The back of the picture says “Janie, 13 yrs old.” Yet I look twelve or younger. Certainly nothing like a thirteen year old today. I’d lost weight, so likely was not wearing chubby girl clothes. In 6th grade I’d discovered running—a solitary sport. It started innocently enough (it might have been a punishment) the Phys Ed teacher sent the class consisting of 6 – 8th graders on a one-mile run. We left the school and wound through back streets. Again, no one would be allowed to do this today without a drone or security camera following. I remember passing 8th grade boys who looked like men until finally there was no one ahead of me. I remember thinking: This is crazy; I can’t be this good. I expected to die of exhaustion. But I kept going and ran back into the front parking lot of the school.
If middle school is hell then 7th grade was the absolute inner ring. I suddenly had no friends. They were too busy having sex or illicitly drinking or smoking or doing drugs or talking about all of the above. I wasn’t impressed—and so an outlier. I kept trying to persuade my old friends that it was stupid, pretentious, and actually immature. But to them it was I who was immature for not going along.
I spent a lot of time reading and writing in my journal. I read the book The Outsiders and it was as if my head snapped off my shoulders. This was real, a story that I wished I had written.
It was a difficult time. I was too fat, too small, too smart, not smart enough, kinda cute, but not pretty. Definitely nerdy before nerdy was a thing. I kept a calendar of bad days and good ones and by the end of the year had accumulated many more bad than good. If I were to name the worst time in my school life it would be seventh grade.