Junior High Flashback… Tragic

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Remember Junior high? Remember how awkward it was?  Too old for elementary school, and secure enough in your multiplication tables that Algebra was the logical next step, but still too young for high school and not prepared for Pre-Cal. Junior high was an abyss of identity; an unmistakable black hole of self-esteem. A time and place void of reason, purpose, or the promise of a place where rumors didn’t dictate lunch table placement. 

Junior high was this really tragic middle ground; this era in adolescence that was comprised of being completely insecure in how you look, totally unaware of who you really are, and painstakingly afraid of every recess period for fear of not being picked to play with the “cool girls.”

Or at least that my was junior high experience. And you couldn’t pay me to go back. There is nothing about that time that I would want to relive. I had braces… and a head gear. I had a lot of baby fat (how long can I continue to claim that, by the way?). I had a severe ugly phase for, well, a really long time. I had one girl friend and absolutely no guy friends. I got along better with my teachers than I did my peers.  And I wasn’t the brightest crayon in the coloring box.

But we all know that those years, and the insecurities that they bring, pass with time, fade with maturity, and are overcome in large part with experience. We’re better for them; stronger because of them. My teeth are now perfectly straight and my jaw accurately aligned. I won’t touch the baby fat comment. I have more friends now, people who know who I really am and still stick around. I have a job that I am good at.  Because as it turns out, it’s not really about what you know, but how malleable you are; how quickly you can adapt and learn.

But then, years later, the cousin’s of prior insecurities find you and camp out in your front yard.  To what am I referring? The adult version of junior high: being a “twenty-something.”

Being a twenty-something lands you on a very familiar playground to the ones of your past. The abyss is no longer about who you are, it’s about what you are supposed to be doing. What career path to choose? what job to settle for instead in order to pay the bills? what dream you let die because it’s irrational or improbable? These are all now decisions you have to make in order to answer the question “what is my role in society?”

The black-hole of self-esteem still lingers unfortunately. Turns out the cousin is more like a twin. It’s not because you don’t know who you are though; it’s because you don’t know if who you are is enough. You don’t know if who you are will be accepted in the work place as “qualified.” You don’t know if who you really are will succeed. The black hole of self-esteem asks the question, “Does who you really are have what it takes? If you are your true self, how far will it get you?”

The tragic middle ground now revolves around what part of the social spectrum you belong too. I am no longer a college student, but there are in fact some people who are my age and still in college.  It’s a growing trend, and they’re not all becoming doctors.

I have only been working for two full years, which means that I am not eligible for 99% of non-entry level jobs, because so many require at least 3-5 years experience in a given field. 

The government told me I could legally vote and smoke at 18. The FDA told me I could legally drink at 21.  Insurance and car rentals companies won’t trust me until I’m 25.  And I’m pretty sure Uncle Sam started stealing from my piggy bank, day one. 

So how do I know how to categorize myself? I fit here and there… and yet nowhere at all.

I’ve noticed the same thing in churches (with the exception of the piggy bank stealing).

There’s “college and twenty-somethings” classes. There’s “young married couples” classes and there’s “working professionals” classes.  But I really don’t fit into any category for the following reasons:

1. Twenty-somethings and college students don’t have anything in common. The year after I graduated was a crash course in life, adulthood, bills, etc. Getting a job meant not making up your own schedule so as to have every Friday off. I was no longer assigned homework because what was expected of me was to be done immediately. And there was no such thing as extra credit– you do it right the first time. I was an employee, a colleague, and a participant; the days of spectating and taking notes were over. It was game time. All engines go, full throttle.

2. If you have read this blog more than once, chances are that you have picked up the little hints that, I am SUPER single.  Ergo, joining a “young married’s” class would get me… depressed.

3. The “young working professional’s” classes are somewhat deceiving.  They are in fact working professionals, but being called “young” is relative. If they’re compared to 80 year olds, than sure, they’re young whipper-snappers alright. But in most instances, the agee range here is defined to “between 28-40.”  My friends and I like to call these classes the “meat market”– Older singles who really don’t want to be single anymore.

