Saturday, February 12, 2011

Manage your mannerisms

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Middle school is God's preview for purgatory, in my humble opinion. Unless He meant it to be a taste of Hell, in which case: good job, God. It did the trick, I never want to go there.

During my time in Hell, I observed and people-watched so thoroughly that I created in my  mind a PhD dissertation outlining "How to Look Cool." I knew how "the popular kids" got to their thrones, I understood why it worked for them but not everyone, and I would attempt to implement some subtleties in my own life to stay under par and above water.

Pre-teen Elizabeth avoided subscribing to the big "popularizers" like boasting really low cut shirts, wearing expensive clothes, treating people poorly, and throwing myself at guys (the voices of whom, let's recall, were still changing). However, I would intentionally walk pigeon-toed.
(I don't own the rights)

I have no clue why, don't ask me, but this was a common trait among the popular girls: cute running sneakers, jeans, and a slightly deformed stride. I adopted it blindly.

It became a habit that I still have to correct consciously. Eleven-year-old Elizabeth fell so hard for the middle school message stating a self-conscious, cutesy way of walking would make her more valuable that her mark remains thirteen years later.

This mannerism sprung from a negative mindset, but everyday we can watch ourselves carryout helpful habits sprung from positive or necessary mindsets.

Those who have driven a manual car while sitting at a red light know that, with experience, the driver comes to know the exact moment to lift his or her foot off the clutch. You must teach yourself to pay attention, almost subconsciously, to the engine's queues and you adjust immediately.

Much like middle school, the first twenty hours behind the wheel of a stick-shift car tests your patience and knocks you down several pegs. These cars are meant to build humility sand castles around your wimpy "driving skills." Respect the clutch or the world will know what you've done.

We learn through our mistakes. In the manual car, no one can teach you to "know" the perfect time to shift; after some practice, your habits take over. In the decade following middle school, I looked down at my daily reminder of the futility of basing my happiness on how "the popular kids" see me.

Keep it smiley (I don't own the rights)
Make making good habits a habit. The simplest but most fruitful guideline is "Am I Loving if I do this?"

If I get angry at this telemarketer and take it out on her, am I Loving? If I decide I need to teach a lesson to the white BMW who cut me off, am I Loving? When my younger sibling is annoying me by acting exactly as I did when I was his or her age and I just want to squash it out of them, would that be Loving? If I change myself just to appear cooler to the mob of popularity on the other side of the lockers, am I Loving?

We are called to treat all as Christ would. This includes ourselves.

We encounter "Hell" in middle school, develop new wisdom and talents in everyday life, stumble over reasons to be eternally happy, and crash into reasons to feel inconsolably sad constantly over the course of a lifetime.

Keep one constant among all of the variables: make good habits that stick around when you most need to use them.


Liesl said...

see, all the popular girls in my middle school were in dance... so they walked with their toes sticking out, like ballerinas. it was annoying. haha.

oh, and middle school. *shudder* the interviewer for a teaching position asked me if id be willing to teach middle school. i said no. not at all. he seemed surprised. i see no surprise in this. awful three years of my life, i rejoiced on the last day of school while everyone else cried in 8th grade. why on earth would i ever want to go back? those stories you read in girl magazines... yea... my locker was next to my crush's billy duraney and when he saw it was mine next to his, he said, "oh no, not you!" my poor little 6th grade heart. he's now in the seminary... haha. just one of many stories.

Elizabeth said...

Oh I hear you! My dad is teaching middle school right now and some of my college friends want to teach middle schoolers... why put yourself in the path of that? Well, maybe they are better people than me.

Awww that's terrible! Have you talked to him since then? HILarious that he's in seminary now, whoa.

Julie Robison said...

What does walking pidegon-toed mean?

Elizabeth said...

Walking with your toes pointed toward each other. It looks really passive and self-conscious to my eyes today.

Julie Robison said...

Interesting... I don't think I've ever encountered that, or at least been cognizant of it! Hmmm, I'm going to go home and watch my little sister walk now!

Betty Beguiles said...

What a beautiful reminder! Thank you, Elizabeth! I really enjoyed this. :)

Homeboy McCoy said...

Liesl: Your middle-school crush Billy Duraney was a closeted holysexual!

Elizabeth: I'm pigeon-toed. But not by choice.

I also have a confession. I've become aware that when I'm with students, I'm interacting more with "the popular kids." I think it's my ex-nerd subconscious seeking acceptance with the cool crew. That's my bad habit that I need to correct.

Liesl said...

Unfortunately, he told people that he hated me sometime in the 9th grade... we had brief exchanges of hello's throughout high school since we were both in band... I actually had to march the entire opener to a show next to him and we never spoke :( I've been thinking I should write to him though (my mom gave me his "pray for a seminarian" card) to let him know I'm praying for him! (although the thought of him being in seminary is just so weird to me... because he was so closeted in his faith! must've been a holysexual... although he dated a few girls through high school...)

Elizabeth said...

Julie- You make me laugh a lot!

Thank you, Hallie!

HM- <> On the other topic, I understand how that happens. I noticed a lot of the teachers I thought I connected with as a quiet kid really sought the "approval of the cool kids. You have time to fix it and bond with all of them!

I love this word, it's going to be a thing. I think it's already a thing, it's surviving on at least 4 posts on 3 different blogs right now.

Liesl- Hahaha there you go, let him know. You never know, maybe he has something he needs to get off his chest. The closeted holysexual may need to apologize for his teenage ways. I can tell you're not actually jaded by it and it's sweet you're considering reaching out to him!

Elizabeth said...

Stupid code, I meant to say **open mouth, insert foot** but I put it between the alligator characters.

vitaconsecrata said...

Middle school was the worst time period of my life. Not only was it a period of self discovery (which went horribly wrong) but everything in my life was falling apart around me as well. By the time I got to high school I was so numb and depressed I can't even remember any of it!

But I am blessed to have gone through everything that I have been through as it's made me who I am today!

Lisa Schmidt said...

My hell was sixth grade, and I couldn't have come at all close to writing something so thoughtful, image-provoking, and wise as this. Great job once again, Liz! (I often say there is a special place in Heaven for middle school teachers...)

Elizabeth said...

Tina and Lisa - we wouldn't be who we are (or cringe at the awkward stage) if we didn't go through that. It just stinks that's how ya learn...

Thank you, Lisa! I think there must be a special place for them.

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