“She’s so weird”
“Why is she so ugly?”
“Who would want to talk to her?”
“Are you contagious?”
This doesn’t even begin to touch the words that I would hear on a daily basis. While most people were excited about the first day of school, plotting their new outfits, or excited to reunite with old friends and make new ones, the beginning of the school year was always just the first day to a 180-day nightmare I would live every day at school.
Things started at a young age, as far back as second grade. I can remember the teacher having to move my desk next to hers so that no one else could pick on me after a boy pulled my chair out from under me just to see me cry. I can remember in middle school, walking down hallways and having to walk over legs being stuck out to trip me or dodge objects like wet paper towels, pencils, and pennies being thrown at me. During my seventh grade year when my purse got missing and the janitor had to retrieve my purse from the carport where the buses were parked so I could use my key to get in the house that afternoon. In High School, girls would go up to guys, point to me, and tell them I wanted their number, and I would have to act like I didn’t see the face or hear the comments of disgust the guy would make, and the laughter of the reaction. During my Sophomore year, I remember while I was in the bathroom, the lights went out and I was terrified, thinking that I was about to be jumped. Upon emerging from the bathroom, I realized that it was just a group of kids waiting outside the door to point and laugh at me. These are just a few accounts of the everyday acts of bullying that I would have to deal with every single school day.
I’ve always kept quiet about the bullying that I went through during my school days to my family and friends outside of the school. I often thought of those places as my getaway. The only people who truly knew what I was going through are the friends of mine that I was in school with that saw me go through these things every day. I had a best friend and a guy that I was dating at other schools but I never told them anything about the everyday battle I had. Even at that age, I knew that your opinions can change according to the company that you keep. I loved the person they saw me as and I didn’t want to change that, and I was very thankful that other kids couldn’t change that either. I certainly didn’t tell my parents because that last thing I needed was for one or both of them to come up to the school and make a scene, and that becomes the topic of the week and yet another thing for me to have to deal with once they left.
I can say that halfway through High School and towards graduation, school life got a lot easier. Once these people got to know me, they began to like me and the bullying came less and less. By my Junior year of High School, I had enough and started standing up for myself, putting bullies in their place and letting them know that I was not taking it anymore. I would let a teacher know after class if a person was bothering me during the lesson. In the halls and after school, I would finally shoot back at the names and comments being made. I thought if I ended up in a fight as a result, I’m going down punching. I had remained quiet for so long after they saw that I was finally taking up for myself, they seemed to back off. After a couple of conversations with me, a few even became my friend. Later on, thanks to Facebook and other social media, I have had a few people that have, as adults, reached out to me and apologized to me for the way they treated me during those school years and stated that they admired my courage, and how it didn’t seem to let it bother me.
One great lesson that I have learned from being bullied every day is how to be strong in situations where you feel like you are at your worst. My sister went through some forms of bullying at one point and she told me something at a young age that I could carry with me even into my adult life. Her advice was this:
“The things they say may hurt you, tear you down, and even lead you to tears, but the words that hurt worst are the ones that you believe are true.”
No truer words have been spoken. With everything that was being said to me, I had to remember to look in the mirror and tell myself “you are not who these people say you are. There are people who love you, friends who like you and they are the only ones that truly matter.” I had to find my individuality, and learn how to shut out the negative things that were being said, a skill I’ve carried with me even into my adult life. You have to learn to use those negative words as motivation to prove them wrong, making you better by proving to yourself you can do it.
As I look back at those times, as bad as they seemed, it doesn’t compare to the bullying that is going on in the schools today. In these times where technology has taken over, Cyber Bullying makes those days I spent secretly crying in the bathroom seem like a walk in the park in comparison to what the kids today have to go through. Instead of a prank being the gossip around the school for the day, now it can be uploaded on YouTube and Facebook for the whole world to witness. That rumor that was just something to talk about at lunch between friends, can now be a forwarded text. An email containing pictures and other things can be passed around and forwarded a lot quicker than a handwritten note was back in the day. If bullying had an impact on me that it did, I can’t even imagine what my god kids, nieces, and nephews are facing. Lives are ending more and more due to bullying. No one should endure the loss of their son or daughter because of this. Parents should pay attention to what is going on with their kids on Social Media, cell phones, and emails. Your child could be a victim of bullying or worse, be the bully. I think it is important to encourage our youth not to bully other kids and report to an adult when they see other kids teasing each other. We have to let them know that these things are not okay.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month and I encourage everyone to get involved. Every October, schools, and organizations across the country join STOMP Out Bullying™ in observing National Bullying Prevention Month. The goal: encourage communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of bullying on all children of all ages. More importantly, make an effort to teach your child that their words and actions can affect someone else. Let them know that they can talk to you if they, themselves are being bullied or to tell a teacher or another adult if you are not around. And most all give them three simple words to live by:
Words do hurt.