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Chasing Middle School 'Cool' Is History Now

by Elyssa Sterneberg (freshman Commack HS)

Even with the advice I got as a 10-year old entering sixth grade, nothing prepared me for what I would encounter. I was a lion cub who had been thrown into the den. I would have to adapt and grow up fast if I wanted to survive the savannah that was middle school. As a cub trying to find my way around, to survive, and make it to class on time, I saw the cool kids pass by. I envied them, huddled in a pride with their fancy bags and clothing. I wanted to be cool.

Although it would be nice to say I didn't care about being part of a group, that would be a lie. I don't know any girl who doesn't feel that way. Nobody, particularly in middle school, wants to be alone. We all want to have the security of being popular. But at what price?


Fitting in. Being popular. Being cool. What does that mean? The Oxford Dictionary defines cool as: fashionably attractive or impressive. It defines popular as: liked, admired or enjoyed by people or a group. Middle school gives cool and popular new meanings.


Two years later, I had grown from a sixth-grade cub to an eighth-grade lioness. I learned my way around the savannah. Although I didn't rule, I knew my place. If I let the populars - the cool people - do their thing, I could survive in peace. Maybe I didn't have to be cool.


I think the biggest lesson I took as I entered high school this fall was that it is much better when dealing with the cool kids to just stay out of the way and be cool with my own friends, who like me for who I am. I don't need designer bags or "juicy" clothing.


I can thank the cool kids for one thing - showing me who I am. If I never went through sixth grade trying to be cool, chasing a mirage, then I would never know who I am or be as strong as I am today.


I had to learn as a cub how to hunt before I could go off and forget about fitting in with the popular pride. In order to find who you are, you have to find who you're not. I know what I'm not. I'm not cool. I'm me. I'll take my $10 bag from Target and some real friends, and I'll show those cool kids how cool this lioness can be.



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