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Wellness

Top Five Lessons For My Cousin Starting Middle School

Out of all the relationships I have in my life right now, one that always makes me smile is my relationship with my 11-year-old cousin. Belén Ruiseñor and I share a love for pranking my older brother, wacky crafts, two-person yoga poses, and our maternal grandparents. She was born when I was nine years old, and I had no idea how big of a part of my life she would become. If you had told me when I was nine and she was born that she would regularly call me on FaceTime in college, I think I would have been shocked. Nine-year-old Maria also would have been shocked she had her own smartphone and went to college over 500 miles away. Belén is a 6th grader now, and as she starts middle school, I reflect back on my own times. There’s a lot to learn, and potentially unlearn, during that period of your life. So here are my top five lessons for her:

 

  1. Be yourself. Really and truly.  Okay, I know, very cheesy. But the fact of the matter is, during the preteen years into adolescence is often when our personalities emerge. We have had experiences so far, but we start to understand these happenings and construct it all during this period. To be yourself is to do what comes naturally to you, to act in a way that reflects your heart. And you know what? It’s perfectly fine if you don’t always know how to be yourself. It takes lots of tries, and it’s an ongoing process. 

  2. Try out some hobbies and activities. Did I do the art club in middle school and never do it in high school? Of course. In middle school, I loved “Gaga ball” and I won the wall-sit competition. Could I do either of these well now? That’s debatable. It can be easy for sports and activities to start to get very competitive in these years. However, trying out new hobbies and learning new skills are always great ideas, and middle school can be a perfect window of opportunity for this when the academic scene is typically less stressful.

  3. If your friend group fluctuates, don’t worry. I believe in the power of a strong coterie of friends. Folks who are fun to hang around with, supportive and lift you up when you need it. In fact, something to look for in friendships at any stage in life is that energy is reciprocated and matched over time. Sometimes, one person may invest a lot of time into a friendship where the other person may not. Now, it does not always need to be 100% both ways, and in seasons that are more difficult for someone, they may not be able to invest as much as the other person in the friendship. The idea is though, in the long run, it will even out. Finding solid friends can be tricky, so if your friend group seems to change, that’s entirely normal. The important part is to be open to meeting new people, learning what you value in a friend, and how to support your friends and yourself.

  4. Your parents are who they are. It’s a hallmark moment of middle school and high school students to suddenly “turn” on their parent(s)/guardian(s). It may become harder to get along with your parents during this time as your personality develops and you begin to look more into who your parents are as people. Yet your parents do know things about you simply from raising you, watching you grow. Trust that. On the other hand, if relationships with parents/guardians become toxic or unsafe, reach out, because that is often normalized, yet never okay. As for Belén specifically, I know you are blessed with a great set of parents. They aren’t perfect, no one is, but they are rallying behind you with the rest of us. 

  5. Don’t let anyone steal your joy. Especially yourself. One thing I remember about middle school was how it could be a liminal space between “kiddie” things and “adult” things. Do what makes you happy, watch what brings you joy. If you still like making blanket forts and playing with stuffed animals, go for it. If you like making silly videos, Tik Tok dances, YouTube challenges, go right on ahead. Be silly with your friends. If you want to try something new that might be considered more “adult,” (meal prepping, crying over taxes, etc.) go for that, too. When we get too preoccupied in what our peers around us think, we can miss out on moments of joy for ourselves. 

 

There you have it. Middle school can be tricky, as can any other era in life. Keeping in check with our hearts, minds, bodies and souls is important whether you are in the 6th grade, or the 60th grade. And as for Belén, if you ever read this, know that I am with you all the way, through and through.

Aspiring writer and lover of puns studying environmental science and integrated strategic communication at Saint Louis University. From New Brighton, Minnesota. Learning in the space between.
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