welcome to…

by Aniya T., 14

Dear five-year-old me,
Welcome to Elementary School.
You will learn how to borrow letters from the alphabet to create a sentence.
Or maybe even two.
You will learn how to add and subtract your numbers from one to ten.
Maybe even multiply a digit or two.
You will learn to listen to Simon and do whatever he says.
You will play this game once before lunch. Or maybe even twice.
You will learn to not talk when the teacher’s talking, raise your hand.
You will learn how to walk in a straight line.
Follow the leader, or the person standing in front of you.
You will be told not to step out of the line, or break any rules.
You will play with puzzles. Put every missing piece where it belongs.
You will scribble in coloring books.
You will scribble out the aliens and monsters that do not belong in the picture,
then draw a circle around the ones that do.

Dear eleven-year-old me,
Welcome to Middle School.
You will learn how to write essays and prompts in the correct format.
You will learn about perfect angles and shape measurements.
Unless you want an after school detention, learn to do whatever the teacher says.
Unless you want to be yelled at in front of the class, do not talk when the teacher’s talking. Raise your hand, but don’t ask any dumb questions or the teachers will yell at you even more.
You will want to learn how to fit in with the crowd.
Follow the normal people, the populars. Fit in.
You will learn not to stand out.
You are a piece in a puzzle. Stay in your place.
People will scribble all over what you stand for.
They will scribble all over you.
They will cross out all the misfits, all the outcasts,
and if you never belonged in the picture, they will cross you out too.

Dear fourteen-year-old me,
You are going into High School.
You will need to learn how to be yourself.
You will need to learn how to stand out; you won’t be just anybody else.
You will need to teach yourself the lessons your teachers have failed to teach you.
And you will need to finally look and the mirror and accept me
accept you.