I might even say that I didn’t grow up in any meaningful way before I started high school.
I’ve always felt like I have very limited memories of middle school and elementary school. The problem, as I realized recently, isn’t that I have few memories. Rather, it is that my memories don’t seem to include my thoughts – what I wondered, what I thought about, and how I felt about certain things. When probing my memories I get plenty of clear images, but I can’t help but feel like an observer; I can see my past-self doing things and reacting to events, but I have no idea what that child was thinking. I mean, I can guess. I’m sure I’d be pretty good at guessing, since I know the kid well, but it’s strange that this isn’t part of the memory.
This isn’t the case for high school though. I can definitely see parts of my personality in that past self. My emotions come back vividly, and they are as much a part of my memories as the actual events. For me, high school is when everything happened. I had my first romantic relationship. I solidified precious long-term friendships. I opened up to people and brought them into my life. I discovered my passions, and followed them with all of my might. I became closer to my friends than I believed possible. I began to seriously think about the future. I kept dark secrets, and shared them with a trusted few. I cried as many tears of happiness as I did tears of pain. I was confused about the world, and sought to understand it. I struggled to understand myself.
All of these invaluable experiences are what allowed me to grow up. And I believe that it was made possible by those around me, who shared my experiences and allowed me to join theirs. By no means do I claim to be grown-up now, but my point is this – in high school, I took my first steps towards adulthood.