Welcome to the World

April 29, 2011
By , Farmington, NM
I watched her as she stood there, tears running down her face, crumpled school schedule and her backpack in hand. As her mother drove off, she choked on the fumes of the car and the thought of confronting her most substantial fears. She turned to face the building as she read, “Thomas Jefferson Middle School. So here it is, in all it’s glory.” During the whole of her summer vacation, she attempted to prepare herself for what she thought middle school was going to be like. She’d heard all the stories and dreamt about it innumerable times, but nothing could have prepared her for what was to come in her next three years of life. Why couldn’t she just go back to elementary school? Everything was so easy there, and what you looked like didn’t determine what group of friends you were allowed to hang out with. Is it really going to be as terrifying as everyone has told her it will? Her thought process was interrupted as she heard the first school bell chime and watched hundreds of kids scurry into the school building, eager to start their days. “Today is the beginning of the last day of my life”, she mumbled as she wiped the tears from her eyes and unwillingly dragged herself into the dingy, rundown school building that she would soon be claiming as her own.

The chatter of eager sixth graders, the buzz of the content seventh graders, and the groan of the impatient eighth graders could be heard as she entered the doors. As she walked down her designated hallway, looking for her locker, a tidal-wave of emotions completely took over her. How could one person be feeling so many things at one time? She was excited to be in a new school, yet undoubtedly frightened at the difference in size and atmosphere from her fifth grade class. She was hopeful that the later days would only get better than her first, yet confident that middle school never gets better, only worse. Knowing that it was time to move on from this and that no magical genie was going to fly out of the water fountain and whisk her away, she stopped wallowing in her own self apprehension and made it safely into her first period english class. The first thing that she saw when she entered the room were bright colored posters, and her friend, Brigitte, from elementary school. The smile on Brigitte’s face immediately put one on her own as she started frantically waving and maneuvering her way to the desk right behind Brigitte’s. “Brigitte! Brigitte! It’s me, Christine! It’s so good to see you!” she shouted. The only thing was though, that Brigitte acted like she couldn’t even see the waves or smiles, and another girl was already sitting in the seat where Christine had so desperately longed to sit. One friend, one person she knew that would talk to her, was her only wish, but the Middle School gods would grant her not even that measly of a request. The friend that she had been so close with in elementary had now fallen so far from her over the three, gruelingly long months of summer. The smile that had warmed her heart multiple times before now felt so cold, distant, and unwelcoming. Taking the hint and burying the utter denial she had just experienced, Christine slipped silently into a seat as far away from Brigitte as she could have possibly asked for. She didn’t understand, why had everything changed? Why was Brigitte acting this way? Christine wanted, more than anything, to confront Brigitte about this and ask her these questions herself. However, she knew that the confrontation between her and her “friend” would only bring about more embarrassment, aggravation and, unquestionably, more tears for Christine. After only being at school for twenty minutes, Christine had gotten her first taste of just how bitter middle school, and the people that she was going to be attending it with, could be.

Lunchtime came around, and Christine was more than thankful for surviving through her first three classes unseen and unheard by those around her. Maybe that was her answer, her key to success in middle school, to be utterly and completely invisible to everyone else. Yet, how could that possibly make her happy? How can anyone be happy when their only companions are themselves and the black cloud of loneliness that hangs above their head wherever they go? No, she was going to make it through middle school her own way, and she was going to be known by people. Not as the weird girl, or the smart girl, but as someone that people actually wanted to be seen with. She needed so desperately to overlook her awkward run-in with Brigitte this morning and start her quest to find new, better friends. She needed to make herself new, and turn over a fresh page in her book of life. Christine decided that middle school was not going to be h*ll for her, because she and her emotions simply would not be able to keep up with it all. Happiness, that’s all she needed to find, true and utter happiness. Whether that be in reinventing herself, taking up a sport, or simply excelling in academics. To be able to keep a constant, genuine smile on her face was the only thing Christine was aiming for her sixth grade year. That smile had to start with her. She could not dwell on the past and yearn to go back to her elementary days, but she needed to look forward now and prepare for her future in middle school. As the fourth period bell rang, Christine finished the rest of her pizza and capri sun, grabbed her backpack off of the floor, and headed off to her next class: math.

