279 Tweens And One Better Person

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Did you like high school?

Note: If you’re in high school now (or will be in a few years), disregard this question for now, but come back and answer it around 2025, okay?

So, did you like high school? Usually, this question gets one of two polar opposite reactions. Most folks either loved it… or loathed it. There’s not much in between!

However, when you ask about middle school, the response is almost always unanimous: “Hated it!” I know I sure did! I mean, this is when I so, so, so wanted to talk to these strange beings known as “girls,” yet I had all the communication skills of a Rhesus monkey hopped up on No Doz. I tripped over my own two ginormous feet, forgot to wear deodorant on a daily basis, my voice had more cracks than a plumber’s convention and, to top it off, I had hair growing in weird places (my apologies to all you visual learners).

So, when I was invited to go back and speak at my old middle school, I accepted… and promptly felt my face break out with zits.

When the day rolled around, I’ve gotta say, middle school isn’t nearly as traumatic as I’d remembered! Either that or 20 years means I’ve forgotten all that embarrassment… NOT!

Okay, serious stuff here… When I was doing Q & A with my Montgomery County R-II Middle School audience, I got one of those really profound (and unexpected) questions that make me love working with middle schoolers:

“Marcus, do you think you’ve become a better person since you lost your sight?”

I’m not sure I’ve ever had this question from this age group before, so I didn’t have a ready answer. Yet, every so often, I open my mouth and something appropriate pops out (not like that time I accidentally spat in my date’s eye at my first dance… ahhh the flashbacks continue!)

Okay, back to serious stuff again…

Question again: “Do you feel like you’ve become a better person since you lost your sight?” Answer? “Yes, absolutely! And I hope I’m a better person today than I was yesterday. And I hope tomorrow I’ll be a better person than I am today.”

For years, I’ve been a big advocate of constant self improvement. Yet, I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of it in this day-to-day realm. To be a better person than yesterday means I have to do something (anything, really) today. Right here and now. And tomorrow? Third verse, same as the first.

Ya know, the horrors of middle school were nothing compared with those life-changes after high school… but they DID help me become a better person. Yet, even if I didn’t have such a dramatic story, I hope I’d still be the kind of person who wants to make daily improvements. But that means putting forth a conscious effort. Every day, I want to learn something new, do something healthy, teach something important and experience something different.

As a 13 year old middle schooler, I was just happy to get home at night with my underwear still intact. Some days still feel like staying in bed might have been a better option – but now I know the bigger picture. A person’s actions, attitudes and choices… these are things we each control. Every day, sometimes even moment by moment! Each experience brings an opportunity to have that moment shape a positive tomorrow.

Years, life experience and a desire for daily improvement. These things add up to helping create a happy life. I hope you embrace the same goals and determination. And thank goodness middle school isn’t even close to the best years of life!

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  • Kate

    This one really resonated with me…great post! I feel the same, though there are certainly days I’m lucky just to get my feet out from under the blankets and onto the floor. If I had to answer the “meaning of life” question I might just quote you…it really is about living each day better than the last, and helping others do the same. I’d reiterate, too, that you don’t have to experience big-bang events like your accident to “become a better person.” Those moments do, though, have a way of accelerating the process so that perhaps you take a giant leap versus the every-day baby steps towards a better you. Thanks, Marcus! And by the way, I’m seriously disappointed I didn’t know you were in my neck of the woods.

  • Marcus Engel

    Heck, it was all so last minute that I was there and gone before I knew what hit me…seriously bookeed the plane tix and shuttle service with just a couple days to spare! Hoping to be back there sometime soon…I feel the need for some Tootsie’s!

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