The caterpillar is a disgusting and pathetic arthropod, doomed to grovel piteously in the dirt until such time as it weaves itself a chrysalis and emerges a splendid creature of the air, an ethereal, utterly beautiful butterfly. A true wonder of nature! What a convenient and apt metaphor for one’s passage into adulthood! There is, of course, the minor detail (the very minor detail) that while in the chrysalis the caterpillar essentially digests itself, releasing a concoction of enzymes that obliterates practically everything the caterpillar once was. In that steaming primordial goo, the chrysalis, now nothing more than a distressingly limp and flabby prison, a butterfly is born, piece by agonizing piece. Then it breaks free, a whole cooked chicken slipping wetly out of its gelatinous confines, and staggers clumsily away, never to return.Middle school. I’m talking about middle school.The concept of Middle school was destined for failure from the start: it was likely designed by someone who had either never gone through puberty or had, rightfully so, wiped it completely from their memory. The only other option was that it was made by someone who hated preteens, though I can’t imagine why. Was it the suspicious smells in the locker rooms? The petty vandalism? The acutely painful mixture between childish bullying and adult-like malice? The garish rancor of eight hundred mouths reveling in the novelty of using profanity for the first time? Was it the growing sense of horror that every passing moment sounded the death knells of our childhood? Was it the smartphones? I bet it was the smartphones.I wish that the only issue I had to deal with in middle school was puberty.The day I started seventh grade was the day my mother looked me in the eye as she slammed an intimidatingly thick stack of papers onto the table, which wobbled worryingly under the weight. “This is all of the information about your appointments, your extracurriculars, your school activities,” she said, gesturing meaningfully at the bundle, which was by that time listing dangerously to one side. “I’ve had to keep track of them for you since you were born. You need to know how to take care of your own schedule.” She handed me a small agenda. Considering all she had said about my being on the cusp of adulthood I thought it was rather a bad joke that she got me an agenda with sickeningly glittery rainbows and pithy quotes like “ZOMG!” and “RAWR!”. I never used that agenda; every time I looked at the cover I respected myself a little less. Instead, I used a normal spiral notebook that I forced myself to use for fear of the alternative: dying inside everytime I wrote a homework assignment into a disgusting neon pink monstrosity. I learned to take responsibility over my time in my way. If only that was what it took to be a functioning adult. You see, I was also a catastrophic jerk.Children are selfish, and rude, and inconsiderate, swinging wildly through their daily interactions, unselfconsciously self serving. I was no different. Whenever I feel like hating myself I think about my middle school persona. It’s a great way to pass the time and also dehydrate yourself efficiently from hours of crying into a pillow. I remember lying in bed, staring vaguely at the ceiling, thinking about nothing in particular. One train of thought led to another, and before I knew it I was reflecting on twelve years of being a self centered tyrant. It was strange. Actions I had previously thought were justified suddenly revealed themselves to be childish and immature. I felt ashamed at my actions, and told myself that the very next day I would try harder. I would try to resolve problems without crying or misguided insults. It wasn’t a drastic change, but a slowly achieved revelation.Puberty was just as bad as I thought it would be, and then some. Most of seventh grade passed by in a torrent of blood, weird smells, uncomfortable body hair, and pitchy voices. That was normal and expected. What was not normal and expected was a creeping sense of isolation. During lunch my friends would lean across the battered picnic table in a quiet corner of the school with sparkling eyes and shinier braces, swapping shared food for gossip about who was dating who and which boy was better or more cute than the other, chattering gaily about who they liked and who their other friends liked, a shifting web of human relations blooming amid slightly wilted clovers and the humming of bees. Try as I might, I couldn’t relate to what they were saying. I didn’t know the fine points of the school’s most eligible bachelor, or why I should care about a faceless girl’s new boyfriend. I couldn’t swap stories about cute boys or new celebrity crushes like my other friends could. I felt excluded from what I felt was the glimmering center of society in my middle school, but I couldn’t see a way in for me. I always felt uncomfortableamong my circle of friends. There was something definitely wrong with me.(It was high school where I figured out I was probably gay.)In the span of three years I was forced to confront no less than four world destroying issues, four giant gods that loomed out of the wreckage of my childhood. It was as if Life had taken one look at my scrawny body and thought, “What can I do to make this loser’s puberty even worse?” But I changed myself. I learned how to take responsibility for my time and my actions, I escaped puberty with minimal emotional scarring, I made visible efforts to act courteous and respectful, I learned how to act suitably straight to my parents. I emerged from the chrysalis a slightly misshapen but nonetheless valid butterfly. I feel pretty good.