I had a very strange childhood.  In some ways it was very happy, and in others, quite dysfunctional.  I’m sure most everyone has a similar story, only the details are different, so I won’t bore you with  many specifics.  I will say that my time in middle school was one of the worst times in my entire life.

First of all, I was weird looking.  I was short and super skinny with braces AND glasses AND big, kinky hair that I unsuccessfully straightened into a large bush, daily, for reasons that I cannot now remember.  Yes, I was a sight.  Middle school is not kind to the weird looking kids.  Second, we were pretty poor, so I had very few clothes and I wore my entire wardrobe weekly (much to the delight of the popular girls who, once they noticed it, kept commenting on it–“There are the pink pants again!  Must be Wednesday!”

…Mean girls suck.

Third, I had a HUGE chip on my shoulder and I was unafraid of confrontations (I got in a lot of fights), Fourth, I was a smart but lazy student who only paid attention if I was interested in the class or the subject or if I liked the teacher.  I didn’t care what grades I got as long as I passed.  An overachiever, I am not.  Fourth, I was shy in my classes.  I might fight after school or in the halls, but I never spoke in class.  Never made trouble for the teachers.  This means that I was largely ignored by my teachers.  And last, I had a very…scary home life at this time in my life and there wasn’t a lot that was good going on there.

Luckily, I did have my own band of close, dorky girlfriends.

…Dorky girlfriends rock!

There was something called the Lion of the week at our school.  Every week, the teachers would nominate a student from sixth, seventh and eighth grade to be the Lion of the week.  It was a huge honor–mostly because you got to leave school and go to the local Roy Rogers for lunch.  I think you got some sort of award with it too.  I don’t know for sure because I never got picked as Lion of the week.  However, ALL of my friends were chosen multiple times over our three years in middle school.  Everyone I knew made it at least once.  And I am talking EVERYONE else.  The mean girls.  The brains.  Even the trouble makers (if they had a good–for them–week, they were chosen to validate their behavior).  But me, being the shy, quiet, troubled kid who was forgotten and ignored by her teachers and never made trouble– I never got to be it.  And I wanted it.  BADLY.  Every week when they called the names of the winners on the announcements I would pray to be chosen.  And every week I was not.  I had to pretend to be happy for my friends as they were chosen and re-chosen, week after week.  They kindly never mentioned the fact that I was never chosen.

Looking back, it’s not that big a deal.  So I missed out on a Roy Rogers lunch with the principal.  So what?  But at the time, it really hurt.

Middle school was a time when  I often felt like I meant nothing to nobody.  That I really had no worth at all.  Boyfriends?  Please.  I was weird looking and …volatile.  Other girls were wearing bras and going through puberty and I went through these changes late.  I still looked like a fifth grader among teenagers.

In eighth grade English, everyday my teacher Mrs. Farrow would make us write in our journals for 10 minutes at the start of class.  So I just wrote and wrote about my family and my life and my friends and my feelings.  Honestly, I totally forgot anyone was going to be reading or grading our journals.  And then came the end of the first grading period, and our teacher collected them to grade.  I never gave it a second thought, just handed it in.

When I got it back it had a big “A ” on it (which were rare enough in my house.  I never did homework, never studied, hardly worked at all).  Inside, the teacher had written, “I love reading about your days.  Keep it up.  You’re the best writer in the class!”

I could not believe it.  The best writer in the class?  Nobody had ever told me I was the best at anything before.  I had never given writing a second thought up until that point.  I knew that both reading and writing came easily to me in a way that math did not, but it had never occurred to me that this might be something to be glad about.

That comment meant SO much to me.  It really made my day.  Mrs. Farrow’s hastily scribbled comment validated me at a time when I really needed it.  At a time when few others were teachers (or anybody, really) were taking the time to get to know such a troubled girl.

I think about Mrs. Farrow every now and again,  and I’d love to be able to tell her how much that comment meant to me.

…I still have the journal.

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