Monday, October 6, 2014

NWJH part 1

(If you're just joining us, the beginning of the series starts here. Thanks for reading!)

My heart is literally pounding out of my chest right now. This is the part of my story that begins to feel so much more personal and hard. These were the years that felt very formative to me in the way I dealt with people, in what I understood about the world, in my emotional responses to situations. I don't feel very brave right now, but I'm determined to be. I just want to reiterate that it is my desire to "own" my hurt and the things that happened to me (and the things I did) while also being gracious to people who might have caused me pain, because the reality is that we are all broken and imperfect people. I want to encourage you as you read that it is good and healthy to deal with your past pain, even if you feel like it is ridiculous to have to walk through your past again. If it affected you emotionally, it's real and God would not want you to sweep that under the rug.

Between my 6th and 7th grade year I remember begging the Lord to get my period so that I did not have to start junior high wondering if that day would come in the middle of class. Going to junior high was super apprehensive for me: changing classes, having seven teachers, meeting new people, and all that came with puberty. The Lord graciously allowed menstruation to happen the summer before 7th grade. My family embarrassed me supremely by acting like it was my birthday. Goodness.

I began 7th grade taking TAG (our acronym for "Talented and Gifted") classes for my core subjects. This meant that for English, Math, Social Studies, and Science I was in the same classes with the same people and we were pushed a little harder than the other kids. We also went to the TAG specialist once a week and did cool things. Mrs. Moring was a lot of fun and I really began to appreciate the challenges that TAG gave me because school wasn't as easy (read: boring) to me as it had been before. We got to go on a lot of interesting field trips and my mind really came alive academically. I loved going to the theater and reading more difficult literature. I had another challenging year in math because I felt like our teacher talked over my head a lot. Science was a favorite class though because I had Coach Mac and he was hilarious and super smart. We got to dissect things and go on great field trips.


I think this must have been during Spirit week for Homecoming because we were wearing pajamas. This was Coach Mac's class.

I ran for student council my 7th grade year. I think I wanted something to be part of and my Dad had always told me great stories about how much fun he had in student council. I had to actually run for office, but I got elected! I felt super special and really loved being part of student council. We had lots of fundraisers, namely hosting dances for the students. School dances were pretty innocent for me personally although for others I know it was not. Sex became something that wasn't just head knowledge anymore, in seventh grade. I began to hear of friends making out and doing all kinds of things that still mortify me because we were only 13! I was so innocent and had no dictionary for terminology that people around me were using for sex acts and people loved to chide me for that. I had had crushes on boys up till that point, but this became so much more serious and I really thought that the expectations of me, if I were to have a boyfriend, would be really high and that scared me. I thought boys would want more of me than I was willing to give.

I had major frizzy hair, I did not know how to put on make up, or dress myself, and I got braces this year. Hello awkward! I actually remember a friend showing me how to iron my hair with a real iron and I did that for a long time. I had another (beautiful) friend tell me one time, "Your face is so plain." Those things definitely gave me a complex about  my looks.

As for friends, this year was super hard. I expected to maintain at least some of the relationships I had with people in elementary school, but everyone began going their own way. One person that I had considered my best friend changed signficantly. I began to realize that I had allowed friends all through elementary school to boss me and degrade me. I realized that I didn't like to rock the boat (still don't) so I would cave when a friend had wanted a certain toy or to play a game their way. With another friend, she would absolutely berate me for crazy stuff. When she slept over, the way I slept got on her nerves and she would yell at me. When we would ride in the car, she told me to stop singing because I couldn't sing. She would fight with me and pinch me and hit me, and we were too old for stuff like that. I felt picked on and finally started standing up for myself.

Well that friend quickly moved on to other friends in 7th grade. People who I knew were pushing boundaries. My faith was a very central part in my life and I became super discouraged that so many friends who I had gone to church with were sort of "falling away." One night I found out that a girl was hosting a party and there was going to be no adult supervision there. In addition a rumor was swirling (that I deemed to be reliable) that there was going to be alcohol and drugs at this party. I was super heavy about it because a lot of my old friends were going to go. When I got home that Friday night my dad new something was wrong. After he pushed me for a while to talk, I told him what was happening. My dad was immediately burdened because some of these girls were girls he coached in softball. He began calling their parents and asking them if they knew what was going on. Parents went to get their kids from the party and my phone started blowing up: some girls were so pissed that I had told, that they were going to beat me up on Monday. I was terrified. I was partially mad at my dad but I also knew in my heart he did the right thing. I don't think he had any idea what the implications would be for me though.

That Monday morning, I sat in the cafeteria while we waited for school to start. In my mind, if someone were going to try to fight me, at least it would be in a public place. A group of 5-10 girls approached me. They yelled and asked questions and called me names and I told them, calmly, the truth. I told them that I cared for them and that was why I did what I did. They turned and walked away. Unfortunately that was the end of any close friendship I had with most of the girls that I played softball with or went to elementary school with. I knew they were going down a path that I didn't want to go down and that they hated me, so I gave up trying to be friends with them. This group of people evolved into the popular crowd at school.

