Okay. adjective. According to me, saying that something is satisfactory or that you can accept what’s happening.
When life gets you down because it’s a Monday and it’s colder than last week, here’s a thought that will make things seem okay:
You are not in middle school anymore.
Halleluiah, glory day. This should make anyone excited. And if it doesn’t, you’re probably in middle school right now, and I’m sorry. Life gets better.
I’ve been in and out of middle school classrooms for the past few semesters, and I’ve realized a few things. Namely, I am incredibly grateful that leggings weren’t a thing in 2006. Also, that these poor, tortured souls are going through a lot. And that for some reason, I like working with these kids.
Maybe it’s that I know I won’t be any more awkward or uncoordinated than they are. Or that I’m not intimidated by the rowdy boys because I’m at least a foot taller than all of them. Or because I want to tell these kids that it will be okay. One day, they’ll be out of middle school and girls won’t be so demonic and boys will be able to have actual conversations and it will be okay.
I can only imagine that my authority on this would be questioned, like all authority in middle school. Prove it, they’d say. There’s no way you’d understand because you wear cardigans and don’t have Snapchat and are old enough to get married (in theory).
But I can prove it. Here are the stories I would tell. (And the pictures I’d share, because pictures of middle schoolers are worth at least 3,000 words.) If I can survive, so can you.
It was my birthday. I’d had a girls day, pedicures and shopping, and I got makeup from my friend who knew about such things. That fuschia shiny gloss and the fresh coral sparkle on my toes felt like the epitome of glam. I didn’t know yet that I shouldn’t wear that color brown, that those eyebrows should make friends with a tweezer, that sandals fancier than Old Navy flip-flops existed. Soon it would bother me when I was forced to go bare-faced while other girls in my class had been sporting eyeliner since fifth grade. But it’s okay. One day, my mom will finally let me wear mascara, and no one asked “You don’t have eyelashes, right?” again. (I have been asked that. I do have eyelashes, I swear to Covergirl.) But defined eyes and perfect skin aren’t the key to feeling gorgeous. That takes something more and deeper than makeup.
This was my first recital with a new piano teacher. I’d just moved beyond the numbered primers into real music, by composers whose names I remembered from the wall in music class. I nervously plucked out songs I never thought I’d be capable of playing. I still numbered every mistake. They proved I wasn’t good enough, just like my braces and that long, messy hair I didn’t know how to deal with and the math scores I didn’t think were high enough. That was a lot of weight to carry. I thought if I’d just try a little harder, I could be perfect. But I couldn’t. And that’s okay. I wish I would have given myself some grace, and let others give me some grace, and let God give me some grace. Sure, I wasn’t perfect. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t talented and kind and curious and hard-working.
This was my last dance recital. In a few months, I’d have volleyball four nights a week and leave my jazz shoes behind. I wasn’t sad. At dance, I was self-conscious, slouching, the only girl who wasn’t tiny and cute. Even after I left those high-waisted pink pants behind (praise the Lord), I kept fearing that I’d always be the gangly, tall girl on the edge of group photos. That fear came true. I learned to always stand in the middle of photos with short people, but I was not, and will never be, tiny and cute. Instead, I was 6’0″ by seventh grade and heard loud freshman boys comment about my height in the halls. Even ten years later, a woman at a concert stared. She stood in front of me in the post-concert mess, looked me up and down, saw that I wasn’t wearing heels, and nudged her friend to turn around and gawk at the Amazon woman. But it didn’t hurt so much. I smirked and hoped that Scotty McCreery would notice me because I stood above the crowd. (He didn’t. But that sure would have proved her right. And been generally awesome.)
My dad snapped this after the band concert themed “A Night at an Eighties Prom.” I wanted so badly to look beautiful that night, among all of the high schoolers dressed to the nines. I borrowed a dress that was almost long enough, and my mom’s friend said I looked like Cinderella. I didn’t quite believe her. After all, even though I was the only female in a section full of boys, they never seemed to notice me. (In hindsight, this shouldn’t have been a surprise. The trombone is not a sexy instrument.) They wouldn’t seem to notice me for a very long time. That was okay. Middle school boys were dumb. High school boys were possibly dumber. It took most of the way through college for me to feel like things might come out all right. But they did. Just give it time.
I tossed on my dad’s old sweatshirt because the day we launched rockets in the playground was cold and crummy. I had no idea I’d go to college there, years later. There was a world waiting that I couldn’t have imagined, one where I didn’t have to go to bed at the same time as my six-year-old brother and where I wouldn’t have to add black olives to the spaghetti sauce I cooked and where I’d discover that I might want to teach awkward, gangly middle schoolers someday. And where I’d still wear that same sweatshirt. And still need to be reminded sometimes that it will be okay.