Growing Strong

Sixth grade was like tea without sugar or wet socks or a much anticipated  hello directed at the person behind you. It sucked.

Everything was about how you looked, it seemed. I didn’t have much going for me. I was short for my age, and skinny, no curves and my hair didn’t ringlet like the other mixed girls’, it poofed like magic. My pretty beige skin was haunted by red dots that collected around my temples and chin and I liked my pants high, with belts. Tight belts, buckled in the last hole, so that the tail hung off my hip like a samurai sword.

My homeroom was gym. You would think that alone should make a 12 year old happy. It didn’t. It meant far too much unsupervised lapses of locker room time for social torture. It was the perfect start to horrible days. Like when I found my favorite multi-colored leather ankle boots in the toilet after a day in our swim unit.

Everyone cussed too. And in my house, “shut-up” got you spanked. So I started practicing. I would stand in front of the bathroom full length mirror in the mornings, and I would practice putting together vulgarity as ammo for the bus ride. Whatever laughable string of words you are thinking in your head right now, you are probably right on. It was ridiculous. One of the few times I actually dared to release a well rehearsed line toward a kid in the seat behind me, a thick pink maxi-pad fell out of the side pocket of my backpack and he stopped me mid-sentence to bring the entire buss’ attention to it. Dare I explain that I hadn’t even hit puberty and my mom stuck them in for precautionary measures?

This was my life. I couldn’t win for losing.

My mom still tells me that sixth grade was a good year for me because it made me merciful to the underdog. She is right. That year was good for me, for many reasons. It is our adversity that makes us stronger. The strength is in the humility, in the grounding, in the focus. Strength begins in knowing our fragility and appreciating it..being small, and being ok with it.

Thanks sixth grade.

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