I joined choir, which was not a class I originally signed up for, but I'm so glad I became part of it because it instilled a love for music in me. This was a class where we truly learned a lot about music but it was also the gossip class. All the popular girls were in this class and rumors and stories were part of the everyday culture there. I got a ton of sex education by the girl who sat beside me in choir and was, ahem, experienced. A few girls started to like this boy G. I was so determined not to like a boy who wasn't socially acceptable because my social status would be affected by that too. And if you told someone who you liked, that boy was sure to find out, so I had to be very careful. Well since others thought G was good looking, and I had kind of already thought that, I let my opinion be known. Soon he was asking for my number and we went to one of the dances together. The funny thing is, I didn't really like him. He wasn't the kind of guy who met minds with me, although he was funny. We became the talk of the school, however, and I appreciated the social status raise because I definitely was not one of the popular kids. I decided not long after that though that I wanted to break up with him because I was starting to become grossed out by him. One day he was walking me to choir and pulled me to the side. I noticed a lot of people started gathering around and I didn't understand what was happening. Then, he leaned me back and kissed me and pushed his tongue in my mouth! I pushed him away and slapped him across the face and told him that was it. So my first kiss was not a pleasant experience, and was also mortifying for me because so many people were standing around.

My grades struggled a little, especially in math, and that was the first year I ever got a C as a 9 weeks grade. My parents were very hard on me about my grades and there was some discussion toward the end of the year about possibly making me change schools because of my grades. I think they were worried I was too distracted, and looking back I probably was. I remember I had spent the whole year sitting beside this tall boy in Coach Mac's class. He was cute to me but I never really thought of him as someone I would like because I think I spent most of that year confused by boys and what they were and why they acted the way they did and what I was supposed to do with them. I remember on maybe the last day of school I had this little high tech gadget (for the time) that you could type notes into. I used it as a calculator and a diary. I never noticed before, but he had the same one and he showed me how to send notes with it. We spent time chatting and I told him I might have to move to another school because of my grades and I was crushed by that. He told me he didn't want me to go. I remember having a reality check that this boy liked me and I had never really noticed him before. I thought he was super sweet. He got my number and we started talking daily. We'll call this boy D.

After school let out for the summer, everyone started having pool parties. I had one at my house first and invited most of my class. I had recently become friends with Alicia who was going out with D at the time (going out was lingo for dating back then). She told me she didn't really like him but they had grown up together so it was sort of expected that they would go out. I thought that was funny. He had told me he didn't really like her that way either. Well I finally told her I kind of had a crush on him and she wanted to help us get together. That was all so funny to me. They broke up and D did end up asking me out around then.

Our relationship was so strange. I think more than anything he became my best friend. He was hilarious and a jerk all at the same time. He was a jerk because the way he showed he liked me was by being mean and teasing me. He had a sharp wit and could cut pretty hard with his comments and I had no clue how to handle that. Sometimes I felt like he was being serious and it hurt. So we did a lot of back and forth: going out for a few weeks, and then me breaking up with him, and then him asking me out again, and then me breaking up with him. The thing that rang true though was that we became a "crew," me and his friends. Alicia became my best girl friend. I went to church functions with them. I spent many nights at Alicia's house. Greg from elementary school was part of this crew and another boy named Tyler. For a while it was this sort of three boys against two girls thing. The boys would have wrestling nights at Alicia's house and we would watch as if we were interested. But then they would actually wrestle and try to get us to wrestle and it was hilarious. And I got injured a lot. Another friend named Chris who was a year older than us was part of this group too. Chris performed a move called a "dead leg" that would literally  make your leg go numb and cause a deep tissue bruise. Honestly, every time I've seen Chris since then, I have been afraid of the dead leg. And we had all kinds of crazy games like if you looked at someone while they were holding their hand a certain way, you got a dead leg. Hilarious and ridiculous. But I had so much fun with these guys.

I didn't mention but I tried out for drill team (dance team) the spring of 7th grade and didn't make it. That was a painful blow to me because Alicia did and I really wanted to do that with her.

D and I had an on again/off again relationship all summer. Even when we were "off" though we were really still "on" because we never stopped talking or hanging out and we didn't start talking to other people. He never stopped pursuing me either.

I went to church camp with my church every year starting in around 3rd grade. We always went to Siloam Springs for a week. The summer of 7th grade I had a knee injury from softball and was in a brace the whole week. That was the first summer that my "crew's" church went the same time as mine. I remember we had a food fight that year out in a field and I had food everywhere, including my ears. I really felt like I came alive around this time. Even when D would cut me down, overall I felt confident about who I was and I felt like I had good friends around me and all was right in my world. I did end up having surgery on my knee that summer, which was, unfortunately, the first of many surgeries for me.

When eighth grade started I was excited about the year. I had made student council again, and even though I hadn't made drill team, I was determined to make the best of it. 

I'm on the left. This was during my awkward frizzy hair, no make up, not sure how to dress myself phase. For example, I'm pretty sure that that was my dad's white button down shirt. I have no idea. I remember also that this was the night the Bill Clinton won his second presidential election and I got to go downtown while it was happening.

