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Pushing Through

It’s true that high school applications are not all there is to eighth grade, but that doesn’t mean that thinking about high school and transitioning isn’t a big part of it either.

As I stayed up late talking with my close friend last night, we realized something huge: In some way, elementary school and middle school are connected to each other. Fifth grade to sixth grade is a smaller jump than sixth grade to eighth grade, and as you get closer to eighth grade, you get closer to realizing that your years of being a younger student are over. Entering high school is all about entering as a much bigger person than the student you were entering middle school.

That’s why it was so rough for me when I didn’t know what high school I was going to. I had to imagine a time that would come very soon even though I didn’t know where to imagine myself. Then I did. I’m going to the Beacon School next year. When I found out, I felt like I could finally breathe. All of the waiting was worth it because I got into the school that I wanted and I felt this huge weight lifted off my shoulders. How unusual, though, that a month ago I thought I was the biggest failure ever but it turns out that I actually got into my first choice.

Ironically or not, Beacon is a school that doesn’t even consider a student’s score on the Specialized High School Admission Test, a test that I felt I had failed. I no longer felt alone and embarrassed. From sixth grade on, I worked hard to achieve good grades so I could get in to the school that I wanted to. Although the SHSAT score was upsetting to me, I realized later on that it had no effect on the school that I really and truly wanted to get into. I took the test in hope that I would just find out early, and that didn’t happen. But it didn’t lower my chances of getting into the school that I actually cared about.

So then the high school part of my year was over, and all I could do was sit back, relax, and see where the rest of the year would take me.

I learned soon enough of the things that fill up your last year of middle school. Turns out it was not just my friend and me who were observing the transition and thinking about how we were really growing up and becoming adults.

Eighth-graders around us are realizing the same thing, but instead of just thinking about it, they are taking action and doing grown up things assuming that it’s okay now that they are graduating middle school.

As they smoke and drink I ask myself why they are rushing to grow up. I am using the rest of my middle school experience to look back at how much I’ve grown and get ready for my high school experience. But other people around me are using the duration of middle school to rush forward. I feel separate from them.

When I am an adult, I want to look back at my childhood and know that I was happy and that I lived it full. These last few months in middle school are filled with the pressure to end childhood on a good note and the sadness knowing that it’s coming to an end. I don’t rush because I know that I don’t have much longer to be kid, but I have the rest of my life to be an adult. 8th grade for me is about savoring the moments that I have left and living them well.

As we come to a time in our lives where we have to leave our childhood behind, people do strange things. For me, I try to hold on to my younger years. Others try to do adult things that show other people that they aren’t babies any more.

I know that I am going to high school next year and I know that I am ready to grow up, but not as fast as others and not in the way that others are. We all want to grow up but we’re choosing different ways to make us feel like we actually are. Others are rushing into the feeling of growing up by doing grown up things, and others are using reflection and remembering the past in order to prepare themselves for the future.

I fall into this second category: For me, eighth grade isn’t as much about looking ahead to high school as it is about looking back at your childhood and pushing yourself forward to a new world of learning. Come to think of it, I’m actually doing both.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.