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?

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