Junior high is over – and my angst should be, too.

Third year is stressful – but nothing beats age thirteen for sheer madness

I was feeling pretty sorry for myself the other day.

 I had come home from an eight hour burst of editing for TV class, and all I could think about was making dinner and going to bed, even while a long list of upcoming assignments was forming in my head. I’m being robbed of my youth, I thought angrily. I should have free time! Time to go for languid bike rides, make that recipe for couscous filled grilled peppers, browse antiquarian book shops for travel novels from the ’50s . . .

 Of course, how I really spend my free time is a little different (eating pop tarts on the couch at the student paper office, checking out grad students in the campus pub, forgetting to do my dishes). And I really had no reason to pity myself.

 I didn’t come to this conclusion because I recalled that I have healthy friends and family, and I get to live in a nice country and go to university. No, I reached this epiphany because I remembered one thing:

 I am no longer in junior high.

 No matter how long any day gets – no matter how many times I feel mildly sleepy or stressed, or feel like attending Canadian Foreign Policy lecture is really an inconvenience when I would rather be at home reading Esquire, I don’t think it will ever be as bad as a single day from grades seven to nine.

 My high school guidance counsellor once told me that those years can be cruel at the best of times. Who knows what an honest junior high guidance counsellor would have said. Probably that junior high is essentially adolescent hell.

 I’m not sure how your junior high years were. I got off pretty lightly myself. I was gangly, had a sweating problem, refused to participate in gym, didn’t like showering, and generally wore a scowl that seemed to express deep and profound revulsion with everyone and everything around me.

 I also spent most of my time obsessing over the alarming pop spawn of the British group S Club 7, a clutch of over-managed pre-pubescents called (imaginatively) S Club 8. I knew all of their songs, and once – outside a Roger’s Video and overtaken by an unexplainable bout of hormonal emotion – sang almost their entire debut album in a broken falsetto through lurching sobs.

 “She’s horrible, Mum. When is she going to stop?” my sister, Laura, asked from the back seat.

 I remember my Mother looking pained. “She’s almost finished, I think. She just needs to get it all out . . .”

 At thirteen, I was emotional, delusional, boy crazy, furious, and so lacking a sense of direction I once got lost in my own neighbourhood. Worst of all, everyone else was almost as bad.

 Very few people I know had a super time in junior high school. For the most part they all had bowl cuts, were a bit smelly, and were once told over MSN chat that “nobody liked them” by girls who probably went on to become criminals or dental hygienists. Few other careers are really possible for children who succeed socially in junior high.

 Life in university isn’t so bad, in comparison. No one makes fun of my clothes, I don’t have to take math, and it’s full of other people who were dorky at thirteen. People hold the door for you, and birthday party invitations aren’t as controversial as they once were.

 Since then I’ve been feeling pretty good. Yup, it’s that time of year – everyone is starting to get a little sleep and shower deprived, and I seem to spend at least ten minutes daily walking in panicked circles, flipping frantically through my agenda, and moaning loudly.

 But I’ll still take third year over age thirteen any day of the week.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.