The following post was written by one of my friends with whom I show horses. I gave her some leeway to be herself (frankly, a bit edgy) as long as she kept the blog G rated. Whitney's mom and I originally titled her writings "Tumbleweed" due to the number of colleges and majors she has chosen. Whitney and I have spent a good deal of time discussing options for her future. Whenever I give her advice I like to call her "Grasshopper", as in "Snatch the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper." (from the TV show Kung Fu)
I have complete confidence that she will be successful, but as is the case for many students the process of college and career decisions did not come as easily to her as A.P. Physics and Statistics. She loves to write and I count it among her many talents. She has written several future posts for this blog as well. Each time she finishes one, she asks for another assignment. Patience, Young Grasshopper.
Master Kan: When you can take the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave.
Reminiscing about the time I spent in the hallways of Athens Middle School, which is something I thought that I would never do willingly, all of these awkward situations I managed to get myself into seem comical now. Although, there are a couple of things that I would have done differently. Looking back it really wasn’t as bad as it seemed. However, there are a few things that I would go back and change if I could. One of the first things would be not wearing a two-piece to show off my diving skills during the sixth grade field trip.
One piece of advice I would give myself is simply this: care less. Don’t care less about everything, just care less about certain things. For example, don’t care less about your grades. In fact, you should probably care more about those. After you’re finished reading this, go study immediately. No arguing. Seriously though, there are a plethora of things that I thought were so important to me in middle school that in hindsight seem so minute. One of those things is Aeropostale clothing. Back in my middle school days in the early to mid 2000’s, if you weren’t wearing the colorful shirts sporting a monkey and a sassy little saying on them, you might as well pack it up now and go home. There was no way you were going to break into the cool clique. After all, that’s what middle school is all about, getting to sit with the cool kids while you eat your gross, tasteless school lunch.
Another thing I wish I would have cared less about is having a boyfriend. Now, I know you’ve probably heard it from your parents and it all sounds really cliché, but hear me out. Plus, you can trust my judgment. I’m not super old like your parents. I’m twenty-two. I have had enough life experiences to have a much more realistic perspective than I did as a twelve-year-old, but not enough time has passed that I’ve forgotten what it was like to be my lanky, training bra-wearing self. So trust me when I say, it isn’t going to matter how many people you “went out with” or how cool they were. There isn’t a place to fill that out on a college application, you won’t be asked about it in a job interview, and probably most relevant to you at this point, no one will care or remember in six months.
Really, though. You guys aren’t even going to go on dates. Probably the most date-like you’ll get is holding hands once at a football game. Your hands will most likely be cold yet surprisingly sweaty, and you will look in the opposite direction as your boyfriend or girlfriend. Nothing would be worse than making eye contact. That would be way too intense. After a couple minutes, you will get a cramp in your arm or back from not being relaxed while you hold hands in your statue-like position. When the ache is bad enough, one of you will find an excuse to get up. That will be the highlight of your relationship, and you will then probably break up between seven minutes and two weeks later. Believe me when I say, dating is much more fun in high school when you can drive and boys and girls have discovered the art of speaking to one another. Wait until then to add a new level of worry and drama to life. At least it will be fun then.
Begin to think now about what you like to do
Now that you are going to care less about being cool and the opposite sex (reading that word made you giggle, didn’t it?), you will be able to focus so much more of your energy on something worthy of your anxiety. Namely, what you want to be when you grow up. Middle school is a great time to start thinking about potential careers, and I wish I had taken this truth more seriously when I was in that age bracket. Unlike in elementary school when you probably wanted to be a supermodel/doctor/professional football player/Barbie/truck driver, you probably have a more realistic assessment of your abilities and interests. While you probably won’t be able to pinpoint the exact career path you will take one day, middle school it a good time to consider your interests and contemplate how they could be directed towards your future. Although college seems like light years away, it will sneak up on you. Before you know it, you will be filling out college applications and you will be asked to pick a major. That is a much easier thing to pick if you know what you enjoy doing and you have a plan to utilize it.
Focus on your future
That brings me to my next point. I have always been good at all subjects in school. This left me with the feeling that I could do anything I wanted except a truck driver, as car rides make me sleepy, or a Barbie, as I have brown hair. I didn’t mind any subject, but I didn’t fall in love with any of them either. Because of this, I didn’t really know what I liked, so I focused on the opposite. More specifically, I focused on the negative, what I didn’t like. By focusing on the negative, it seemed like I didn’t like anything. It seemed like whatever I chose to do with my life I was going to be miserable doing it, since there was no good option anyway. This caused me to be easily led by people telling me I should do this or that for a long time. While people offering suggestions can be helpful, make sure that what they are suggesting is something that you truly want to do. In the end, you are going to have to wake up in the morning and put the work in; they are not. I wasted years and thousands of dollars in college tuition jumping from one idea to the next, convinced that I didn’t have any real interests and believing that no job could be exciting.
What is your passion?
That is why it is so important to start thinking about what you enjoy doing now. If you have any interests at all, which you do, you can tie it into some sort of career that you will look forward to waking up to go to everyday. And don’t say you’re most interested in money, although you might be. Pick a real interest. If you are passionate about your job, even more- dedicated to it, the money will follow. It is far more important to enjoy what you are doing than having a big bank account and a having a feeling of impending doom every night before going to bed, knowing where you have to go in the morning. Think of it this way, for every sixteen hours you are awake, it is better to spend eight of those hours doing something fulfilling than simply trying to survive them.
What matters long term?
All in all, middle school is strange and embarrassing and seemingly perpetual. Just know that one day it will end, and everyone will forget about that one time when you dropped your diary in the hallway and Butch read it aloud for all to hear. The most crucial thing you can do in middle school is keep a healthy perspective on what is going to matter in the long run. How you are perceived by your peers isn’t going to be all that relevant in end. To prove this, here is a link of celebrities who were less than star quality in their school days. No need to thank me. You’re welcome. It’s been a blast. Until next time, kids.