Today is the day, the first day of middle school.
The most frightening experience in Jimmy Young's’ overly terrifying eleven years of life.
Making his way to the double doors that open the colossal school. He sees nothing but darkness through the glass, making his heart pound anxiously.
Giving his shaved head one last nervous rub, Jimmy opens the doors and slowly enters the building one small step at a time, prolonging the moment he fully steps into this new prison of despair.
Inside, a crowd surrounds him. Students and teachers from every grade, they’re all looking at him. He can tell by their wondering eyes they are judging every inch of him. From his bald head, his big framed glasses, his too-tight shirt barely covering his large stomach, down to his baggy jeans ripped at the bottom where his shoes pop out.
Oh no, his shoes, he thought.
Hopefully, no one noticed.
But as Jimmy looked up to the crowd, he saw a girl already aiming her arm to point.
“Your shoes untied!” the girl proclaimed to Jimmy’s’ horror.
“Tie your shoes young man!” A teacher from the crowd insisted, furthering this torture.
“I…I can’t…” Jimmy murmured out embarrassingly.
The crowd got still and quiet before they all burst out laughing. Pointing fingers as often most people did when finding out Jimmy couldn’t tie his shoes.
The Anxiety began to overflow in him, giving him a shrinking feeling. He never knew what to do in this reoccurring situation. Should he bend down and pretend he’s going to try to tie his shoe. Or maybe gather up the courage to ask someone for help. Before he could even think about doing any of that, his breath quickened, and he began to panic, making the crowd laugh even louder.
He screamed out with overwhelming stress.
Then suddenly he was in his bed.
Jimmy scanned his room in a haze. Just to make sure he wasn’t in a nightmare anymore. Looking at his phone, he noticed It was five-o-clock AM. There was no use in going back to sleep now. School started at eight, so he might as well get ready.
Slowly he began to wake himself up as he walked out of his room to the kitchen to get some breakfast.
He sat down to eat a bowl of fruity pebbles when his Mom walked in.
“Jimmy, sweetie, what are you doing up already?”
“I don’t know.,” Jimmy said with a roll of his shoulders showing discomfort.
“Well, maybe you should go ahead and start getting ready. It is a big day after all…My big guy is starting middle-school!” Jimmy's’ mother said in that motherly love kinda way. Jimmy just shrugged and rolled his eyes.
“Well, you better go hop in the shower, you don’t want to be known as the stinky kid on the first day.” Jimmy stared at his mother while he finished his cereal. She laughed uncomfortably, realizing she shouldn’t have said what she said.
“Oh, and don’t forget your new shoes, they’re still in the box in my room.”
Jimmy put his bowl in the sink and somberly walked to the shower to begin the day ahead of him.
Throughout his shower, he couldn’t help to think about everything bad that could happen. He could get bullied; he could be put on the skins team in PE, and of course, his shoes.
Those new shoes his Mom insisted on getting. They were nice, but there was a pair that looked exactly the same with Velcro that he wanted instead.
“Sweetie, you’ve got to learn how to tie your shoes, so I’m not buying you ones that have Velcro anymore. It’s the only way you’ll learn.” Jimmy remembered her saying.
He understood the sentiment, but he couldn’t help it. Thinking about this problem made him so much more nervous about school, and he was already pretty nervous as often was the case. He really wished his mother hadn’t gotten rid of all his Velcro and slip-on shoes. Why did she care so much, Jimmy thought as he got out of the shower and quickly dried off.
He looked himself over in the mirror as he slid his clothes for the day on. He was unimpressed at what he saw and wished more had changed over the summer or that he’d just roll over dead right now; either could make this day less stressful.
Out of the bathroom, he headed to his Mom’s room to get the dreaded new shoes. He was really contemplating going barefoot but was that even allowed. Dragging himself into his mothers’ room, he found her sitting on her bed, waiting for him with the shoe-box in her lap. She looked up and smiled at Jimmy before saying.
“Jimmy, I know change can be difficult, but there’s no need to make it harder on yourself, too many other people will do that for you, don’t be your own worst enemy.’
Jimmy just blankly stared and said, “OK” he didn’t want to have a talk about his feelings. Jimmy had too many feelings, no one would understand any way they would just tell him to stop being a baby, and that’s the last thing he wanted.
“Now come here, I’ll put your shoes on to start your day right.” Jimmy's’ Mom said with pleasure, bringing some ease to Jimmy's’ mind.
He tried to watch as she tied them, so he had a mental note to look back on when the inevitable happened.
After she was done, Jimmy grabbed his bag and headed out of the house to walk off to school. It wasn’t too far, just a block away.
After the quick walk, he paced himself at the front doors of the school.They weren’t that big and the building its self really wasn’t either, maybe he didn’t have any thing to fear after all. Taking a deep calming breath Jimmy began to lift his foot to take a step closer to the door, but immediately fell face first to the ground.
It happened so quick.
What even happened?
Jimmy gathered himself and looked around to see what happened. Then he saw it. His shoe, the right one, it was untied. Jimmy could sense that panicky feeling coming inside him. What was he supposed to do?
“Are you ok?”
Jimmy looked up to see a tall woman with a staff lanyard hanging around her neck hunched over him. He soon recognized her as the school counselor Ms. Miller, he met her at signup day.
“Mr. Young do you need some help?” Ms. Miller said as she extended her arm down.
Suddenly Jimmy started crying. He didn't know why it just overtook him, and he wished he was dead. He just knew people were looking at him.
“Jimmy, take my hand and come to my office with me.” Ms. Miller ordered but with a smooth and calming tone.
Soon they were in her office. It was small and empty but not too empty Jimmy found himself relaxing a bit.
“So Jimmy, Do you mind telling me what exactly is going on?”
Jimmy thought that was a loaded question, but he answered with the shortest reply he could think of.
“I tripped on my shoelace.”
Ms. Miller just sat there, no response, waiting for him to say more with a quizzical look on her face. Jimmy didn't know what to do, he didn't like sharing his feelings but this woman obviously wasn’t going to let him leave without doing just that.
“I don’t know how to tie shoes, but my mom bought me these and got rid of all of my other shoes because she thinks I’m just being stupid.” Jimmy blurted out without taking any breaths between words. He searched the counselors’ face to see if shed loosened up, but she had not.
“Why do you think your mother sees you as stupid?”
Was she seriously going to drag this out, Jimmy was getting overwhelmed.
“I don’t Know cause I am.”
After saying that Jimmy saw the look on Ms. Millers’ face change to one of endearment before she said.
“Jimmy you are very hard on yourself, but after having talked to you and siting here with you, I don’t think its your fault. Jimmy have you ever had suicidal thoughts?”
What? Suicidal thoughts! Jimmy thought but then realized with complete shock that he had wished himself dead twice today.
Ms. Miller noticed his realization and continued talking as she picked something out of her desk and walked toward Jimmy.
“Jimmy, I believe you are struggling with depression and major anxiety.” She said placing one hand on his shoulder while with the other she handed him a card.
“I’m not going to pretend to understand what you’re going through, but I will tell you I believe they do.” She said then pointed at the card.
It read Millwood, rehab for youth with mental illness.