I hated the junior high. More specifically, I hated the idea of junior high. As soon as I came down from the emotional high that was sixth grade — being the most privileged and pampered students of the elementary school pyramid — I immediately became terrified of going to a new school, with new classmates, new teachers, new schedule, new unknowns. I’m pretty sure what little adolescent acne I may have had (yes, I am blessed with consistently clear skin) was a direct result of the stress induced from the very thought of junior high. I already knew I was going to hate it.That summer, I tried to avoid sleeping as much as possible because I woke up every morning in a cold sweat. The nightmares I had ranged anywhere from not being able to remember my locker combination to walking into the wrong classroom, to sitting down in front of an exam for which I had failed to study. I had nightmares where the layout of the school continually shifted every passing period; I would have to make a mad dash around the campus, collapsing into my seat right as the bell rang.
By the time fall came around, I was certain that not only would I fail all my classes, I could also count on being a social outcast. For anyone who knows me, I’ve never had a hard time making friends. I was the little kid who stood on the edge of the playground, selected a nice looking child, and went up directly to said child saying, “Do you want to be my friend?” I never wanted for playmates. But junior high, I predicted, would be different.
If I’m honest, I don’t really remember much about junior high, other than a few lasting vignettes that involved awkward pre-pubescent dating scenarios (my friends’, not mine), lots of crying (my friends) and comforting (me), after-school extracurriculars (basketball, yearbook, National Junior Honor Society), and worrying about high school (I never learn, do I?). All my concerns about failing classes and having no friends? Completely unfounded.
One of the strange blessings — I say strange but I really mean unexpected — of my young adult life is realizing that I’ve somehow managed to make some lasting relationships over the brief span of my life. The girls I met in junior high — Tiffany, Jackie, Alex, Hila, Elizabeth, Melissa — became my group of close friends and study partners in high school, and we’ve continued to meet up whenever everyone came home from college — and now grad school or work. They were the least dramatic, most down-to-earth of my friends, and I’m constantly thankful for their consistent presence in my life.
Tiffany came home from med school a couple weeks ago. We spent bits of her vacation hanging out at cafes and procrastinating on our reading. To be fair, Tiffany is like a studying machine, and I can never resist conversation when I’m out with a friend. We also met up with Elizabeth to have dinner at Boiling Crab, catching up on life and telling funny stories over steaming half-pound plastic bags of spicy cajun shrimp. An aside: I’ve managed to start pulling the heads of the shrimp off myself. 10 points for me.
Elizabeth and I also decided to wake up early — 6 AM — to drive down to Newport Beach to cheer for Jackie, who would be running a half marathon. As someone who has recently run a half-marathon herself, Elizabeth said that it’s really important (and more fun) to have people cheering you on. We were sooooooo sleepy, but we managed to find a good parking spot near the course and settled ourselves between miles five and six to catch a glimpse of Jackie. We tried to keep ourselves warm by clapping and whooping for the waves of runners passing by.
Finally, after growing tired from cheering and fighting back several long yawns, Jackie finally arrived. For all of about 30 seconds. Determined to snap a picture, I ran alongside with my camera while Elizabeth high-fived Jackie. And then she was gone. Fortunately, Jackie ran fast enough that Elizabeth and I had time to reward ourselves with lattes at Portola Coffee before dropping me off at church. We even had time for a quick chat before Liz went to her own church service. Unfortunately, the latte didn’t do much in the way of perking me up. But we were glad we did it.
We’re all in different places, doing different things now. It’s always too long in between getting to see one another (sorry I missed your birthdays Hila and Melissa!), and despite everyone’s busyness and various locations, I appreciate the special effort we each make in order to get together. You know you have good friends when you can just pick up where you last left off. Now that I think about it, I guess I have to admit that junior high wasn’t so bad after all.