It’s International Stand Up to Bullying Day, and the subject is one that I have a lot of personal experience with. I know some of you are probably rolling your eyes and thinking, “oh, she’s talking about this again? Let it go, Meg.” But here’s the thing, I like to share my experience with bullying because you know what? It might help someone else who is going through a tough time. I know that if someone could have told teenage me what was up, I would have maybe had an easier time with things. So, roll your eyes all you want. Here’s my story:
My family moved to Tennessee from New Jersey when I was nine years old. Oh, and I skipped a grade that year. So imagine moving to the South as a Yankee where they were still practically fighting the Civil War in 1992 and instead of going into 4th grade like I should have been, I got to go into the 5th grade instead. (I scored high on some IQ test or something. Turns out, I wasn’t really that smart. I just had super high reading levels.) So… that right there was a bad start. Not only was I a year younger than everyone in my grade when that actually mattered, but also a new grade, curriculum, and a school where most of the kids have been together since pre-K…yeah, not exactly a great recipe for popularity. I definitely did NOT fit in, and it would just get worse from then on.
In Junior High I managed to stay invisible, but as soon as High School started it got pretty rough. Mind you, I was 13 when I started, and I was a late bloomer, and just all-around awkward. I had zero fashion sense, I wasn’t a great student, I was not very attractive (My parents said I was beautiful, and bless their blindness) and never would fight back when people picked on me. So, I was basically the perfect target. Oh my gosh, I wanted to be popular SO badly. I wanted friends, and that dream high school life that I saw on all the teen movies, but I was basically “Josie Grosie” from “Never Been Kissed”. To be fair, I was a bit of an odd duck, but I was a nice one, that never meant anyone any harm. But let me tell you, it was brutal for a few years. Here’s a few examples of how awful kids can be:
- Singing in the high school talent show, and having 90% of the audience boo at me. How I ever got onstage again, I have no clue.
- My freshman year, a table of the hot Senior guys started catcalling me at lunch and told me to come over. When I did, clearly excited about the attention, they laughed and told me they would never be into a skank like me.
- One of those awful senior guys spread a rumor that he slept with me. I was 13. I had no idea what he was even talking about, but to this day people still think that happened. That rumor haunted me my entire high school career,
- In the lunch line, one kid loved to come up and kick me in the ribs daily. This went on for weeks, until I finally told my parents, and they went to the school who then blamed me for “being flamboyant” and bringing too much attention to myself.
- One of the Senior girls decided it would be nice to put gum in my hair at an assembly, which ended up having to be cut out. Again, my parents complained and nothing was done.
- I can’t tell you how many times I found gross things people put in my backpack. Rude.
- I always hated the change of class, because people would literally saw “ew, gross” as I walked by them in the hall. This was a daily occurrence my Freshman and Sophomore year.
- The few times I tried to show interest in a boy, he would make a show about how skanky I was, and how he’d never be into me.
- When I tried to act and dress “normally” I would just be called out on it. “Look! Megan is trying to be like us! Ha! Loser” I couldn’t win.
- I’ve been told I should just kill myself on several occasions.
Those are just a few examples. It did get better by my Senior year (not totally, but it was better) and I was lucky to have amazing parents to come home to every day. My mother would always tell me “Birds Only Pick on the Best Fruit” and dad would say “Consider the Source”… but at that age, it was hard to really understand how right they were. I was just lucky to have them. I can’t imagine kids being bullied at school, and then NOT having a support system at home. I can easily see how they could go off the rails. I don’t know what causes someone to act like a bully, or why it’s even an accepted behavior, but it’s seriously awful and damaging at ANY point in life.
It took a long time to get over constantly feeling like a loser, and I ended up having social anxiety over it for years, Honestly? Sometimes I still get it when I meet new people. It’s ingrained in me to automatically think that people won’t like me, because that was the norm for me. And bullying goes beyond school. It’s everywhere. In the workplace, in social circles, in sports, in politics, and of course, it’s rampant online. I’ve seen people be terrible to their co-workers because that person was simply different than they were. In social circles, women being rude to others because they are jealous or petty or who knows what. And the vitriol on BOTH political sides is sickening. Sure, lets express hate because someone thinks differently than you do. That sounds fun! Can we please just stop? Take a deep breath, and remember that we are all human, and we are all going through something, and move on? Why is that so hard?
That all being said, having experienced bullying at all stages in my life- heck even now- I do feel like my experience in the end has made me a better person, and most definitely a stronger one. I know what it’s like to feel left out and hated, and I would never want to knowingly make someone feel that way. I would never want to knowingly hurt someone’s feelings, or make them feel less than, and that’s sadly a rare trait. Over the years, my skin has thickened, and I can now honestly say from experience to anyone who has experienced bullying that it DOES get better. YOU will be better. It just is tough to deal with when it’s happening. But stay strong, be kind, work hard, and when your dreams come true eventually, it’s pretty cool to know that you did it, despite all the hate and negativity. You will rise above it. And it will be AWESOME.