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This Is Me (Part X: 1989)

I could write about entering the American public school system, this time without benefit of a pilot program to catch me, but there isn’t much to say. I’m a highly adaptable person, so while change can make me anxious on the inside, I seldom fight it. I more or less suck it up and say, Well, nothing I can do about it, so here goes . . .

But 1989 holds a kind of special glow in my memory, mostly due to the media of that year. Two albums and one movie from that year had a huge impact on me: Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever, Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence, and of course Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

I spent the summer of 1989 back in Georgetown, staying two weeks with my friend Emily and then another two weeks with my best friend Tara, and in each of those weeks we went to see Last Crusade, making a grand total of four times for me—to that date, the most I’d ever gone to see any one film at the cinema. Considering my limited resources (that is, my weekly allowance), that I would spend it repeatedly on seeing this movie was quite a statement. What’s funny, though, is that I also associate seeing Last Crusade with eating dill pickles and hot dogs . . . I think we must have eaten a lot of cinema food while watching the film. That’s the only reason I can imagine for this particular connection.

The music was thanks to the influence of Tara’s mother Lynn (I’ve written about her before, how she also got me started on Shakespeare). Years before, she’d also turned me on to Genesis, and later I’d have her to thank for introducing me to Collective Soul, so . . . Yeah.

Really, though, 1989 did feel like the end of something. The decade, certainly, and that fall I entered eighth grade as well, which felt like a tangible shift in my world. I’m not sure why, since I’d spent seventh grade at the same school (Delay Middle School). But in eighth grade, at least, I knew how things worked going in. In seventh grade, coming from a private school, I hadn’t had that luxury.

Eighth grade involved teachers noticing me, in good ways: Mrs. Atkins encouraged my creative writing, Coach Roberts (who was also the Earth Science teacher) actually called my parents to congratulate them on raising such a fine young lady. My phys ed coach, too, used to let me duck class and go up with a friend to play ping pong rather than having to do whatever the rest of the class was doing. I don’t know why. Maybe because I was so hopeless at pretty much anything (except soccer and, later, weight lifting of all things)—one of the boys in phys ed used to have to stand behind me and help me swing the bat when we played softball. Was I faking just to get the boy’s attention? No. But did I like it anyway? Oh yes. The joy of having a boy that close way outweighed any embarrassment at my lack of skill. And that’s probably exactly why I was then sent off to play ping pong with my friend Marnissa instead. Huh. I only just figured that out.

Marnissa had a crush on me, and I think it’s really funny (by which I mean interesting as opposed to humorous) that girls used to crush on me and were always willing to admit it. In grade school a girl named Jamie fessed up to it, and then it was Mars (as I called her and—totally unrelated—she used to braid my hair in these amazing, elaborate ways), and in college a girl named Gabrielle . . . I’ve been hit on by more women than men, I think. I don’t mind. I’m not picky, at least not in terms of gender. Just a bit oblivious unless someone stands right in front of me and says something, and maybe women are more wont to do that than men, or maybe I’m just more attractive to women for whatever reason. I don’t know.

In any case, 1989 was certainly a tipping point. At having become a teenager, I felt prompted suddenly to “grow up,” only I wasn’t sure how to do that. It was confusing. Things were the same, but changing. Friends I had only just made moved away that year, leaving me exposed and alone on the brink of high school. But just as with moving from private to public school, I simply took a deep breath and then the plunge.

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