In just a few weeks, I will be done with Middle School. Everyone told me Middle School was going to be a difficult time, and it is, for so many people. There’s braces, acne, dating, and that’s just for starters. But the hardest thing of all is finding your way socially. Middle School for me has included the seventh, eighth and ninth grade. Where I’m from, a lot of “secondary schools” start in seventh or eighth grade. There are new campuses, new uniforms and new pressures. And it’s a time when friendship groups change and the social pecking order is re-established. Kids that may have been your friends in junior school might now be more interested in getting into the cool group. And if you don’t make it into the cool group too, those friendships are over.
I am a singer and an actor. At school, I’m what you’d call a drama kid. I’m on scholarship for Performing Arts so I have to do the musical and I am in the band. I also play sport and I’m a pretty good cricketer. But the cool kids at my school will never see me as one of them, so long as I am also a drama kid. It took me a really long time to accept this. I was bullied in my first year of Middle School. Things settled down in my second year and were mostly downgraded to exclusion from parties. The coolest kids seem to be going to parties every weekend; it’s like their whole lives revolve around partying and getting wasted. I think about the word “wasted” and I can see why it’s called that. What a waste (of time, talent etc). There have been times over the last three years when I’ve had to fight back and stand up to my bullies. It’s been hard but it’s also felt great. But the turning point for me this year, and for everyone I think, was reaching a level of acceptance. They’ve accepted me as the drama kid, and I’ve accepted my place outside of the cool group. And it’s okay because I don’t even like or want to hang around with those kids anyway. I’ve learned to accept myself for who I am and I’m no longer trying to be something I’m not.
Now that Middle School is almost over, I wanted to share some survival tips, as they really helped me and I hope they’ll help you too. Below are a few things I recommend you try if you are feeling harassed, bullied or excluded:
HAVE A SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX
Your social pages are yours, they should be your safe space. Go through your Instagram follow list, and anyone who is no longer a real friend, unfollow them. Then block them and unblock them so they will no longer be following you. Set your account to private if it isn’t already. Anyone who is outright sending you hateful messages, for example on Snapchat, block them and keep them blocked. People really hate it when you do that! I don’t think there’s anything worse than checking your Instagram feed and seeing photos of everyone at a party you weren’t invited to (and didn’t even know was happening). You don’t need that in your life. Unfollow. Chances are the party was crap anyway. You might also like to take a total break from social media for a while. Take back the control and you’ll be so much better off.
FOCUS ON YOUR REAL FRIENDS
Pretty much everyone knows people at other schools (who doesn’t go to activities after school?). Make the effort with your friends outside of school. Hang with them whenever you have free time. Some of my best friends are my friends from my drama group. As for your actual school friends, the truth is, you really only really need two or three close friends. Who wants a whole bunch of people you don’t actually know and can’t really trust? Hang with the good ones on weekends, invite them over and do stuff together. I’ve also made friends with kids in both the year level above me and the year level below me. There’s a big group of performing kids at my school and we are all at a lot of lunchtime rehearsals and performance tours together. They are all awesome and heaps of fun. So try to find people to hang with that make you happy and get rid of the ones that put you down.
HAVE A LUNCHTIME SURVIVAL PLAN
Avoid the areas where the bullies are at lunchtime if you can. Use the “out of sight, out of mind” approach. If you are being bullied by someone, I can guarantee that bully is targeting other kids too. So, avoid the bullies and they’ll just go find someone else to torment. Another tip: the Library can be a good getaway place at lunchtime. It took me a long time to appreciate this. All Libraries should have a Wifi service and most kids have an electronic device. Go and chill in the Library and listen to some music (or be like me and watch The Walking Dead on your laptop.) Or, do your homework. Just get yourself away from the toxic schoolyard situation however you can.
TALK TO A TRUSTED ADULT
For me, my parents have always had my back. Find someone you trust, whether it’s your parents, an Aunt, a teacher, or a much older sibling or cousin. Talk to someone who has been through it all and can give you wisdom. Don’t suffer alone. If the bullying is really bad, you are going to need an adult’s help.
HAVE A CREATIVE OUTLET
Find some way to express yourself in a creative way. Whether it’s painting, craft, blogging, a journal, poetry, or in my case, songwriting, find a way to channel your feelings. If it wasn’t for my experiences in Middle School, I wouldn’t have material for my first original song, Hide Yourself, which was directly inspired by my time at school.
REMEMBER THE BIG PICTURE
Middle School doesn’t last forever. Neither does school – or anything – for that matter. Most of the people at school will be a distant memory in a few short years. School is just one tiny part of your life, and the best is yet to come. Just remember that who you are at school does not define you forever. And believe in karma. Coz what goes around, comes around.
Send me a DM and let me know if this has helped you.
Photo credit: Cathryn Farnsworth, LA