It has become a common thing these days in the neighborhoods, in the schools, even on the news, to hear about some kid getting bullied. The conversation will turn to how it turned violent or suicidal. It will turn to parents who found unique ways to teach their children tolerance instead of being bullies. Yes, these days bullies and their victims are news worthy. There are ad campaigns featuring celebrities and athletes telling kids not to be bullies and showing the victims how to get help. It’s all so very relevant. But being bullied isn’t a new fad, it isn’t a new trend. It’s something as old as time itself. Those of us who lived through it will always be touched by it, scarred by it. It’s made us who we are today, for good or bad. It is always there.
In my childhood years I was very much the odd kid out. I was an only child in a private school where many of the kids came from families with more money than my family had. So, I was not really accepted as being “one of them”. At home, the neighborhood kids didn’t go to my school, they went to the parochial school so I was not really accepted there either because I was thought to be “stuck up” because I went to a private school and spoiled because I was an only child. It wasn’t uncommon to have a friend one day only to find that she got a better offer the next day so I became old news, not needed. It wasn’t uncommon to find out how they talked about me behind my back amongst themselves. About how pathetic I was for thinking they could ever like me.
It was an everyday occurrence to be picked on, made fun of, ridiculed, or worse, totally ignored. It probably seems odd to a person who never had to deal with that kind of treatment but believe it or not, you get to the point where you’d rather be picked on than totally ignored. More times than I like to remember I was the only kid in the class not invited to the parties, or not able to find a seat on the school bus because every available seat was being “saved”, not for anyone in particular, but just so I wouldn’t be able to sit there. I sat on my front porch as a bunch of the kids on my block piled into a station wagon to the amusement park while I stayed home alone. They even laughed and waved at me as they drove by. I lay curled up in my bed crying, listening to the grand party taking place just across the street that every kid on the block was invited to except me. Every burst of laughter I heard, I was sure was directed at me. Take my word for it; it was a hard way to grow up. I would do anything, BE anything they wanted for it to stop, for it to be different even for just a day.
It took me many many years, well into High School before I was able to break the curse I felt I was living under. I don’t want to tell you how many variations of myself manifested in my attempt to be whatever the person I was with that day wanted me to be. It was exhausting. Thank God I got past it early on in High School. I could have gotten into serious trouble following that course. I don’t know what did it. I can’t remember if there was a particular trigger or event that made me finally realize that what those people thought didn’t matter. There was only one person I needed acceptance from. Only one person I needed to impress or needed approval from and that person was me! I came to realize that I was, that I am, a pretty amazing person and I like who I am, and if they don’t want to be my friend…that’s their loss.
But, you know, that little bug is still in there. Of course, there are always going to be people in the world who just don’t like you for some particular reason and that’s fine. It’s their right. But, even at 53 years old, when that happens, there is still that little 8 year old who wonders why? What did I do? Why doesn’t she like me? What’s wrong with me? What can I do to change her mind?? It’s so irrational that when it happens I literally shake myself like a wet dog…snap out of it girl!!!
So, yeah…bullying has become an in vogue topic these days and it should be. It should have been then too but it wasn’t. Back then you just had to learn to deal with it. Grownups just shrugged their shoulders and said it was part of life, part of growing up. It’s so unfortunate that it took large scale violent school attacks or tragic suicides with accompanying YouTube “suicide notes” to bring it the attention it should have had all along. So many can’t deal with it. So many crack under the weight of it. Many never come out of it right. Those of us who survived it, those of us who did learn to deal with it, to use it, made it through and became stronger because of it.
And, I honestly think it’s also one of the reasons I try really hard to stay out of the Twitter wars I see raging around me. Well, honestly, I don’t really see all that much, only what I see in the threads of others I follow, because when I see a bully they are BLOCKED. DONE! What happens on Twitter can be toxic and I just don’t want any part of that. Short of closing my account and leaving, I choose to block those I feel ruin the vibe for me. Because, after all these years, the last thing I want to deal with is a bully. They don’t deserve any attention because what attention does is give the bully power. They flourish on the attention, the feeling of control it gives them over those they attack. The pain, humiliation, sadness and, yes, anger they see in the tweets of those they bully makes them feel dominant. It’s like a high; they get a rush from it. The more reaction they get, the more they do it. It’s a vicious cycle that is so hard to break. The only person who can break it is the victim. Stop feeding the monster. Cut yourself off. Cleave to those friends who you know you can trust; disregard the rest. Look out for yourself because there isn’t anyone out there who matters more than you. The only person you need validation from is YOU. I refuse to be subjected to the venom and vitriol of a bully on Twitter. Been there….done that… a long time ago! I won’t go there again…. I just won’t….
But, you know what? There are days, some dark and uncertain days when my childhood is still there, lurking under the surface. Maybe I don’t get involved because I’m afraid the bully will come after me next. Oh I know I have friends now. The kind of friends I didn’t have then, friends who would stand up for me and be there when I needed them. I know that…. I do… I know… but…
Some days part of me is still standing in the school yard, the last kid not picked for a team.