I always thought my middle school years were destined to be the most awkward of my life.
Oy vey, ages 11-13. The golden years, when my feet and arms were fully grown, but my neck and torso were not. When I constantly tripped over my own appendages and proudly sported a gaping hole in the left knee of my blue jeans. Back when I played clarinet. In the band.
I was utterly graceless. I had braces, followed by a retainer and usually food stuck in it. I hadn’t learned not to pick at pimples and still scraped up my knees from daring (incredibly stupid) stunts on my bike. I hadn’t refined the art of personal hygiene, as I was intimidated by the loud sound of the shower and didn’t always wear deodorant.
I got excited easily and talked loud and fast. When I was flustered, the ghost of my childhood speech impediment would rear its ugly head, making me drop all of my “R’s.”
I cried over getting a B on an assignment or if I thought a teacher didn’t like me or if no one let me sit next to them on the bus.
I watched Saved By The Bell and imagined myself magically transforming into Kelly Kapowski when I got to high school. I read everything by Laura Ingalls Wilder and then all the spin-off books by Roger Lea MacBride. I read the Anne of Green Gables series twice and memorized both The Highwayman and Lady of Shallott. I decided I’d grow up to be poised, fabulous and unstoppable.
Well, I’m 28. A spinster and everything I ever wanted to be except:
1. A Pioneer Woman
2. A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle
3. A Geologist
5. Kelly Kapowski
I still feel like the heroine of my own epic novel, but I must say, it is sad I went through high school without ever blossoming into a 90’s popular culture icon. I did letter in Band, though, so those 4 years weren’t a total loss.
Still, I’m surprised to find myself in a whole new awkward life stage.
I’m not wearing torn jeans and braces anymore and my personal hygiene is considerably better, but I’m faced with more growing pains on a daily basis, which makes me question, is 28 the new 12? Am I getting a re-flash of my “tween years” the way people who had chicken pox re-flash with shingles?
I pondered this very idea tonight, as I mixed my retinol anti-wrinkle cream in with my 10% benzyl peroxide anti-acne ointment.
I’m stuck with both early-onset wrinkles and occasional breakouts. My mom still refers to my ample cheeks as “baby fat” even though I told her a full grown adult doesn’t have baby fat.
I’ve seen my friends get married and pregnant. I still feel too young for all that and wonder why I don’t get invited to slumber parties anymore.
I know I’m “grown up.” I’m even driving a real grown up sedan to prove it. It’s the first car I ever bought myself with 4 doors and automatic windows/locks.
Still, even though I do my taxes and I pay real grown-up bills, I find myself occasionally sneaking candy into movie theaters or ordering a Cherry Coke with “no ice” because I know they totally jip you when they put ice in your soda.
I vote. I watch the news. I listen to NPR radio on my way to school and the classical music station in the evenings.
But I still get excited easily and talk loud and fast. I’ll get flustered and drop my R’s. I post my grades on the fridge and I’ve accidentally broken almost everything in my kitchen that was made of glass.
Part of me is cool, collected, set, defined – forged through the fires of life experience. The rest of me is still figuring things out, waiting to grow into myself, occasionally tripping over my own feet and snorting when I laugh.