I was bullied in school. Not to the extent that this young woman experienced, but there is a lot about her that strikes a chord in me. No, I didn’t have rich parents, and no, I did not try to buy my way into friendships. And no, unlike her I was not reduced to being a smudge on the heel of the popular kids.
But, I’ve always been somewhat boisterous. And, blunt. And had armor up damned near 10 feet thick.
In middle school (technically 7th and 8th grade, as the church school I went to had K-8 in the same school).
I was the one everyone tried to make do their homework, or at least force me to let them cheat off of me. When I refused, they’d play fairly cruel little pranks on me. But, I was also the one that the younger kids would come running for, because when they would get bullied, they knew I would protect them.
On one level, I was too strong-minded, too stubborn and too protected by too much armor to be mentally and physically destroyed by the cruelties of children. I took my parents’ route in many ways — keep the bastards at arms’ length, and isolate because it is safer (or at least that is what I saw my parents doing, they may have had a different view. But I know that from approximately 1981 on, I rarely saw them spend any time with people outside of our nuclear family).
On another level, I was bleeding inside. I wanted to be noticed, but not for being overweight. I wanted to be seen as worthy of having friends. I wanted to be worthy of falling in love. And every little drop of the bullying simply told me that I could never be worthy.
Eventually, I gathered a group of friends around me — primarily outcasts. We stood together, and I started to learn things about being a leader. I was the friend people went to for advice.
And, in my senior year of high school, I had both the best experience and the worst. From my perspective, I finally became worthy of being friends with a wider group of my fellow seniors. I don’t know if it was just the fact it was our last year, or if I had changed – but it was the best of the lot. The worst experience was knowing that some of my fellow students (in junior and senior year) collaborated with someone to stand me up.
But I can tell you one thing. There were fairly obvious ring-leaders for the bullying. And knowing some of the other people more now via Facebook, I can see that while some of the rest of my peers happily supported the bullying, there were just as many who saw it and felt it shouldn’t be happening. But, they didn’t have the courage to stand up against those ring-leaders.
And I can understand that, and forgive that. Teen years are pretty much the worst on figuring out who the hell you are. Fear is rampant, because you are taking your first steps toward independence. I don’t blame them for not acting.
Now, however, bullying is everywhere. It used to be that you could get away from it – at home, at other places outside of school, etc. But, now it’s online, and follows kids home and everywhere else they go. They don’t get a breather or a break from the cruelty. And few of these kids have the skills to stand up under that pressure. They’ve been so over-scheduled that they haven’t had time to sit with themselves and build a foundation for their life. Or, worse, their parents insist on building the foundation, and screw what the kid wants.
Some of these kids even get bullied by their parents, so they’re being hit from all sides.
This shit has got to stop. I’m standing up and mentoring someone (and I’m willing to mentor more, if they want it). What about you?