“What was I thinking!?” seems to be the most popular phrase among those looking back on their middle school years.
Whether it’s a selfie I took donning a pair of abnormally large sunglasses taken on my digital camera, a picture of me wearing ankle socks and ballet flats while drowning in my plaid school skirt, or an old journal entry I found declaring my obsession with The Beatles, I remember each event with sheer amusement and gratefulness that I’ve grown and developed since then.
Now, however, I’ve noticed that the awkward tween stage is disappearing more and more. I remember in middle school when girls wore ankle socks with ballet flats and had colored bands on their braces. During gym class, none of us were afraid to get active, sweaty, and actually participate. Over the past couple of years, I remember seeing middle school girls walking to and from gym class with their phones in their hand, trying not to break a sweat for fear of smudging their makeup of mussing up their hair. Now every middle schooler has an iPhone and their whole world revolves around Instagram. They know more about makeup than I do and I can barely tell how old so many kids are because they look so drastically different from middle schoolers a few years ago.
Childhoods are becoming abbreviated because of the growing media influence to which they are exposed. As a tween, even though I was “older” and “cooler” than my little sister, I would still come home from school each day and frollick around outside with her or play the games she was still interested in. Once you’ve grown up, you can never go back. I wanted to extend my childhood for as long as possible and do the things I loved to do before I genuinely lost interest.
I’m (somewhat) proud of my awkward stage because it was a time where I got to find myself. I experimented with different styles (ask my friends about my brief 8th grade rebellious stage) and dabbled in numerous different activities. Yes, times are constantly changing, but it’s so important for kids to understand that they should be who they want to be. Don’t let kids turn into what they think society wants them to be, or what they think society will accept. It’s up to positive role models to encourage girls to just slow down and enjoy their childhood while it lasts. The awkward stage is a right of passage into high school, or if you’re like me, my awkward stage continued throughout high school.
It’s okay to have some childish fun and use your imagination. You don’t need to bring your phone everywhere you go. Be young and be yourself. I wasn’t afraid to put myself out there and get involved, and the unfortunate thing nowadays is that “tweens” don’t want to break from everyday routine or comfort, or risk embarrassing themselves. The awkward stage is all about being uncomfortable with yourself while being completely happy at the same time.
I would never have it any other way. I would never have wanted to remember my middle school years by the amount of Instagram followers I had. I’m so glad I am able to look through innumerable cringe worthy pictures of me during my awkward stage and say “Wow… look how much I’ve changed.”