This post is one in a series that will take place over the course of a year started by a group of online friends.
This post is a tough one, but one I'm sure some of us can relate to on some level. My Facebook wall has been filled with lots of articles/videos and conversations on the topic of bullying. My daughter has experienced it to some extent even in first grade, but even my children are horrified (and rightly so) about some of the things I went through as a kid in school and I wasn't even one of the worst targets.
1) Growing up tall and without lots of money my clothes were never the 'right' style, or ever long enough. We only shopped at the places my mom could afford which at the time was the equivalent of Walmart. Sometimes I only had two or three pairs of pants to get through the school week and it didn't go unnoticed. I distinctly remember having a boy in front of me announce loudly to the whole class that 'you've worn those pants twice this week, gross' or the time in science class when a former friend from kindergarten tell me because my pants were too short to 'your shoes are having a party, why don't you invite your pants down?'
2) Sitting in class one day I realized that I couldn't sit forward and discovered that the boy sitting behind me had stuck his wad of gum between the chair and me prompting a visit to the nurse to get it off. Valuable lesson for my mom years though, ice will freeze gum enough to get it off clothing :D
3) I was a band kid and not the cute flute playing kind either. I took trumpet and that case was big and obvious and I walked to school. Need I say more?
4) I've been spit on more times than I can count. You learned to check the top of the stairwell before climbing up.
5) I've picked my things (and myself) up off the ground more times than I can count.
6) I won the spelling bee in middle school (and went to the city championship and had my photo in the paper) by beating the one kid who was considered the 'nerd' and tortured more than all of us 'weird' kids combined. I learned it isn't safe to be smart.
7) The end of the school year was always fun in middle school when kids were running around with little blank yearbooks to sign. One kid (who always made sure to be nice to me when he wanted to copy my paper) wrote 'you are an okay kid, but I will always be better'. That didn't work out so well for him when he got in a drunken car wreck after graduating high school with the aforementioned kid who made fun of my pants and they both died.
8) I went through most of my middle and high school years with the nickname 'Mario' after the Donkey Kong video game character because I was self concious of my height and often slouched and the kids told me I 'looked like an ape and my knuckles dragged on the ground'.
9) There were at least two occasions I found myself in a field facing a huge group of kids with their ring leader ready to beat the crap out of me (and often it came to fisticuffs) over some imagined girl drama. I'm sure I made it worse by trying to fit in and failing because I was a complete nerd. I remember stumbling onto one of their Facebook pages through another classmate and saw a post about 'how mean girls are' and that her daughter was being bullied. I think I may have screamed "are you &^*%*% kidding me?!" at the monitor. I keep my eyes out now for those girls in my daughters life who pretend to be her friend, but really aren't.
I'm so glad I didn't have the internet to deal with back then, but man, it was tough. You never forget that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are trying to find a safe spot to sit in the lunch room, or scanning the hallways for potential dangers. It was so exhausting. Even as an adult when I walk by a group of people and they are laughing my first thought is always that they are laughing at me and I have to shake off that younger me in my head. I got lucky and had to change schools in high school and go somewhere where nobody knew me, a fresh start of a kind since I was so close to graduation. I dropped band and became an outcast of my own choosing by dressing different and having crazy hairstyles. Any negativity thrown my way was nothing compared to what I'd already been through.
I realize now that I was stronger than I ever thought, because not once did I think of checking out of this life. NO WAY was I going to let them win. Not a chance. I find now that the most fun and interesting people I know are the ones who made it through all that. It never leaves you though. Ever.