Kids can be cruel.
Maybe it's the need to feel powerful, or the misguided anger of one's own insecurities or issues, but I never understood the appeal of being a bully. I mean, what's so satisfying about making someone else feel bad?
I was always a very happy child with a sweet disposition. I was also very sensitive and wanted the other kids to like me. The more I tried to fit in, the less I actually did, and the more kids avoided me rather than get to know me.
I've said before in previous articles about my struggles in school. Learning never came easy to me, especially math or science.
When I was in third grade, I almost never understood what was going on in math class. Since I didn't understand it, I would zone out a lot. My teacher would call on me and I would always get the answer wrong.
This wouldn't have mattered so much. I would've just been a student that struggled with math. What made it matter was that every time I would get the answer wrong, my classmates would collectively yell at me. They would call me stupid. As if the answer to the math problem was so obvious, and hey, maybe it was. Who knows?
Either way, being the "dumb one" of the class was something I became very insecure about, and my teacher never did anything to stop my peers from antagonizing me.
I never wanted to raise an issue with my parents about it, so I suppressed my emotions and kept quiet that I was being made fun of for my intelligence. Looking back on it, I don't know why I stayed quiet about it.
But I couldn't keep everything inside forever. The bullying continued, and I felt worse and worse about my situation until, finally, I exploded.
I remember it clear as day.
My mom had picked me up from school and asked me how my day was on the car ride home. Usually, I would've just said, "fine," and that would be it, but instead, I started crying my eyes out and came clean about what had been going on in school. My mom was furious that my teacher never did anything to stop the obvious bullying and called into the school. Meanwhile, I got a tutor.
I hated having a tutor because it felt like admitting defeat, so for a long time, I would stubbornly get things incorrect during tutoring sessions, even if I did understand and know the correct answer, just because somehow that was my way of rejecting the need for a tutor. It makes no sense, but as a child, it somehow made perfect sense to me.
Eventually, I gave in and let my tutor actually help me. My grades improved heaps, and by the time I was to go into sixth grade, I was accepted into the advanced math placement class in my middle school. I thought I'd finally proved to everyone that they were wrong about me and that the bullying would stop. Of course, it wouldn't.
I was no longer the stupid girl in class. This just meant that the bullying transferred from my intelligence to my appearance. My nose and my weight became big topics against me. I got very self-conscious.
I remember being loudly called ugly by a boy I had a crush on. After that, all the other boys stayed away from me as if I had a disease.
Making fun of my nose was somewhat understandable. I had broken it when I was younger and it never healed properly, so it was abnormally big on my young face. My weight, however, made no sense. I was very petite and one of the smallest and skinniest of the class. At that point, however, kids just thought of anything to use against me, and it worked.
It took a big emotional toll on me. I didn't like myself very much, and it was very clear that no one else liked me very much, either. I became very closed off, shy, and quiet in school. I had two friends leaving middle school.
In high school, my only two friends went to different schools than me, and we grew apart. I was very quiet and didn't know how to make friends very well, so I stuck to myself a lot. I made a few friends through sports, but in hindsight, they were merely acquaintances. No one actually tried to get to know me very much, and I was okay with that. I didn't really want to let anyone close to me. I had one person who actually truly knew me in high school. My now ex-boyfriend.
I guess in becoming an adult, my experience has made me a very private person. I tell important things to very few people. I take my academics very seriously and I can be over-proud of myself for any good grades I receive. I'm also very intolerant of body shamers, or people who body-shame themselves for attention.
On the upside, I've learned to stand up for myself. I don't let people bully me anymore, for anything. I've learned to be resilient and self-reliant. Through college, I've learned to put myself out there. I've made a lot more friends since going to Rowan. Actual, real friends.
I'm no longer in a dark place in my life, but still, I don't like to talk about things like this. I like to keep things light and happy. Maybe that has been my way of coping with my childhood bullying story. Talking about it just reminds me of how lost I was, how sad. However, in going through what I went through, I believe it's important for people to share their experiences. It's the best way of bringing to attention issues that usually people turn a blind eye to.
In a way, I feel like my innocence was somewhat stolen from me because of bullying. But I'm also a lot stronger because of it. To anyone out there who's been or is currently being bullied, I'm with you.
Don't let the bullies win. Take control. Own it.