Honestly, I would rather not go back to middle school — but telling my story necessitates that we journey back to those days.

I’m in eighth grade. Academia and band consume most of my time and thoughts. I’m not competitive and find gym class … uncomfortable.

So, I stick to what I know: books, formulas, music, and people. Outside school, I go to church, mostly because it’s what the family does and I have generic good feelings about it. But it’s not where my friends are by any means.

Into this life-stage comes a series of pivotal moments:

1 — My parents talk to me and my brothers at dinner. Dad’s job is relocating us. Soon. As in move-during-the-middle-of-the-school-year soon. So, that happens. I realize most of my friends who I’ll miss are either girls or younger than me. It may be tough for me to make new friends.

2 — The move happens over Christmas break. I remember sitting in our chilly house with moving boxes.  Sitting in the school office to figure out a schedule. Walking the hallways on my own. Joining the school band without knowing anybody. Going to a youth group where they had fun but needing to navigate without any established friendships.

A common theme that I’ve since learned is that I don’t transition well. If you read more of my story as I write it, this will come up often.

3 — Teasing. I experienced some of this before the move, but dealt with it easily enough. My friends kept me going, and the terms “geek” and “overachiever” and “artsy” didn’t bother me much overall.

But my new school environment presented new challenges: the same teasing with some that could even be termed bullying.

As the middle child, I try not to rock the boat. My whole family is adjusting to new places, new people. In my social spheres — youth group and school — I’m working on friendships, but they aren’t substantial yet.

Unsure of myself and the strength of my relationships, I fall into the cultural ideal of independence.

It’s good to deal with my own problems, right?

But I take this too far.

Dealing with teasing and the unknowns of a new place really means not talking about anything. I don’t share what’s on my heart or mind with anybody.

I was honestly lonely then, but I pretended like I wasn’t.

Self-reliance unconsciously became my norm — which wasn’t much of problem until I needed to process thoughts and questions that were too big for me.

Did you struggle to open up as a kid? How have you evolved in independence and self-reliance since middle school? Can you talk about the hard things with others?

About the Author

  • My mother had no business raising children; that much was clear. She had difficulties paying the rent and utilities. We moved often, requiring that we had to change school districts several time (I live in a medium sized city). I went to two different junior high schools, and then just when I had gotten adjusted to them both I had to transition to a high school where I knew almost no one and then another one. I needed some stability. It was hard making friends, and dealing with SSA. Then my best friend killed himself while I was at my second junior high.
    I withdrew into myself, pretending I was all right. I wasn’t. Inside I was screaming, and the one school counselor who talked with me (just one time) didn’t even bother to learn that my friend went by his middle name. He was just a paid stooge who didn’t care. I started failing everything. No one noticed. I was suicidal. No one noticed. I dropped out of Boy Scouts. No one noticed. I quit playing the violin. No one noticed. I started forging my mother’s signature on my report cards. No one noticed – that is until the last report cards were mailed out. Then it all became my fault (I was just fourteen).
    I had to go to summer school in between junior high and high school. I did just good enough to pass, and would continue to do so the rest of my academic career. Just fly under the radar, and not be noticed; and it worked. I graduated 167 out of 250. If I had it to do all over again, I would. I was just feeling sorry for myself, sitting in my room feeling sorry for myself and dealing with SSA. I could have been living.

    • I was a forger for awhile. I had some incidence with larceny too. I would still not trade my experience for your yours. In a contest you would win hands down and no one wants to win that game. I’m sorry your life played out that way. An atheist philosopher said that what does not kill you, makes you stronger. What he didn’t say was that it also hardens in some negative ways. The ways we deal with the hardness is what effects our adult lives until we die.

    • Bradley,
      I’m not sure if I would have survived growing up in your place.
      And I hate how easy it can be to make oneself “invisible” to people. Whether we are hiding, or being glossed over, seeming invisible rarely (if ever) actually feels good. Glad to have you seen around here!

      • Kevin, I almost didn’t survive. I tried to take my own life when I was twenty. It was only the direct intervention of God that I didn’t. That was the night I got saved, as I had the pills in my hand

        • I’m glad that you became a survivor out of all of that, Bradley! Your painful experience is now a powerful testimony for sharing the hope and truth you now have, with other wounded people who can also find renewed hope from hearing you share it.

  • Thanks for that. I struggle to open up now. It’s always painful. I was in junior high (now middle school) 50 years ago. I experienced bullying. It was way past teasing. Whole groups would berate me at the same time. They made fun of the color of my hair, the size of my head, what I wore and my weight. I was a fat kid. When all this went physical, I discovered I could fight back and things began to change after that. People left me alone and, strangely, other bullied kids became my friends. But I have to tell you that what happened to me in junior high effected my whole life. Since that time, I have always tried to stay out of other people’s business, not geting too deeply involved with friends. This is probably not a good thing. It has been a survival mechanism. Even today, being part of a group stresses me out. It just exhausts me. There are people I can talk to about most everything today, but I don’t often do it. I think it’s about avoiding nonexistent conflict.

