#WhoIAm: My Middle School Hero

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Trigger Warning: depression, mentions of past suicidal thoughts.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with figuring out how my future is going to go. Am I going to move across the country? Will I be able to live in a big city? Will I be successful? A lot of these questions have been bouncing around in my head, and there’s no real way to answer them. It is all going to take time.

But I think one of the best ways to get perspective on the future is by looking to the past. Therefore, as a way of projecting what I’m going to look like in eight years, maybe it’s helpful to think about who I was eight years ago.

I’ll be honest; eight years ago, seventh grade me was not doing well.

I was a depressed kid, but I didn’t have any of the context or vocabulary to know what depression was. I thought there was something wrong with me, which is how a lot of depressed people feel, but in a way that no one else had ever felt or understood before… which is also how a lot of depressed people feel. Either way, I was lonely.

I remember not thinking I would make it to my twenties. If not today, then tomorrow, you know? I was weary of feeling empty all the time, and I didn’t think I would ever feel full again. I didn’t know what was left to be salvaged.

I knew what I wanted to be though.

I wanted to be “cool” (Obviously. It was seventh grade).

I wanted to have a big, rowdy group of friends like the ones I read about in YA novels.

I wanted to be talented and well-known (not the same thing as famous, just distinguished).

I wanted my wardrobe and my room to be aesthetic as hell and have a recognizable “thing”. If anybody had ever said to me “oh, that’s so Ellie,” I think my heart would have grown three sizes too big on the spot, just like in the Grinch.

I wanted to be thin, and I wanted to be pretty

I wanted to have a boyfriend – a romantic, heroic, incredible boyfriend – also a figment of YA novels.

And I wanted to be able to feel things again. Seventh grade me was mostly numb. Numb and sad about it. And I didn’t know when or if that would ever end.

The thing is, though, I am, more or less, all of those things today.

I am cool, dammit.

I have incredible friends who are rowdy and loving and kind and interesting and well-rounded and honestly better than anything Rick Riordan ever cooked up (no offense, Rick).

I’ve been pretty successful in student filmmaking, and other people recognize that, which feels amazing.

I've become extremely good at thrift-shopping, and I've developed my own sense of style so the “that’s so Ellie” brand is kickin' these days.

I am not thin – I’ve honestly gained weight since middle school – but I am so much happier with how I look now, and, more importantly, my body feels strong.

I don’t have a boyfriend – not even a little bit – but that doesn’t bother me so much now. In fact, I’ve managed to become really good friends with a lot of the guys I had crushes on in middle school, and I realized that lifelong friendships are where it’s at.

And I’m happy. I’m really, really happy.

While the future is nebulous at best, and it’s something I stress about too often, I know I turned out okay, even though I never expected to. At one point, I wanted to be “that girl” so bad, and I ended up pulling it off by accident!

If things are tough right now, or if you’ve been down on yourself lately, or if you’re also really worried about how the next eight years are going to go, maybe think about who you used to be and how much you’ve grown since then. Odds are, you deserve to be proud of yourself.

Growing up isn’t easy, but you’ve done a pretty good job so far, and, likely enough, you’re going to turn out okay in the end. As long as middle school you would be proud of you now, you’ve got nothing to worry about.