i know i know, i’m beginning to sound like a broken record…BUT…
as parents, we teach our children how to treat people. babies come into this world without the need to judge. it’s parents that pass on our judgements to them. it’s not enough to teach them to do unto others, though that is a great place to start. we are responsible for teaching them how to advocate for others. to teach them how to step in if they see something that isn’t right. or to go to an adult if they have been witness to unfair treatment of a peer.
the reason that bullying is so traumatic is because after an incident, the kid is forced back into the fire again and again. if you were to get mugged, you’d make sure to not walk that street again, or not alone, or not without a weapon. a bullied kid isn’t afforded that extravagance. they have to back to school the next day and walk the same halls armed only with their ability to keep their head down.
i was different. i was always ok with this fact. i wasn’t a kid who needed gobs of friends. i was happy with one close friend, which i was lucky enough to always have. junior high was really tough. i ran track, and sang in choir. neither activities were the “cool” activities, but it’s what i liked. i didn’t realize that by being myself and doing what i enjoyed, i had made myself a target. there is a lot that i don’t remember. i know i spent a good deal of time with the guidance councilor…who i don’t remember giving much guidance. it was a pretty solitary existence. it was eight grade. nobody has an easy time in eighth grade.
it was spring. i came back to the locker room during track practice to use the bathroom. i found my things to be spread from one end of the room to the other. they had taken everything out of my bag. they had put my shoes up in the drop ceiling. my clothes were everywhere. my backpack was in the showers filled with water.
this was obviously not the work of one person. what had i done that was so awful to deserve having been singled out like this? i was different. i was unapologetically not like them. these were kids i had known since first grade. we had run in crazy packs on the playground. what had happened to change them? i still can’t answer this question.
i get the psychology behind pack mentality. i just don’t understand how that could have made them feel good. what was happening in their lives that compelled them to look for solace in another person’s misery? how did this experience shape me? i didn’t trust women until i was i my 30’s. i learned that, rarely, can you take people at face value. my bullying experience wasn’t one of daily torment. it was one of isolation. when i didn’t respond to the shunning, a message was sent. the message was received loud and clear, you are different, and that’s not ok.
i always thought i was ok, that’s the strange thing. i remember sitting in the counselor’s office and saying time and time again, “it’s ok that they don’t like me, why can’t they just leave me alone?”
this experience has shaped me, probably more than i am willing to admit. i know what it feels like to be persecuted for just being me. we are all part of the same whole. we owe it to ourselves and to each other to be kind.
even if you believe that who someone is, is a choice, it’s their life to live. if they can live it in a way that doesn’t infringe or harm others, what’s the damage? i keep coming up with this example: i’m not a fan of sweater sets. for me they just don’t make sense. i realize that some people LOVE sweater sets. fine. they should wear them. get a whole closet full of sweater sets. doesn’t bother me. i don’t live in their closet.