. I played with dolls until 7th grade. DON’T TELL ANYONE.)
I’m not saying you’re better than them. You’re not. Well you’re probably better than some of them. I’m not saying you’ll be rich or go further than them. Some will grow up and realize they were fools in junior high and high school. Others will become Uncle Rico.
All I’m saying is this: The things that will make you an excellent human are not necessarily supported, appreciated or developed in junior high and high school, so don’t let this nonsense suck your soul. Your body image. Your heart. Your strength and sense of humor and love for Greek and Roman mythology that already has your dad and I lost.
Stay weird. Keep reading.
Know it’s bullshit and feel my love.
Say something new.