This is the school photo for my 8th grade year, and you can already see the teenager start to emerge in my features and my posture. Too cool to smile for the camera, and no longer a little boy, but not yet a high schooler – I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m well on my way. The button-up shirt would soon be a signature style choice for me, as I try to break away from the denim jeans and the tee shirts of my youth. I’ve taken an interest in girls in earnest by now, but none return my attentions (at least, none that I notice). I’m still a good boy in school, getting the best grades I can, and never cutting class (not yet). I play D&D with my friends, I play computer games, I run a BBS, and I watch MTV. The future is still well in front of me, and I have dreams of greatness one day. By this time, I had been redirected from my dreams of being a game designer (dammit) towards goals of academic excellence and a career in the hard sciences. I have no idea what the future holds in store for me, and I guess that part is still true. And yet, there’s a divine innocence to my being that is special to this age, and I’m watching my eldest just enter into this time. The wheel turns, and we get to see its facets as we watch the next generation walk in our footsteps, or at least along the same well-trodden path, in their own cadence and their own style. So three cheers for middle school – we all manage to survive it, perhaps unscathed, or often tattered around the edges in some way, but at this point, our memories start to take hold and become more than echoes of photographs constructed into ‘I think I did that’ – I remember being in Jr. High. I remember my friends, my teachers, my triumphs and my failures. Most importantly, I become my own person in this time, and develop the friendships that would endure throughout high school and in some cases beyond. I know that as my eldest enters into that magical world, he’ll be making those friends, and having those experiences, and I get to live vicariously through his exploits. Hopefully, he lets me play with him along the way.