Thursday, October 07, 2010

Hey, I was picked on too...

The latest stories about kids being bullied and harassed has me thinking about my own past. I endured my share of harassment when I was a teenager. Growing up in Miami, I never had a problem with any of my fellow classmates until 6th grade.

One of my classmates Stephen pushed me down after school and my papers and books went everywhere. I remember a teacher seeing this and coming out to help me. That same year, I was beat up by a boy in my class named Ricky who claimed I cheated on a spelling test. Of course what he didn't realize was that I was just a damn good speller. It was after that my parents decided to move us out of Miami. The neighborhood was heading in a direction they did not like. They thought that raising us in the country would be ideal and so they moved us to rural North Central Florida where I entered 7th grade at a very small K-12 school where everyone was related to everyone else and everyone knew everyone else's business. 

The new school I attended was a good school with good teachers but it was difficult being accepted by my peers.  I just wanted to be like the others and have what they had and I wanted to be popular. I wanted to wear cool clothes, makeup, and be involved in lots of cool school activities like the "in" crowd. My mother on the other hand, knew better and believed I should be me and refused to give in to my need to be like everyone else. The more I pushed to be like everyone else, the more she pushed back and refused. Little did I realize back then that she was right. Mom saw no need for her kids to impress everyone else, she knew it was just a phase.  And she was right.

I do not believe mom and dad ever knew I was picked on in school. I did a pretty good job of hiding it. Had they known, they would have immediately contacted the principal and the parents of the kids involved. Thing is, kids don't tell their parents when they're picked on because they are afraid their parents will say something about it and the other kids will find out, thus making things worse. That's why I never told my parents.

Being picked on was a very painful experience. I don't remember if I cried, though I probably went into the girls bathroom a few times and did. I know I was angry. I often gave it back to the people who gave it to me. I tried to come up with something witty, sometimes I'd just laugh at myself with them. Mostly I would turn red and get embarassed at being singled out and picked on. Ultimately, from a kid's point of view there's not much to do but sit there and take it.

So here I am and it's been more than 20 years later and I still remember it as it if were yesterday. Why is that? I'm doing great, why should I even think about it? Thing is we don't ever really forget but we do get past it and we learn from it. I know that all of the experiences of my life have made me who I am today. I am fairly comfortable with who I am though I find myself every now and then indulging in some self-analysis and blaming my shortcomings on events of the past. It's true that being picked on and bullied as a kid can have a lasting effect but only if we let it. We can place it where it belongs in our past and move on.  The responsibility for our lives remains with us now, not with our past. That's the great thing about the past, it's done, it's gone and because it's gone it gives us a chance to move on which is what I did and hope to continue doing even though sometimes when I'm down and depressed, it manages to ease its way back into my life and set up housekeeping.

But hey, that's just life and I'm ok with that.

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