Christine and math did not only get along, were not only rivals, but Christine absolutely and completely despised math. As if it wasn’t enough that her math skills were inadequate, her parents had signed her up for the “accelerated middle school math track” the previous fall. Although her nerves had taken complete control over her body, something in her told her to stop being so nervous, for that would only make the day go by slower. The room smelled like vanilla and pencil shavings, and the perky young teacher welcomed every student that walked through the door with a warm and comforting smile. As Christine looked around, she couldn’t help but to notice that everyone’s facial expressions said the same thing: I’m scared to death, get me out of here, NOW!! Christine chose her seat, in the middle of the room, not too close to the front for that gave her the name of teacher’s pet, and not too close to the back because then she would be seen as a slacker. Mrs. Jenkins was her name, and accelerated sixth grade math was her game. She seemed pleasant, with her big blue eyes and crazy dirty blonde hair. As she began to write her name on the board, she said, “Now I know you are all scared out of your minds to be here right now. Don’t worry, I used to be in your shoes. This year isn’t going to be even half as bad as you think it is. All I want to receive from my students is effort and positive attitudes. So, to get this year started off right, we’re all going to engage in a few ice breaker games to get to know each other a little more. Hi, my name is Mrs. Jenkins”, she continued, “and I like to eat pizza in bed and take my dogs on a walk at least three times a week. I have been teaching here for 4 years now, and hope that you exceptional children will make my fifth year the best one yet.” She continued on to tell about her husband and son, and that she was going to ensure that there would be more fun had in her class than anything else. Suddenly, Christine felt her shoulders lower, and her lungs loosen so that she was able to breath calmly again. She had been psyching herself out for something treacherous and frightening, when really, she knew that Mrs. Jenkins was genuine in her promise to make the year as relaxed as possible.

The ice breaker games were well under way, and as kids from around the circle told their names and interesting facts about themselves, the whole room got silent when it was his turn. Him, Tyler Alston, the cutest boy in the entire sixth grade, and he was sitting right next to Christine. The way his Abercrombie shorts hit him just below the knee, and the way his dark brown hair made his stunning blue eyes stand out even more, rendered Christine completely breathless. She had heard stories about him from her friends that went to elementary with him, and he really was as flawless as they had all claimed. She couldn’t believe this, the most amazing boy in the entire hallway, and Christine had failed to notice him until right this second. “Hi, my name is Tyler” he said, “and I like to play soccer, football, and the drums, and I absolutely LOVE to meet new people.” As he sat down, Christine couldn’t help but notice his perfect tan, his intangibly perfect body, and his perfect dimples that could have swallowed her whole right then and there. As she stole more glances at him, her heart began to beat faster, and her mind began to race. “I can’t believe this” she thought, “this incredibly hot boy, and of course he has to be sitting next to boring, average, nerdy, ME!” Christine was quickly ripped out of her subconscious thoughts as Mrs. Jenkins looked straight at her and said, “very good Tyler, and now for you, little lady in the purple.” Christine could feel her knees start to shake and her palms start to sweat as the entire classes eyes turned to face her. She could feel them critiquing her every action as she stuttered, “hhhiii Iiiii’mmmm Chrrrissstiine. I like to write stories, sing, and exercise as often as possible.” The class murmured as Mrs. Jenkins flashed her a smile and asked her to be seated, and they moved onto the next victim. Christine sighed a huge breath of relief, because she had just conquered her first of many, awkward middle school moments to come. The bell rang, and Christine did her best to hurry out of class without anyone noticing when she heard a faint, “Wait, wait!” She turned to look as she locked eyes with Tyler. “Oh god, this is not going to be good,” she thought. “It’s Christine, right? Hey, I’m Tyler, and I just wanted to give you this, you dropped it on your way out of math class.” As Tyler slid the pencil into Christine’s palm, she had to stop herself from falling backwards in complete and utter shock while she muttered a sheepish, “Thank you.” “Well,” he said, “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow Christine. Have a great afternoon.” Ya, she will see him tomorrow, won’t she? Oh my god! She’s going to be seeing him every day for the entire year, and she almost just passed out from him returning her writing utensil on only the first! “Tyler Alston,” she thought to herself, “TOTALLY just talked to me!” Maybe middle school wasn’t going to be as bad as she thought, maybe her extremely brief conversation with the most handsome God of the sixth grade shed a meager, minuscule light on this sinister situation that she is currently stuck in. Christine realized in this moment that it is not going to be about making friends or being the most popular girl in her grade, middle school is going to be about searching for the smallest bit of hope in even her most terrifying situations.

