I was recently sent a very nice email from a 12-year-old girl who we’ll call C. She complimented my blog, told me I made her smile, and said I seemed like a very nice person, “from what I can tell.” Haha. This email was beyond flattering, and it seriously made my day.
After the compliments, C. asked me a few questions, she even numbered them! (A lot of adults and brands I know could learn a lot from this 12-year-olds email etiquette! Ha.) It is question #2 that I wish to address in this open-format letter to all persons like C. The question:
“How do I survive middle school?”
My dear, sweet, sweet girl. Let’s talk a little bit about 12-year-old Alison. She was overweight, extremely self-conscious, and incredibly loud. So very loud. I was obsessed with boys and yet terrified of them. I wanted SO badly for my 12-year-old life to be like a Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie. (You’ll probably have to look that up, search for Holiday in the Sun.) But it mostly consisted of flute lessons, sneaking snacks into my bedroom, and watching Bye Bye Birdie.
Where I grew up, in southern California, middle school consisted of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. I had friends, decent clothes, nice parents, and I wasn’t the dorkiest person on campus, though I wasn’t anywhere near the coolest (see above photo). 12-year-old boys don’t usually love the seemingly confident chubby girl who is very religious — and has been told she can’t date ’til she’s 16. But overall, I see how incredibly lucky I was to have such a charmed childhood.
I’ve said before, “If you LOVED middle school, you were probably a jerk in middle school.” I don’t think this is 100% true, but I believe it’s probably pretty close. I had an OK time, but still, middle school was ROUGH. I didn’t like it. I cried a lot, felt like an idiot a lot, and I sure did and said lots of really stupid things.
WAIT, this sounds exactly like my life right now.
But back to surviving middle school … I’ve been thinking about it for a few days, and I’ve come up with 5 pointers that I hope you find helpful. I’m probably not as old as your parents (so I’m like so hip? KIDDING) but I’m old enough to know a few things. Ready?
1. It’s not too late! In fact, it’s just the beginning.
When I was 12, I remember wishing I were REALLY good at something. I wasn’t good at sports, I wasn’t a star at dancing or singing or doing anything that could get me on a team. I was last chair flute (like the worst flute player in band), and boys weren’t into me. I thought I’d never be good at anything. (I was awesome at crafts, but crafts were NOT cool, there were no blogs or DIYs.) I envied the sports stars and musical stars and all the STARS. But guess what, YOU’RE ONLY 12! I know Taylor Swift like had an album by that time, or something, but that’s not reality friend. If you’re interested in something it’s not too late! In fact, it’s just the beginning. Don’t be afraid to try new things, to be bad at new things, and don’t worry if you’re not good at anything. Just keep putting yourself out there, and working hard at SOMETHING, anything, and one day you’ll be glad you did.
2. Be nice. Just be really, really nice.
When you’re self-conscious, and feeling weird about yourself, it’s hard to be nice to other people. Even if you want to be nice, you might be jealous, or embarrassed, and find yourself giving dirty looks or talking trash. If you start right now, right this minute to be the nicest person you can be, you’re going to be a lot happier. Being nice doesn’t mean sucking up to the cool kids, or taking crap from other people. Stand up for yourself, always, but be nice when you do it. Being nice means taking an interest in other people, and not worrying about doing or saying the right things all the time. If you have the inclination to do something thoughtful, do it. If someone makes fun of you for it, that sucks. But that’s their problem, not yours. If you have good intentions, things USUALLY work out for the good. Not always, but usually. And if you make a mistake, apologize and try better next time.
3. Read a lot.
Successful people are smart people. Smart people read. They read good books, they read magazines, they read online articles, they read the backs of the shampoo bottles. Read every book you’re assigned. Believe it or not, the books you read in middle school are referenced all the time in popular culture. They’ll be useful! Read, read, read.
4. Respect your body.
It’s ok if you haven’t kissed someone yet! I didn’t kiss someone ’til I was almost 16. And I was not a total loser. I swear. OMG do you know how fun first kisses are?! You’re so lucky if you haven’t kissed someone yet! The older you are, the more you’ll enjoy it! Respect your body and make other people respect it. This means no kissing, or other things, if you don’t want to. Also, anorexia and bulimia aren’t “cool”. They seem cool sometimes, but they’re not. If you want to do bad things to your body, or someone else is, tell an adult. You’re in charge of you. Take care of yourself.
5. Social media sucks.
I didn’t have Facebook when I was in middle school, I didn’t have Instagram or blogs, or anything like that. We barely had texting when I was in high school. I’m in awe of you guys and all the social media you have to deal with. Social media is hard to manage as an adult. It has made me cry, and I’m 30. Be SO careful with it. If you wouldn’t do it or say it in REAL life, don’t post it. Simple as that. Social media is an extension of you, it’s not a replacement for YOU. Be real and you’ll be awesome.
So there you have it. That’s it.
You survive middle school the same way us adults are trying to survive life. You try your hardest, be the best person you can be, and hope for the best.
Because if on a day-to-day basis you’re working hard, being nice, and respecting yourself, then you’re doing a great job. So cut yourself some slack, and I’ll try to do the same over here, deal?
I wish you a life filled with love.