Dear 7th & 8th Grade Joe,
By now you’ve seen how crummy middle school can be! But you made it through 6th grade. The worst is behind for you but no so much for others. While you are somehow able to side step some of the “popularity” issues, others aren’t so lucky.
You are going to start really noticing how other students start segregating themselves by different standards. Some will separate according to status, others will according to race, and others will segregate based on a certain lifestyle.
These groups will live for each other. They will accept you as long as you look, dress, act, and speak like them. All the while they will proclaim their uniqueness and individualism. It’s a tension that you are going to have to learn to walk in. You must master your desire to fit in versus your desire to be different.
And I’m afraid that your wanting to fit it will win.
Don’t worry. You don’t go too far with this desire. Others will go to crazy lengths to fit in with a certain group. You’ll see people you’ve known for years begin to change overnight into someone else. You’ll hear whispers of certain girls doing things they absolutely shouldn’t and you’ll lose friends because you’re not who they want to be. It’s a harsh reality but a reality none the less.
No, you won’t go that far Joe but you will go far enough. You bend your values and who you are so that you can be one of the crowd. You will be so worried about the brand of shoe you wear that you’ll create crazy lies and scenarios about the type of shoe you are wearing. You will become obsessed with how you look and you’ll take way too much time doing it. Just ask your brother.
At times it becomes totally ridiculous. And I can tell you looking back on that time in our life that it’s a total waste of time. And you want to know why? It’s because it doesn’t matter. Those people you’re trying to impress now aren’t in your life later and the ones that are didn’t care to begin with. Those people are your real friends so stop worrying about all the others and just live life. And you want to know something else? You really should be ashamed of yourself.
You’re being quite selfish.
You never stop to think about the reasons that maybe you aren’t wearing the most expensive shoes. You never stop to think about all the hard work your parents do in order for you to have what you do have. You never once slow down to consider how it might make your parents feel when you complain about the perfectly good things you do have. What you can’t see now but will later is that life isn’t always fair. Sometimes you get thrown a curveball and all you can do is go with it. See, while you’re complaining and worrying about what others are thinking your parents are working and saving and clawing their way back. They are bending over backwards to give you the things you think you need.
I hate to tell you this, but someone needs to: It’s time to grow up a little, bucko. Pull your head out of your rear and look around. You are incredibly blessed my friend! You have an awesome family. Your parents love you, your brother is an amazing dude (stop picking on him so much—but not too much!) and you’re developing friendships that will last to this day. Who cares what symbol is on your shoe? You won’t one day.
I know, I know.
But it’s important now. I hear you. It hasn’t been so long that I can’t remember. What I want you to understand is that there are much more important things in your life than what the tag on your clothes say. You’re coming into a really cool time in your life.
You’re making some of the best friends you’ll have, you’re going to fall in love for the very first time soon and you’re going to start growing up. Dude, these next few years are going to be awesome and you’ll have fun the entire time.
But right now? You’re being a little bit of a moron. Just saying.
So here it is younger Joe—stop worrying so much about how you could be cooler or trying so hard to get a certain group to like you! Just be you. You’ll find in life that if you relax and be yourself more times than not people will like you. You’re funny (people always like funny) and have a good nature. You don’t make fun of others and you respect people from all walks. Oh, I almost forgot—you’re just about the most handsome young devil that school has seen. (I realize I’m a little biased but hey, I’m doing the writing!)
So slow down, be yourself and tell your parents how much you appreciate all they do for you. Don’t take these days for granted, son. They’ll soon be gone forever.
P.S. I don’t care what your basketball coach tells you, work on your dribbling, boy! Especially that left hand.