And we’re back to the original question; given our options, where do I fit? In what group do I belong? With whom can I share the most practical and relevant life experiences? Where can I, by simply converting oxygen to CO2, contribute to others?

I have resolved that it is yet to be determined, but I am anxious to hear your thoughts and opinions.

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About mndunn26

I recently realized that my life is somewhat of a beautiful mess. A "pollack-type-picture" if you will, of colors, experiences, and people that, despite the seeming disarray, is captivating & confusing; patterened & yet unpredictable. But most of all, it is mysteriously designed, purposed, and appointed. For what? I don't know yet... but I'm learning as I go.

10 responses »

  1. whew. you have completely described my life right now (in the past 5 years, really). good to know we’re in this together 😉

    • Sarah! Thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to say “Hey, yeah. Me too!” What an awesome thing to know that there are so many people in the same boart, we just need to row together!

  2. Jr High is the cruelest thing a parent ever does to a child–this is gonna sound a little ‘fundie’ of me, but I believe JH, as we know it today, is a tool of satan.

    Twenty-something-ism is nothing more than JH without the cafeteria food. The bullies have all grown up and the bullied acquiesce. Again, this is satan’s playground, his purpose to seek-out and destroy.

    The sad news is that Jesus sent many a saint to rescue me during these tumultuous times and I refused His grace. It was not until about my mid 20’s that I realized I could have breezed through this valley of death had I climbed into the Life boat.

    Water under the bridge now, but I hope that some JH-er or 20-S-T would read this and take note: Jesus loves you and He won’t snatch you out of your situation, but He will see you through it all. Just tell Him you believe.

  3. Meredith–I absolutely love reading your blog and wow, you definitely hit it dead on. I feel like 20s are a constant adjustment–no matter what you are going through and it is just hard sometimes to figure out how we are supposed to live our lives. And are we trying to live our lives the way we want, or the way He wants or the way society expects? Anyways, always enjoy your blog and really loved this one.

    • Coutney! Your words mean so much, you have no idea! Thank you for reading. Isn’t it crazy how much college doesn’t prepare you?! There’s not a textbook for reality; everything we learn is theory with no room for life. But we serve such a good and gracious God and each day is such a beautiful adventure! I hope that married life is treating you well so far! Miss you friend.

  4. wow. are you reading my thoughts or something? I do have such a hard time fitting in. Most of my friends are in college, but I do not feel called in that direction. I am just 20 and I have been working in a single field for over 2 years, but I am still so young, and I cannot figure out where I belong. I like your 25 comment. I am one of those people who does not care about turning 21, I just want to be 25 so I can rent a car. It seems as though no one will take me seriously until I am 25, yet here I am 20 years old and wrestling with adult decisions. Is the time right to be heading toward marriage? Should I change my career? Is this the right time to move back to Colorado Springs? How can I make a difference in this world?
    And it is hard to make friends. I seem to have little in common with college students my age, and many out of college think I am too young for them. I almost miss being 18. I was working the same kind of job, paying the same bills, but for some reason, life was more of a playground.

  5. Girl, I’ve been there, and been there, and been there. I totally get your point. And I can’t fix it. Unfortunately. I wish I could. I wish I could change things to that other people didn’t have to deal with what I dealt with. But that’s not possible.

    Here’s what I can do. I can remind you that as CRAZY lonely as being a single 20-something feels, amazingly enough, you’re not alone. Every other 20-something single person is dealing with the same crap, the same emotions, the same “how come I don’t belong with anyone else or anywhere at all?” questions. It just feels like no one is. I have started to talk about these things in the last several months (as you may know) and people are coming out of the woodwork and telling me that they get it, they agree, they’ve been there, etc. I can’t figure out why it feels so individual and so lonely, but please take comfort in knowing that there are people out there like you who get it. (I didn’t believe it either)

    • thanks so much for sharing, Rose! I couldn’t agree more with you about how finally deciding to say something has encouraged so many people to chime in and say “Hey! me too!” No one stands alone, ever.

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