It was at this point that things started getting more serious with D and I. I remember at some point we had been technically broken up for a while (time seems long when you are this age. It was probably only a few weeks.) and I was going up to my grandma's. We both owned this Celine Dion cd and he told me to take mine with me. Randomly I started getting pages (yes I had a pager. And no phone. This was cool back then.) from him with numbers and I finally figured out that each number correlated with a song on the cd. It was very romantic and I realized that he really cared for me. So we were "going out" again. Our families became close and we even went on trips together. I remember his mom taking us on a date.

(I want to step back from this moment and say I sincerely wish a prudent adult in my/our lives would have stood up and said: "Hey guys, ya'll are young and this is too serious." But no one did that. No one. And it's possible that no one knew, but I feel like someone should have asked questions. I had no one guarding my heart and I had no idea that I was supposed to.)

We were getting "serious." At some point this freaked me out and I broke up with him again. For a very short period I started going out with a guy who was a year older than me. Someone who everyone knew was a "bad boy." I think the reason I did that was because he was the first person besides D to take interest in me. I remember he asked me to dance with him and it made me feel special. That relationship did not last very long and D pined away for me the entire time. I remember it ended one night at a church lock in. The "bad boy" was talking to other girls and flirting and ignoring me and I said I was done. Immediately D came to comfort me and we were back "on" again.

I'm not sure why D continued to pursue me when I had zero maturity in relationships. I had no idea what I wanted but I certainly needed to not be concerned with that at the time. I do remember one time after breaking up with him it stressed him out so bad he got hives. I felt terrible then and realized I needed to be more careful with my actions because his heart was involved. Unfortunately I didn't realize how much mine was too.

At the end of my eighth grade year two major things happened: I ran for student council president...and won, and I tried out for drill team and made it. Things were looking up for me for my 9th grade year and I was super excited for all that was ahead. I felt like I was setting myself up well for high school and college, and I definitely was already thinking about those things. You couldn't be in TAG classes and not think about those things. But also, and I need to back track here, I was always different as far as maturity goes. I remember from the time I was 3 or 4 years old, people would say to me "she's wiser than her years." I remember listening intently to adult conversations from that age. As I grew, that never left me. The year I started 7th grade, I had 8th and 9th graders who thought I was in their grade. Being tall (and I was) didn't hurt, but they always said it was my maturity. Now I don't say that pridefully because honestly I don't understand it. It's not something I think I tried to be, it just was. But because of this, I processed lots of things at a faster/more adult rate than others my age. I was affected more deeply by matters of the heart. Don't get me wrong, I made terrible choices and had a very immature mindset in many ways, but in things that mattered, I was usually ahead of the game.

My relationship with my Mom at this time is something else I need to mention. I said earlier that Mom had lost her mother and sister in a car accident when she was senior in high school. This obviously marked my Mom in ways that I'm still trying to understand. What I do know is that from the time I was small, my mom would say things that were emotionally charged that impacted me greatly. If I would get upset with her, she would say, "You need to be thankful you have a mom, because I don't have a mom." So I got a lot of guilt trips about my decisions, or her decisions that caused me grief. Also she started telling me that she really didn't want our relationship to drift apart when I became a teenager because that happened with her and her mom and then she lost her mom. Somehow in my mind this made me think I needed to have a perfect relationship with Mom, I needed to treat her perfectly and sort of pedestal her, because maybe if I didn't God would punish  me by taking her away from me. She was also a very close friend. Mom was very rarely the disciplinarian in our house and I did not respect her like I should because of that. I treated her like a friend rather than a parent because of that. Mom so tried to hold on to my childhood that she didn't teach me how to fix my hair or put on make up. I remember in 6th or 7th grade going to spend the night at a friend's house and I needed my hair in a ponytail and couldn't do it because my mom always did it. She picked my clothes out for me until I got to 7th grade. It never occurred to me that this was unhealthy until I realized I couldn't do certain things that I should be able to do.

Also I noticed that she did these same kinds of things with my brother only he was younger and he let her. A double standard of work seemed to evolve. At the ages where I was being asked to do dishes and clean, Spencer didn't have to. Then when my dad did start assigning him chores, he would complain and not do them and Mom would never get on to him. I would mention this sometimes but I was thought of as jealous instead of as she was spoiling him.

Another thing that happened that I couldn't find a good linear place for above is that my Mima died when I was in 7th grade. She had fallen and broken her hip and also had several strokes. She came home from the hospital to our house with Hospice and passed away one day while I was at school. She was the first person that I experienced death with and it was hard, but I was also grateful for her because I knew she was ready to go to Heaven. I know that was very hard for my Mom though because she was the last living relative that Mom was close to. I say all this because I've pieced more things together over the years that I think matter, but I didn't realize it at the time.

My Mima not long before she passed away.

And a couple of throw back songs that I remember from that time:

That's all a little scattered, and I did start writing this on the 5th, even though it won't get published till the 6th. I will have another post for the 6th though. Today was busy! Good night Lovies!

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