The First Day of Middle School
(By Patty Hansen)
My stomach tied in knots, and I could feel the sweat soaking through my T-shirt. My hands were clammy as I tried to open my combination lock . Around and around went the numbers, left, right, right, left ... which way was it supposed to go? I couldn't make it work. I gave up and started to run down the hallway. As I ran, the hall seemed to get longer and longer ... the door I trying to reach was farther away than when I had started. I began to sweat even worse, then I could feel the tears forming. I was late, late, late for my first class on my first day of middle school ... then the bell rang! In my dream, it was the school bell. But as I sat up in bed, I realized that it was my alarm clock jarring me awake.
I was having the dream again. I started having the dream around the end of the sixth grade. And as the start of seventh grade grew closer, the more I had the dream. This time the dream was even more real, because today was the first day of seventh grade.
In my heart, I knew I never would make it. Everything was too different. School, friends - even my own body. I constantly had a sprained ankle, wet armpits and things stuck in my braces . I felt awkward, smelly, insecure and like I had bad breath the whole day.
No one had ever told me that growing up was going to be so hard, so scary, so unwelcome, so ... unexpected. I was the oldest kid in my family - in fact, in my entire neighborhood - and no one had been there before me, to help lead me through the challenges of middle school.
I was on my own.
The first day of school was almost everything I feared. I didn't remember my combination. I wrote the combination on my hand, but my hand was so sweaty that it came off. I was late to every class. I didn't have enough time to finish my lunch; I had just sat down to eat when the bell rang to go back to class. I almost choked on my peanut butter and jelly sandwich as I ran down the dreaded hallway. The classrooms and the teachers were a blur . I wasn't sure what teacher went with which subject and they had all assigned homework ... on the very first day of school! I couldn't believe it.
But the first day wasn't like my dream in another way. I wasn't the only one who was late for classes. Everyone else was late, too. No one could remember their combination either, except Ted Milliken, the kid who carried a briefcase to school. After most of the kids realized that everyone else was going through the same thing they were going through, we all started cracking up . We were bumping into each other in our rush to get to the next class, and books were flying everywhere. No one got canned or bullied - at least no one I knew. Yeah, there was laughter in the hallway, but most of it was the laughter of kids sharing a common experience: complete hysteria !
As the weeks went by, it became easier and easier. Pretty soon I could twirl my combination without even looking at it. I hung posters in my locker, and finally felt like I was at home. I learned all my teacher's names and decided who I liked the best. Friendships from elementary school were renewed and made stronger, and new friends were made. I learned how to change into a gym suit in front of other girls. It never felt comfortable, but I did it - just like everyone else did. I don't think any of us felt very comfortable.
I still didn't like the bus; it did make me carsick. I even threw up on the bus once. (At least it was on the way home, not on the way to school.) I went to dances and parties. The school had track tryouts , and I made the team and learned how to jump the low hurdles. I got pretty good at it, too.
First semester turned into second, and then third. Before I knew it, eighth grade was just around the corner. I had made it through.
Next year, on the first day of school, I would be watching the new seventh-graders sweating it out just like I did - just like everyone does. I decided that I would feel sorry for them ... but only for the FIRST day of seventh grade. After that, it's a breeze .