Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Spaz

Joshua was exhausted.

He needed to hear this: "Be strong of of good courage, be not afraid. Neither be dismayed for the Lord thy God is with thee wheresoever those goest."

When I was in 8th Grade I was desperate to be popular. I was utterly ordinary. We called kids like me a "spaz" in the 70's. The kids that I hung around with were the popular dudes. They needed me. But not for the reasons I hoped. I was the "note" girl. The delivery girl. The mail service. When one of the popular boys wanted to give a note to someone to ask them to "go with" them, I was the one that delivered that sacred news. "Going with someone" was the 1970's version of "facebook official" I guess. We were too young to date, so we just "went" with people. We danced with them at the 7th grade Sweethearts Ball - you know that dance that started at 3:30 in the afternoon and ended at 5?

I never "went" with anyone, though I craved the opportunity. I took my job as "wingman" very seriously hoping that I would take a note from some popular, newly single boy and he would casually brush my chubby 8th grade hand, lock eyes with me, hear the bells, and realize that the name on the note was....MINE! But that never happened. I never gave up hope though, and consequently the mail was delivered without fail, rain or shine.

I also rode the cusp of the group of kids that thought the popular group was ridiculous. They were the "smart kids." And they were VERY spazzy. I was only sorta smart. I did my homework and I went to school, but only because I had parents to please and mail to deliver. (Before email - human snail mail was exhausting.)

I didn't feel at home in either group. I thought I was the only person that felt that way. Ah, junior high!

So one day I was walking up over the overpass by my parents house with some cool kids from the popular group and they offered me a little plastic bag full of pills that would "make everything awesome." I started giggling that precursor-to-a-heart-attack giggle...the smart kids rumored this was happening in the school, but suddenly I knew who they were, and it was happening to me. I felt - all at once - so scared I instantly needed to pee, AND... popular.  I saw my aunts house and I tried to make an excuse to go there, but because I was only sorta smart, I didn't come up with one fast enough or good enough for them to believe that I was supposed to stop there. I did need to pee awfully bad though. ;-) So I walked on. I was about three blocks from my house and that was plenty of time for them to persuade me to take the pills. Which they pursued with a vengeance.

I distinctly remember one boy saying "C'mon you chicken, I think she's too chicken." Was it really going to be this ordinary? Chicken? At least say "fraidy cat" or something interesting. I admit it would have taken me a lot of courage to participate in that activity, which I had never done before. I imagined my babysitting money being spent on drugs, my mother's disappointment, the reputation I had flying off my head and being replaced with a big stamp "loser." Only in the 70's it might have read "burn out." Yikes. I had a decision to make right then.

Good courage meant I could walk away, but I was too far from home and I didn't have a cell phone in 1978. So I continued to walk with the group and after I stopped giggling, I decided to say "no thanks."

And it was that easy. It was that ordinary. It felt so SPAZZY. I said "no thanks." In part because I was grateful that they would consider me part of their popular group and partially because I was learning about good courage. So I said "no thanks" about 20 times until I was within running distance of my house.

My dad was the bishop (church leader) and I had seen many destitute people burn outs come into our home for help and my mom would shoo us into the back room until they were gone and she would say "if you do drugs, you will be like that someday. You must be braver than that." Hehehehe.... and here I was, in the test of my training, and I actually acted on the expectation of my parents, because I knew without the shadow of a doubt that I was strong. I had been endowed with good courage.

When I got home I ran down to my room and cried and cried. I was exhausted from the anxiety of the situation...growing up pains. (I can identify that emotion easily now that I have perfected it as an adult.) I was also afraid that those kids would tell everyone in the school that I was a chicken.

But they didn't.

I did have a new reputation however of someone that would always say no. There wasn't a word spoken between us in the four years of high school that followed. I can respect that.

In the end of that era, the spazzy junior high years, I quickly distanced myself from the group and my mail business went belly up. Well...because I was soooo good at it, the smart kids did use my services, but lets face it, smart kids just didn't get asked to "go with" someone very often.

I didn't learn until I was teaching junior high aged kids 25 years later, that moving around from group to group is how we learn who we are. Acting on the expectations of your parents is who we become. I'm very glad that they expected so much of me and that they taught me good courage. Good courage is serving your fellowmen, taking an assignment outside of your skill set, saying no to your urge to buy something you can't afford, facing your addictions, bringing children into the world, walking away from a Costco chocolate cake...and walking away from the mail delivery service.