Most Important Years of My Life

November 7, 2007
By Ashley Knight, Stafford, VA

Everyone has a defining point in life that they’ll never forget. Each year of middle school- sixth, seventh, and eighth- had a significant effect on who I am today. I think I learned more about life in those three years than I have learned any other year in my seventeen years of living. For such a tender time in my life, I really do believe I got my first glimpse of the real world in those three short years. I have seen some really good times and some really bad times. Nonetheless, I will carry in my heart some of the best memories of my life.
Going into the 6th grade, I remember being really excited. I was finally out of elementary school, and was on my way to being a big kid. When I got there, I was in shock and awe of how much bigger the 7th and 8th graders looked than us newcomers. I tried to keep my cool and act like nothing fazed me, but really I was horrified. I thought fitting in the right places and staying up to date would be my biggest issue during the year. Little did I know something bigger than all that was about to take place and change my life forever.

On a particular Tuesday the first month of school, it seemed like a regular day. I got up at five that morning, my sister did my hair, and my friend Adrienne came to my house to wait for the bus. When I got to school, everything ran like clockwork. Then early in the afternoon, something changed. Out of nowhere, everyone was getting taken home early. I didn’t get it, I mean, that many people in my class could not have been sick. I remember going to the nurse after that, and hearing all the ladies talking about the military, so I thought there was some military holiday that I had forgotten about. That’s when I went back to class to find out that I was so wrong.

On the television in the class, I saw these two beautiful buildings had been broken down in an act of hate. I really didn’t catch on at first, but then I got home that September 11th and my mom explained to me the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a flight in Pennsylvania had come under terrorist attacks. I didn’t believe anyone in the world could show such disregard for another human life. After that tragedy, I truly believed nothing as cruel or fatal would ever happen again. And for the remainder of my 6th grade year, I was right. I survived my first junior high year without a scratch. But my upcoming 7th grade year would bring something a little closer to home.

My 7th grade year was the best year of all junior high. I was very excited about it. I was finally moving up the middle school food chain. I made what would turn out to be some life long friends who are just as close as sisters to me. It was so carefree at A.G. Wright, and it didn’t get any better than that. My school work, friends, and life in general seemed to be in order. Everything felt so safe and secure; I took it for granted. I was so wrong when I thought nothing could ever shake our little town.

One afternoon in October, my mom told me that I wasn’t allowed to hang around outside except to go to school. She told me that someone was targeting and randomly shooting people for no reason. I didn’t get why that affected me, though, I was here in little old Stafford. Then I saw on the news that he had shot people in D.C. and even as close as Fredericksburg. What’s even scarier is that I was in Fredericksburg just a couple of hours before the sniper struck at Michael’s. That was enough to keep me inside for weeks. But finally, the snipers were caught and we could all rest easy.

After everyone regrouped, things went back to normal. My friends and I were as close as ever and we were about to enjoy the best winter in Stafford history. The snow kept coming and coming and we loved it. We had weeks off at a time, and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. My friend Adrienne and I would go back and forth between our houses and play in the snow. As the winter faded and spring approached, I figured I do something with myself for a change. I joined the track team, and I must say I was absolutely horrible. I did my best in shot put, but never placed, and the team had an astonishing 9-1 record. As the school year wound down, I felt pretty good about the year ahead.

My final year of middle school was one I’ll never forget. I had finally reached the top of the adolescent mountain! While I was happy about my 8th grade year, I was also sad at the same time. I knew this was the last year I had of really feeling like a kid. It was time to start getting serious about what direction I wanted my life to go in and I could only depend on me. If only it had gone by a little slower.
Things just seemed to roll by early on in the year, academic- wise. I had a few glitches, and then I’d get right back on track. I honestly thought I had everything in order. Absolutely nothing could derail me. What I didn’t plan on was that my social life would be the thing to get out of control.

What I didn’t realize was how catty 8th grade girls could be. It wasn’t like 6th or 7th grade where problems were few and far between. It seemed like every week some new rumor would rear its ugly head and cause unnecessary static. I unfortunately, was the head of some of the drama, as were some of my closer friends, and that is the only thing I don’t miss about 8th grade. It really put more stress on me than needed and looking back on it, I see the petty situations for what they really were… petty situations. If I’d known then what I knew now, I couldn’t have cared less about what people said.

On the other hand, what I do miss about the 8th grade was the dances. They were held every month in the cafeteria, and they were basically the highlights of our young lives. The girls would get all dolled up hoping to find what we believed was romance at the time (I actually met my 6th grade boyfriend there, by the way). Everything happened at these dances. People got together, people broke up, and even friendships were tested. These dances were really not to be fooled around with, we took them very seriously. And as each dance whisked by, month by month, so did our time together.

Before I even knew what hit me, the last day of school was upon us. I remember just about everything that happened that day. I was happy, but so sad at the same time. I was on my way to making my own life and new friends. But I was also about to leave some of my best friends and memories behind, maybe even forever. I felt so many different emotions at once, that I really didn’t know how to feel about everything. I just tried to make good of what time we had left together.
That day at lunch, all the 8th graders decided to have a food fight. We wanted people to remember the 2003 class, and go out with a bang. Needless to say, the teachers were furious, but I thought it was hilarious! Before my last exam of the day, my 7th period teacher chewed us out about our behavior, and told us we were disappointing. Before we knew it, the last announcements were on and all the girls in the class broke down crying. We couldn’t believe that the end was finally here.
On the way out to the buses, we were still crying and hugging each other. On the bus home that day, a friend said something I’ll never forget. “These 3 years went by like that, and the next 4 years are going to go by like that.” Looking back almost 4 years later, that has never been more true. I’ll never forget the people I met along the way, and the lessons they taught me. To some, middle school was just a stepping stone. To me, it’s something that’s made me into the person that I am today and person I hope to become.

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