Sometimes I misremember my middle school self. I make assumptions based on the obvious: I was smart so I must have been nerdy. I was self-conscious about my faith so I must have been shy. I didn’t “hang out” with people outside of school so I must have been a loner. I rush my remembering and think “Look how far I’ve come.”

But then I remember things, little details playing in saturated slow motion that don’t seem to fit the bleak picture I’ve colored.

Like tonight. I just remembered something that seems so unlike me. But then so like me, too. 

When I was in seventh grade, I made cards, little hand-drawn notes on white computer paper. I’d make as many as ten a day, and I made them every day. I’d draw them while I waited for classes to start or during lunch. I can’t remember exactly what they said but it was something like “Have a happy day.” 

After I’d lovingly, carefully drawn my cards, I’d begin passing them out.

To complete strangers.

In middle school.

I handed them to tough-looking eighth grade boys, popular blond girls, bus kids, to kids who never even looked up at me, to kids who ridiculed me for the gesture.

I close my eyes and I can see myself standing in an open hallway, watching as one of my cards floats through the air just barely above the freshly cut green grass, a happy face in black sharpie looking back at me.

Even right now, I can feel what I felt then—not embarrassment but genuine unaffected joy.

Sometimes I forget, but in middle school, I was unashamedly happy.