    • TW,
      Luckily, my teasing wasn’t as intense as yours. Sorry that you went through that. And I have to agree with not knowing how in depth to be with other people’s business. I want to know them, to show that I care, but I also have a strong tendency towards independence – for myself and others.
      Glad that you have those people you can share anything with. We all need a few of those in our lives!!

  • Yeah I experienced my share of bullying (imagine getting an erection in the shower at summer camp). I was never physically assaulted, but words hurt. I spent years in a reclusive shell (the death of my best friend didn’t help), always taking other people’s crap and never defending myself. The one day, I took a trip to Dallas. Our teacher found a strange, almost perverse delight in putting me in the same room with my biggest tormenter, Mark Jasper. When we arrived at the hotel, as I was putting my things away, he lit up a cigarette in the room. For some reason I lost it, and began shoving him around, telling him he better not ever smoke around me again. There were two witnesses, other classmates, by the name of Frank Myers and Neal Jones.
    After I got back to town, word began spreading (thanks to Frank and Neal) about what happened. When it got back to me, I apparently had beaten the snot out of him and dangled him off the 10th floor balcony. Despite my best efforts, this became the narrative of what happened. He never lived it down. He even tried to confront me about it in class (the same class that had that teacher). I got really angry and slammed him against the wall and told him to never mess with me again (I used more colorful language). The teacher saw the whole thing and walked away. His name was Royce Lewis (he was the traditional old school Texan). I guess he knew what he was doing when he put the two of us in the same hotel room, because neither Mark or anyone else messed with me again.

  • Dean,
    I appreciate the thought and time you put into your response! Its good to be reminded of brothers who have gone before me and are still passionate about Jesus, despite our struggles.
    And many points of your response touch on later parts of my story. There is a part two to this one, where I’ll get more into how SSA comes into the picture. And further down into college and post college there are stories of community and my battle learning how to trust people more and more fully. Glad to be journeying with you!!

  • Hi I’m Jonathan and I’m a middle born child.
    Middle school was not as hard for me as elementary school had been.
    On the contrary! I was afraid of going to a different school with few faces I was familiar with from elementary. We had two middle schools at the time and I had to go to the other one. Turns out that was actually a blessing in disguise. That is where I learned to grow as a young man. I was bullied by a substitute teacher and hated that woman! She made my 6th grade year just awful…and others. Called her Spellman cuz she was a witch. Her name was Bellman.
    Ironically we had a assistant principal in High school named Gagitch…couldn’t take long to come up with a nick name for her…she was much worse. She was a nazi from autchwitz.
    Anyway…8th grade I tried out for the football team, and then wrestling right after and discovered I have athletic abilities and am a fast learner. Get into high school and those same kids I known in elementary school were no longer cool.
    The hard things came from a church. And I was able to grow from the experiences. 1) Don’t date girls.
    2) Don’t let ANYONE think they’re better than you!

    • Welcome Jonathan! Glad to know another middle born brother!
      And middle school is just such a weird time, right? Thankfully I had a few quality teachers during my teens – sorry that you had some bad ones, but it sounds like you were able to make the best of it.
      I’d be curious to hear more of what “hard things” came from the church in your story….
      Also, don’t date girls sounds like funny advice. 😛

      • In 2007 I went to church one day with my parents. I was not aware of I had passed or failed the 5th grade and I was NOT gonna go through 5th grade again. I was gonna commit suicide because I could not handle the pressure, the bullying, or being left to fend for myself.
        Went to church one summer night and it just so happened it was youth night. Little did I know this was the beginning of the start of the rest of my life. Went on a work trip with the youth group did not understand prayer or God much or really think this is what I needed. I was gonna kill myself because I was gay and ashamed and felt everyone knew.
        The youth pastor, “Mother” Theresa Davis as I refer to her now, caused many problems. One of the biggest hypocrites I ever met to this day still.
        Girls spreading rumours on me, her not being an adult and just telling me so we can resolve this problem with my parents and the senior pastor. I was 13. These girls had nothing better to do and Mother Theresa Davis led by example!
        Eventually I got away from church and God…even now I live with a man known to be my father who is a Church of God minister. Moved in with him 4 years ago this month and have gotten off drugs but will admit it’s a constant struggle to stay clean.
        I don’t have a one year sober chip but I also know I don’t have a problem like an alcoholic or heroin addict would have.

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