Middle school was generally shitty. That is, at least as far as I can recall. Bullies were a real thing, and anyone, given the right verbal ammunition could be devastatingly effective. School was just starting to become a drag; Liking and like-liking people was in its early-prime, everything was changing in and around you.
Shit was rough in the halls.
But there were bright spots, definitely some bright spots circa age 12. And I could fuck with incorporating those aspects into the circa 23-year-old lifestyle.
1) The apparel:
The headwear: Baseball cap. I wore a lot of baseball caps. One in particular, and that one got so pleasantly worn in (read: sweat and dander-stained and generally disgusting) that one day I woke up to find it gone. I suspect parental foul play. Anyways, I’m definitely getting back into hats.
The footwear: Never before, and certainly never since, have I been so thoroughly able to convince myself I could pull off basketball and skate shoes, the bigger and puffier the better. Just so comfortable, definitely going to get back in these as well.
The legwear: The same goes for basketball shorts. Like daily public basketball shorts. Just a super chill guy doing super chill things. Also, although I don’t exactly miss this, khakis were as formal as I was expected to be. People really played that look out. Oversized button-up or polo and khakis. Not that sick. Wasn’t then, isn’t now.
2) The schedule.
Oh, 3 o’clock? My day is over. Saturday? Cartoons still. Sleep? Oh, 10 hours a fucking night! To be fair, it’s not that different from my current schedule. But did I feel guilty and like my life was constantly on the edge of slipping into a void of uncontrollable uncertainty? No! Simpler Times.
3) The overwhelming confidence.
In your agenda and opinions, obviously not in yourself. Being 12-14 is all about hating yourself without knowing you hate yourself. But Oh lord, are your weakly founded opinions and half-baked perspectives spot on and you don’t care who knows it as long as it’s everybody! Your Social Studies teacher wouldn’t sugarcoat it for you and you won’t either for the world!
The way you approach newly begotten knowledge in middle school is probably a great indicator of how insufferable you’ll be as an undergrad.
4) Being the unabashed, carefree worst.
But it’s fine because so is everyone else. Does that stop anyone from calling you on it though? Fuck. No. I put every emphasis possible on “fuck” here because no one is worse (or should be) at swearing than newly minted middle schoolers.
You’re loud, you’re rude for the sake of it, you claim not to respect authority (even though you will totally break character at the slightest sign of actual conflict with an adult), you see how far you can push people, you talk about sex like you know something, if everyone else jumped off a bridge you would at least strongly consider following suit, the list goes on.
Again, middle schoolers are the worst.
BUT its better to get as much of this abject shittiness out of your system as you can before things you do have consequences and you actually start ruining your life with your increasingly poor decisions.
You’re gonna wanna get a jump on that.
Maybe I’ll let this one lie, I’ve probably got some water still to bail in that department…
5) Being a dominant multi-sport athlete.
5’7, 85 lbs.
Dominant power forward, high-flying Ultimate Frisbee receiver (or whatever that position is called, are there positions?), catcher/pitcher/outfielder. I hear I once hit .600 over a 5 game stretch, while topping 45mph on my fastball.
The legend writes itself.
My worst sport was the only one I did after middle school! People grow pretty fast around this time as it turns out. Even in 8th grade, my post-up game was struggling against suddenly enormous 5’9+ monsters, plus our coach started actually “running plays.” But 7th grade, oh man, could I defend the rim.
What I’m trying to say is that I really, really connect with “Glory Days” on a personal level.
6) Magic: The Gathering.
What’s not to love about this game? Cool drawings? The ability to play while possessing only a loose understanding of the rules? A mystical universe whose complex, mixed-medley of storylines you could never hope to actually grasp as a whole? A thing you can collect ad nauseam?
What’s not to love, Jerry??
Sure, you had that one friend who’d swindle you out of your best cards (you know who you are, buddy!), and yeah, you never felt super comfortable going to those tournaments where people “took it seriously” and were sometimes “three times your age,” but overall, Magic was dope. Even the accompanying novels still hold a special place in my worldview.
I could really go for a fresh new deck…maybe I’ll make it a fire deck. Those had all the cool goblins…
7) Straight forward relationships.
For better or for worse, people’s dynamics, for a short stretch, were entirely set in stone. You had your friend(s), you had the people you didn’t like, you had the girls you wanted to [insert however far your understanding of physical intimacy had progressed], and the other guys who felt the same way about those girls, who, come to think of it certainly fell into the category of “people you didn’t like.”
Eh, maybe things haven’t really changed much. Those subsets of people-I-know are still very present in my life
The difference is in the presentation. There were simpler rules. There were more widely agreed upon boundaries. And there was significantly less passive aggression.
That is, everyone fell into one of those subsets with everyone else too and, importantly, everyone was very open about it. Glad-handing was at a lifetime low. You knew where you stood. Again, this was not necessarily a good thing, but, in concept, a lot less ambiguity would be nice these days.
8) Tastes Of Freedom.
Just like little stuff. Going downtown with your friends and getting to fill up two, three, four, five hours doing whatever you reasonably can when you’re 12. You see a movie, act a fool in that movie (see: Being The Unabashed Carefree Worst), loiter around in a group, take several buses because you know all the routes and still pay the minimum to ride, and generally, possibly without knowing it, feel the sweet, sweet breeze of partial independence.
9) Excitement in general.
Okay, so that sounds pretty depressing. You still have tons to be excited about after middle school. But in middle school, you still haven’t really learned to temper your expectations. Like something great will happen and you can enjoy it fully because there’s no nagging suspicion that it may be too good to be true. Even when something bad happens, you aren’t convinced that that’s the more likely outcome yet.
I may be painting with a rose-tinted brush, but it seems like you appreciate things that are good for the sake of their being good when you’re 12.
You’re less cynical in middle school. And sure, you have less life experience (not that I have a ton now), but you also approach every situation with wider parameters. You expect more from things, not less. That sounds nice. That sounds like something to try and apply in the present.