Middle school—or, as we called it at the time, Junior High—was when I first and finally came into my own. Instead of being the only nerd, the only gay boy, and the only Jew in my entire elementary school, I found that I was one of many in all of those categories, even the ones I couldn’t name yet.
I joined Show Choir, and although it sounds trite in the age of Glee, it really was the first place I felt the sense of belonging. Only it was more than belonging. I had a clique, and I often felt like the leader. Looking back, I’m not sure any of the other seven kids who were part of my seventh-grade show choir clique would agree that I was the leader, or that there was a leader, but it doesn’t matter. I felt like I was, and that empowered me to be a leader in many things going forward. So whether or not it was true in seventh grade, it became true by eighth grade, and there was no doubt by tenth grade when I was the chapter president of my youth group and on track to become regional president of the same group, plus editor of my school newspaper and both a student director and a leading actor in our drama program.
Junior High was when I figured out who I was, more or less. By the time I entered ninth grade, I knew I was gay, I knew that being Jewish was very important to me, I knew I was someone who liked to be in charge (and thankfully was often good at it)… There were still some kinks to work out, but the foundations were all there by the time I entered high school.
Last week I joked with someone that I peaked in middle school, and there’s some truth to that. I don’t think it was my highest peak or my final peak, but it was one of my first and likely one of my most important.