Dear You: The Middle


Dear you, 

For four years, I’ve witnessed a peculiar tradition. One in which the oldest, bravest, or wisest of us leave in this plethora of words and meanings a piece of advice, hidden in the harrowing tales of what remained for us in these past few years. In simple terms, I suppose this is my meager attempt to do the same. 

Excluding a fresh coat of paint or two, nothing in that old building had changed much over the summer. Familiarly disgruntled teenagers sulked along to their classes under the same blinking fluorescent lights as last year. And yet, everyone was asking me how different it was, how it felt to finally be at the top of the food chain, to be nearing the conclusion. 

It felt wrong to answer. Like when people ask you on your birthday how it feels to be a year older, when in truth, you’re panicking over the existential fact that you feel exactly the same as yesterday. 

Everyone kept saying that it’s the end of something, or the beginning of something else. Worse still, the beginning of the end. And I was floundering for an answer. An answer to a question that had been bothering me for quite some time:

With all this talk of beginnings and ends… what exactly happened to the middle?

I was overly concerned with this mythical space, one that I felt had been lost in between screens, masks, and two years apart. I thought, if this was my story, and I was so quickly approaching the end, then I better make it worth it. I better make up for whatever cruel trick the middle was. 

It seemed my ‘middle’ fell victim to a series of horrible miscommunications and disastrous circumstances. Instead of the glittering, or at least gilded vision of high school I had in my mind, I got blue light, fake sympathy, temporary friends, and what felt like an eternity waiting at the edge of some room or place or corner table for something to change, for someone to notice. 

So I put my faith in the end, in the small trinkets and tokens that I thought represented it. The Friday night homecoming game was chief among them.

It came as the grand conclusion to a week in which nothing had felt or been right, where even my chipper optimism couldn’t really do anything to fix it. With the fate of the entire week, maybe even the entire year, hanging on this hair-thin thread, I walked into the silver-gleaming stadium, the bleachers reflecting in the bright fluorescent lights of adolescent legend. 

I found myself standing at the edge of the blaringly loud student section, for once among a group of friends instead of a solitary wanderer, and I considered that progress. And for that first half, our hapless underdogs were actually succeeding for one in the four years I’ve been here. Surrounded by familiar faces while being waved at by the object of my misguided affection of his own volition, I felt like everything was finally turning out right. Like for once all the lost time, missing friends, and hopeless longing had been worth it somehow. 

But things that good, that blissful, never linger long. 

In an instant, it all seemed to steadily go downhill, my pidge-podge of a group splintering to pieces over small things while the team fumbled their way through the second half as they had the last two times. 

And we left like that. We left with what remained of my golden, glittering end in shambles, and I wasn’t willing to let it go. So I turned right instead of left, hoping to just see his face, swearing to myself that it would be enough just to catch a glimpse of him. 

But I was wrong. I always am in that respect. Because just a glimpse, however true and beautiful it may be, will never be enough.

So I, like the hundreds of disappointed others, trudged to my car alone, as I had assumed I would be at some point during this fated, mystical night. And as I walked I pondered a great many things. And this is what I found:

Football teams win games and football teams lose games.

Friends fight and make up, and peace offerings are made by means of skittles among other tiny, incomprehensible things.

The girls don’t get the guys, and as they take what they swear are the last looks back (even though they likely aren’t), they make small promises to themselves that someday, maybe soon, they will move on. 

But all of these moments, as big and formidable and calamitous as they seem, are just that — moments. Moments in the middle. And if I can leave you with one piece of advice, it’s this…

This is not the end, nor is it the beginning. This is not the grand conclusion nor the harrowing opener, this is but the upward trudge on our way to something better. The precarious gray area between all that ever will be and all that ever was. And I can promise you…

It’s only temporary. 

One day, you will find your golden, glittering wonderful ending. And it will be as bright and beautiful as you believe it to be, in its own unknowable way. It may feel unreachable, be it by distance, time, or circumstance, but so far as I know, it is out there. 

But until we find it, all we can do is press on through the middle, through the seemingly incomprehensible things that will one day be insignificant, and the smallest moments within moments that will one day mean everything. We will march on, holding tight to our sense of self and the people and things we will find that actually matter. And we’ll hope that somehow, even if we never know it…

Tomorrow will be a little better than today. 


Sincerely, the red-head with the sketchbook (who’s never signing a letter that way again),