Time flew by in her next two classes, simply because she was floating on cloud 9. The hottest boy in school had talked to her, and she was fifteen minutes away from ending the most torturous day of her sensitive 12 year old life. Nothing could possibly go wrong, right? WRONG! Christine asked her science teacher, Mr. Hollandsworth, if she could have the bathroom pass. After being handed the pass, Christine exited the room and started her walk down the hallway. Just as she was about to turn into the girls’ bathroom, she saw Brigitte drinking from the water fountain just outside the door. As Christine tried to silently slip into the bathroom, Brigitte lifted her head from the water fountain and yelled, “Christine! Hey I haven’t seen you all day! It’s too bad that we only have English together. How has your first day been?” Christine looked at her with the fiery rage of a thousand suns boiling inside of her and said, “Maybe you would know how my day has been if you didn’t totally BLOW ME OFF in first hour English today Brigitte. I don’t know why you treated me like that, but, let me tell you, that eating lunch by myself was one of the least enjoyable things I have EVER experienced. However, I could not be more glad that I don’t have any classes with you, because the summer before middle school changed you completely, and not for the better. Have a nice year.” Christine walked off with the most conniving smile on her face as she left Brigitte standing in the hallway, the water fountain running, with her mouth gaping so far open it is a marvel that it wasn’t touching the floor. Walking into the bathroom, Christine laughed to herself, because Brigitte has just been served more than her fair share of her own medicine. Christine didn’t need “friends” like that if they were only going to start drama and cause her emotional stress. She was glad that she got the chance today to tell Brigitte that her presence in Christine’s life is totally and completely unwanted. Christine finished up with her bathroom break just in time to return to her class before the final bell rung to end her day. She packed up her binder, zipped her backpack, and watched the small hand of the clock tick slowly as she waited anxiously for the bell to announce that she was allowed to go home and prepare for the next day of school. Walking into the building this morning, Christine thought that this was going to be the beginning of the end of her life, but thinking back on her day now, she realized that middle school is going to mark the beginning of a new, exciting chapter in her life.

The bell rang, and the hallway immediately filled with hundreds of screaming sixth graders, running out to their parents cars and the buses. Christine walked at a slow pace, for fear of getting run over in the giant mob, but also, to give herself time to reflect on all of the dramatic and thrilling events of her first day in sixth grade. It was frightening, and she was definitely not mentally ready for what her next days were to bring. However, she couldn’t help but hold on to the smallest bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, there were going to be some good times to be had at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. As Christine walked out of the building, she immediately spotted her mom’s Suburban parked on the left side of the street. Christine strapped on her backpack and ran to the car, because seeing her mother now would be truly one of the only things she had been looking forward to all day. Christine looked left and right, quickly crossed the street, and then slid into the shotgun seat of her mom’s vehicle. Her mom stared at her with an eager smile as she asked, “Sooooooooooo, HOW WAS IT?” Christine pondered the question before she gave her mother the answer of, “Well, the stories definitely were not an exaggeration, but honestly mom, it was nothing I could have ever imagined it was going to be. I got ignored by my friend, ate lunch alone, and talked to the most gorgeous boy on planet Earth. All in all, it was extremely emotional, yet, somehow I had a wonderful day none the less.” Long-winded and exhausted she examined her mom as she said, “Well honey, I’m glad to hear that you are making the most out of the situation.”

As her mother pulled out of her spot and back onto the street, Christine turned on the radio to her favorite station, 109.6. Christine tossed her backpack into the back seat, reclined her seat, and relaxed all the way home. Even though she had shed many tears today, and she walked into school completely ill-prepared, she somehow managed to scrape a few valuable lessons out of her day. Dianne, her mom, pulled into the driveway and shifted the car into park as she said, “Come on kiddo, Dad prepared your favorite dinner for you to celebrate your survival through your first day of sixth grade.” As Christine’s face cracked the most pathetic excuse for a smile, she grabbed her backpack, opened the car door, and walked into her welcoming, warm, completely perfect home. You never truly realize how much you miss being home until you are somewhere that is absolutely unknown and different for a while. Christine came to this realization as soon as her dog Misty came running, mouth hanging wide open, to greet her at the door. Her house was nothing like her school, and that is precisely why it was so perfect. Everything about her school is unknown and dangerous, and everything about her house is comfortable and flawless. Christine never wanted to go back to school after dragging a bag of chips out of the cupboard and snuggling into her favorite spot on the couch. This is where she wanted to stay for the remainder of her sixth grade year, too bad she knew that fantasy was out of the question. Christine was going to have to draw up the courage to survive the rest of middle school, and strive towards keeping her thoughts positive and not reflecting on the negative parts of her day. I mean look at today for example, she talked to the most breath-taking boy in her grade, and actually mustered up enough bravery to stand up to Brigitte after their rude encounter. After all, it was the first day of the sixth grade and every person she asked warned her that it was going to be terrifying beyond anything imaginable, and they were right.

