I’m bending this task–just a little–to fit my experience. When I tried to pick which embarrassing moment to bring back into life, my mind went straight to this one…and I could not focus on anything else. It happened years after middle school, but it put me right back into my adolescent corner of awkwardness.
I felt official. I had on my “teacher clothes” and my brand new “Teacher Candidate” name tag on. We were clumped into groups, huddled around rectangular tables surrounded by the familiarity of a school’s concrete walls and the hum of an overworked projector. The task was to draw a picture representation of our middle school experience.
In the center, I drew a self portrait of 13 year old me. My nose was too big. Acne covered my face. Braces adorned my teeth. Nothing out of the ordinary, I thought. In the corner of the paper, I drew a hallway smelling heavily of body odor and the cacophonous duo of Axe and Bath and Body Works latest scent. To me that hallway represents my biggest insecurity. I was a nobody. I could virtually walk through and not be noticed. I hated going to school because I was in a class with all the gifted kids. I was labeled gifted, but I felt like I was never good enough, smart enough, pretty enough. Your stereotypical insecurities…or so I thought. In the bottom corner, I drew a picture of my favorite t-shirt. It was a Bon Jovi shirt. My most favorite band. I was madly in love with Jon Bon Jovi–the fact that I was in middle school from 2004-2007, and no one had nearly half the expansive 80s Hair Metal knowledge that I had made me feel even more odd. I wore that shirt every week, and I still wear it to sleep in because my love for Jon is eternal.
It was now time to share our pictures with our table. I had just met these people, and now I am supposed to expose my awkward past to them? I waited and let an eager achiever begin. Her picture was perfectly crafted, and apparently her time in middle school was amazing–cheerleader, like so many friends, and had like the most amazing teachers–she gushed. The next girl chimed in agreeing that her experience was so postive and joy-filled and that’s why she wants to teach middle grades. I would pay good money to see the look on my face. I could not tell if they were just completely full of it, or if my awful time in middle school was not the norm I had assumed. I shared my comparatively depressing and bleak experience, and they had no response back. They just stared at me with their super-positive attitudes. I felt the exact same as I did nearly ten years prior–a complete, lackluster misfit. No exaggeration, in the span of 60 seconds, I felt the same anxieties as my 13 year old self. Your middle school self never leaves you. At least for me, the Erin in her Bon Jovi shirt with the big nose, is always lurking right around the corner.