I was 21 when I started teaching middle school (known as junior high back in the day). No more than 9 years separated me from my students.
My first 7th grade class turned 53 this year. One of my best friends is 53. So is my current school principal.
Basically, my middle school students and I were the same age.
I was 46 when I returned to middle school, smack in the middle of midlife.
Surprisingly, my middle school students and I were still the same age.
Midlife is a lot like middle school. Both are journeys of self discovery.
My insights about this are not researched based. If you're looking for hard data to support my claim, you won't find it here. Despite two advanced degrees, a coaching certification, and tens of thousands of hours of experience, I won't quote studies or statistics. Only the occasional spiritual teacher or inspiring student.
But I've conducted quite a field study.
In my work as their counselor, I availed myself to about 1000 students a year for almost 20 years. My midlife years.
So I'm drawing on my unique perspective, one I gained in a real-life laboratory. And on the many lessons middle schoolers have both learned and taught me. Their names have been changed, but not their stories.
I'll "promote" from middle school for the 26th and final time this year as my later life stretches out in front of me. So bottom line: if I'm not an expert in these parallel universes, I may be as close to one as anyone can be.
One thing I've learned is that aging is a funny thing. No matter where you are on the spectrum, you greet it with something between anticipation and trepidation.
When you're 14, getting older feels like the most exciting thing in the world. Freedom, independence, autonomy...you just can't wait! And it's a little scary.
When you're 50, getting older can feel both promising and terrifying. Again.
But at 14 or 50, aging's coming, ready or not.
In both life stages, we dance with our thoughts about this.
We curtsy to that BIG C, CHANGE. We learn to navigate it, strive to make peace with it, try to thrive in the process.
At 14 and 50, fear can overtake us. Sometimes nothing fits. The world can be confusing.
And we have dreams for ourselves. We're pretty grown up but not fully grown.
We battle our changing bodies, scratch our heads over friendships, welcome resilience.
Are you relieved to hear that midlife is a middle school do-over? Or, as you reminisce, are you a little nauseous?
Take heart, fellow (or future) mid-lifers! Let's just enjoy some reflection and a few reminders of what you probably learned years ago but possibly forgot.
Midlife and middle school: when we're old enough to know better and young enough to do it anyway.
Am I right? How is this idea sitting with you? What memories or milestones from your young life do you carry with you today? What are some of your midlife lessons?
Please leave your comments below, and let's start the conversation!