Middle School: The Best Worst Years of Our Lives. But Mostly the Worst.

Brigid Ambuul, Reporter

We need to stop pretending that middle school is in the distant past. The oldest among us clocks in only four years of distance from the dark days of side ponytails and voice cracks. So why, I ask you, is it so taboo to bring up the fact that we all have lingering allegiances to our past tastes in music, movies and youth fiction series about Greek mythology?

I’m not ashamed.

At least I wasn’t, until two days ago when I brought it up and my friends made fun of me. Then I realized I should be.

You know what?

No. I am not ashamed of my lingering love for the Percy Jackson series. If you want to come up to me and tell me that Rick Riordan isn’t a master of blending sarcasm and education about ancient religions, be my friggin’ guest. I’ll just shut you down with my extensive knowledge about mythological creatures. Do you know what blend of animals makes up a Chimera? No? I didn’t think so.

Listen, I’m an isolated experience, and perhaps I’m unable to convince you of my purpose alone. So I decided to hit the streets and gather some data from the masses to find out what hidden obsessions I could dredge out of the hormone-riddled depths of the pre-teen realm.

Let’s begin with the basics. Meet junior Grace Cooper.   

Cooper: I was into some really uh (long pause) cool, interests, in middle school. I was very much into the emo scene, I really liked emo music. I’m talking like, My Chemical Romance, Sleeping with Sirens… I was also very very into, uh, All Time Low; you know, Hot Topic in a nutshell.

At this time, another unsuspecting fly landed in my trap. Her name was Ysa Baker, and she wasn’t going to stroll into my interview with Cooper and leave unquestioned.

Brigid: Ysa, before you leave, would you like to bring up anything?

Baker: I can’t think of anything. But, none of my stuff is embarrassing, like, I still like it with full force. Uh, really emo bands like Black Veil Brides, and Pierce the Veil—

Cooper lit up like a Christmas tree. I guess she was relieved to know that she wasn’t alone in her middle school experience. After that, she was willing to talk about her emo phase with little inhibition. There’s probably some sort of nice message in that, but that’s a job for some other article.

Cooper: (laughing in solidarity with the emo-ness) I saw them live! I saw them live!

Baker: Falling in Reverse—

Cooper: I saw them all at Warped Tour 2015!

Ah, 2015. A golden year.

Baker: That’s my ‘deep confession’. I used to listen to Black Veil Brides sometimes. (pauses to laugh and reminisce, catches that I am ignorant to the emo scene and turns to explain) They, like, scream.

Cooper: When I’m having a particularly sad day I’ll go home and I’ll put on My Chemical Romance and I’ll headbang. Like I have videos ㅡ which I will not show you ㅡ but I’ll sit there and I’m like (pauses to give a visual of the head-banging) yeahhhh. I’m like, reliving my middle school angst and sadness to the tune of My Chemical Romance.

The “emo scene” was evidently a popular one across the middle school boards. How I missed it, I’ll never know. Perhaps it was my rigid Catholic school education clashing with the dark, underground tones of bands like Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy.

Or maybe it was because I was too busy listening to One Direction.

Let’s move on to a new plane of obsession. An entirely new level. Some might call it a whole different universe.

Beginning with Senior Faye Richards.

Richards: Well, I liked a lot of weird things in middle school that I should probably not discuss, the most important one being Kili the Dwarf from “the Hobbit”. Um, he was, just, what can I say, he was the most, um, enticing of all the dwarves. And let me tell you, I was swept off my feet by that dwarf, Kili. He had greasy hair that came down to his shoulders, and his sharp jawline. And I actually have a journal that I found and there’s a picture of his face cut out and there’s the word “Kili” and there’s hearts everywhere. And you know what, even though it’s kinda weird, I still think Kili the Dwarf is pretty, like, hmm. He’s pretty uh, he’s probably— (turns to the computer screen on which a nearby listener has pulled up a google image search of Kili the Dwarf) Yeah, look at him! He’s hot! He’s an attractive dwarf, what can I say?

An excerpt from “the journal”. Used with permission from Faye Richards.


To those who might venture to poke fun at Richards’ passion for J. R. R. Tolkien’s minor literary creation Kili the Dwarf, I say, look him up. Do it. Then ask yourself why the creators of the “Hobbit” movies chose to give so much screen time to a character who is barely touched on in the books.

I know you know why.

Finding passions outside of reality is no strange concept to junior Paige Townsend, either.

Townsend: So, when I was in seventh grade, I was really into Doctor Who. (leans closer to the recording device) Really. Into Doctor Who. And, for Christmas of that year, 2014, 2015, (we are briefly interrupted as Richards continues to show us Google images of Kili the Dwarf), my grandmother got me a life-size, cardboard cutout of David Tennant, who is the tenth Doctor. And, I had that in the corner of my room, benevolently watching over me (pause once again for Kili the Dwarf) … for a good two years. Probably until ninth grade — I think until ninth grade, actually.

And now, he is upside-down in my closet, facing the wall, and (in slight anguish) I don’t know what to do with him. But, he’s there. He’s in there. So if any of you ever come into my room, know that David Tennant’s effigy and likeness is in my closet. Thank you. (We are interrupted, one final time, to look at photos of Kili the Dwarf. I express here my personal opinion that Faye has held onto that attachment for longer than she led us to believe.)

Doctor Who is apparently one of the more beloved TV shows amongst middle school students, as a good amount of those I interviewed listed it as one of their“obsessions” from sixth to eighth grade. Who can blame them? I myself fell under the spell of the galaxy-traversing man of many faces. He travels around in a flying blue box! That’s such a novel concept!

Next, we find ourselves delving into the pre-teen years of senior Zoe Semenza, who found her affections linked to a certain inhabitant of a Galaxy Far Far Away.

Semenza: So, in middle school, I was really into Star Wars, so I developed feelings for young Mr. [Luke] Skywalker. Yeah, I thought he was really hot. So I wrote a three-part Star Wars trilogy fanfiction where I was his [Luke’s] wife, and we traveled the galaxy and used the Force and stuff. So, it was really fun. They [the stories] were actually really long. Like, I spent a good solid two years writing those books. Yeah. We had a child, too.

Brigid: What’s its name?

Semenza: (long pause) I don’t remember! But I remember that it was really sad because she didn’t have the Force even though we did. And it threw a wrench into our marriage. We really struggled. I also had my friend Photoshop — a picture — where it basically looked like we were kissing. That was my desktop screensaver for — a while. So, yeah. Those were good times.

Side note: When I asked her if she would be willing to share that photoshopped picture for this article, she promptly replied, “The pink version, or the blue version?” I wanted both.

The “Pink Version”. Used with permission from Zoe Semenza.
The “Blue Version”. Used with permission from Zoe Semenza.

While some of us might try to stuff our past selves upside-down into the proverbial closet, maybe we could all do well to look back and realize that those awkward kids are just smaller and slightly less hygienic versions of us now. And hey, if you love something, love it with as much gusto as you can. It doesn’t matter what it is: eyeliner-wearing male musicians, sci-fi series, dwarves. They’re all art, and they’re all valid things to enjoy. And whether you still love ‘em or not, they’re still a part of you. And that’s worth acknowledging. Or making fun of. Hey, if we can’t laugh together about the most awkward years of our lives, what’s the point?

And remember: you’re almost certainly going to be laughing about your high school self in 10 years’ time. Consider it practice.