I watched her as she laid there, petting Misty and watching her favorite television show. I observed her as she laughed and enjoyed her evening, when just this morning, it was the look of her tear stained face that made my heart feel sick. As she finished off her bag of chips and began writing in her journal, she realized that she was a lot stronger than anyone, especially herself, gave her credit for. Scrawling frantically in her journal about the trials and tribulations of her day, she stopped and laid her pen down on her bed. Christine rolled over so that she was lying on her back and gazing up at the beautiful mural that her father had painted on her ceiling earlier in the year. It was a craftily completed painting that showed a charming young girl standing on the beach with her toes in the water. The sunset was hitting her silhouette just perfectly enough to highlight her shoulder length dark-brown hair. She was throwing a frisbee to her bouncy labrador puppy who waited anxiously in the water for the release of the weightless, plastic disc. As she gazed at the painting, Christine was subject to the greatest epiphany she had yet to experience in her young, twelve year old life. Being in middle school wasn’t about who she is now or the people that she used to hang out with. Middle school was about who she was going to make herself into, and the people that she was going to choose to surround herself with. Sixth grade could be the greatest year of her life, if that was what she had her heart set on accomplishing. The whole world was in her hands now, and it was only the first day of the school year. She controlled her own destiny, and that thought alone, stretched a dazzling, genuine smile from ear to ear across Christine’s face. Christine was just getting ready to pick her pencil back up and scribble down what she had just realized, when she heard her mom yell, “come on sweetheart, dinner is ready!” Christine ran out to join her family at the dinner table when she looked at both of her parents and asked, “Hey, do you guys remember when, earlier this summer I asked you if I could be home-schooled?” “Yes, why?” They both answered, looking extremely confused. “Well”, she continued, “I don’t think that is going to be entirely necessary anymore, because I think I just decided that I am the commander of my own middle school ship, and I am going to steer it in whatever direction I choose.” “Ummm, okay honey, whatever you say. You know we are here to support you 100% no matter what happens to you this year”, her father replied.

Utensils could be heard as they maneuvered around the plates at the dinner table. Christine finished up with her meal, placed her dishes in the dishwasher, and went back into her room to get ready for bed. After washing her face and brushing her teeth, Christine looked in the mirror, smiled to herself and said, “Thomas Jefferson Middle School, here I come!” Christine turned out the bathroom light, and went to lay down in bed. Pulling the covers up all the way to her chin, she clapped the lights off and turned on her side. Staring at her journal one last time before she closed her eyes, Christine knew with all of her heart, that all the tears she had shed today were long gone, and a new day and year were yet to come for her. Christine drifted to sleep, as she gently kissed her first day of sixth grade goodbye forever. She had gotten out alive, and knew that what she had accomplished today was nothing short of a miracle. Christine had just flipped to a new chapter in her book of life, and she knew that it was time for her to pick up the pen of reality and be the author of her very own future. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword, and the Sloppy Joes that are served in the cafeteria. Christine was in love, and no, not with Tyler Alston, but with the promising thought, that with her own strength and intelligence, she was going to direct her ship safely to the shore of her summer vacation. After all, her next summer vacation was only 261 days away!

I watched her as she laid there soundly asleep, rhythmically breathing in and out. A tear formed in my eyes as I realized that Christine, for the first time in her life, was truly ready for what lied ahead of her. Christine is a tenacious, vibrant, adorable young girl who has a wonderful head on her shoulders. I can only hope that life chooses not to throw tidal waves and huge boulders her way, because that will undoubtedly throw her middle school ship completely off its course. I thought about the mural of Christine with her toes in the water, and knew that her story was going to have a happy ending. I hoped that Christine would get a full night’s sleep that night. She was going to need adequate rest to deal with all the oncoming encounters with new tears, new teachers, and Tyler that she was going to be forced to overcome for the remainder of the year. Don’t let the little things in life get you down, because there is always a positive, alternative way to get out of a situation. Christine has the rest of her life to put this statement into action, and I have no doubt that she will always see the rainbow beyond the storm. I smiled at her as I thought, “welcome to the world Christine Donahue, welcome to the world.”





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