Today, I was feeling incredibly old as I sat in the gym of my old high school and watched my niece in her 8th grade recognition ceremony. It was a flood of memories sitting in the bleachers, remembering how I helped decorate the gym for prom, and how I hated playing volleyball on the gym floor, unless it was my turn to serve (it was the only part I was decent at). I remembered my embarrassment in the girls locker room – not because anyone teased me, but because I was always so self conscious. I seriously think I had 3 sticks of deodorant in my gym bag at all times, and I would be incredibly shocked if anyone in that locker room ever saw anything more revealing than the back of my bra strap. I was a master at changing while covering my entire chest and stomach.
When I was approaching the school parking lot, do you know what first came to mind? The food in the cafeteria. I remember the square school pizza and their ranch dressing in the squeeze bottle that tasted like crack on french fries. I remember they had a snack stand in the cafeteria where I first discovered all things Little Debbie (since we never had that kind of food in my house). I became a master of the Nutty Bars. It was like getting an extra snack because they came two-to-a-pack. I also remembered the smell and taste of the Otis Spunkmeyer white chocolate macadamia nut cookies they sold in the school spirit shop alongside spare pencils and paper. Hello disordered self – I realized this all began even in middle school when I was known for always having awesome candy in my purse or backback. I would buy it from a little stand at the end of the school day. Berry Skittles, especially. When friends were selling the chocolate candy bars for fundraising, I would buy them in 5's and stash them. Hoarding food at the age of 13? No wonder I'm still trying to figure all of this out.
Thankfully the thoughts of food left my mind as soon as the recognition ceremony started. Instead, the memories of wonder, impending change, and endless opportunity came flooding back. I stared at these 8th graders who would be entering a new world after the summer. One where you no longer are in a “grade,” you are part of a “class” (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior).
There were a few students who stood in front of their class and talked about the wonderful middle school memories they had. A couple of them quoted Dr. Seuss as guiding words. At the end of the recognition ceremony, the principal quoted Dr. Seuss as well:
I thought about this and realized that there isn't that much between me and those 8th graders. Or really between them and anyone who is seeking to make change in their life. We may not be that young anymore, but we still are able to decide where we'll go. We just need to steer ourselves there.