I’m watching a CBS news report about how the bullying that a 7th grade girl in Ohio has endured has to come light, and watching it takes me back to my high school days, because it’s so similar and familiar to me.
I don’t talk about it a lot, although I have, but I was bullied mercilessly in school. It started in 8th grade, but escalated when I was in my freshman year. The kids in my high school class, to this day, were an anomaly to me. It seemed like they were this pack of wolves that all ran together and took no hostages. If you weren’t in, you were very out. It’s hard to describe. To this day, I can’t really describe what they were like. Vicious, cruel, arrogant.
I think what made it so bad, and what made it elevate the way it did was that, for one, it caught me off guard. I didn’t know how to react to it, and instead of standing up, I wilted. I think most people know that wilting only makes it worse. In my case, I never saw anyone else in that school go through what I did.
By 10th grade, I started to become afraid. I remember specifically Mr Schmidt’s science class. It got so bad in that class that I would hide down the hall until just when class was starting, and then I’d rush in, so that the teacher would be in the room, because if he wasn’t, I was helpless. During class, the people at my table, boys and girls, would hurl non-stop insults and threats my way. It was impossible to concentrate on the class. It was impossible to do anything but sit there and crawl deeper and deeper inside myself, wishing it would just stop. Understand, this wasn’t just verbal abuse. I was constantly hit, pushed, tripped… I was stabbed in the back with a pencil one time. Another time, I was stabbed in the leg. If I came to school with a cold, I would be accused of crying and made fun of. Everyone took aim at me, and the other kids that would have been targets, stayed away from me, so they wouldn’t get caught up in the abuse I was enduring.
In 11th grade, I began to regress. I was a pretty good kid, academically, but it fell apart. I refused to go to the classes that were the worst. Eventually, I was afraid to stay in school, because after 8 hours of being kicked around, the bus ride home would be unbearable, so I’d leave early, and walk home. I was labelled a trouble child, because of all the classes I was skipping. When I didn’t show up for detention, I was suspended. The thing is, I wasn’t a trouble child. I wasn’t a bad kid. I was scared.
At times, I’d let on to what was happening, but it was overlooked. By my mother, by the administration, the teachers. It was a “kids will be kids” thing. Of course, you never really want to let anyone know how bad it is, because even though you’re beaten down, you still have a shred of pride you want to hold onto. Only one person ever stood up for me, and it was recently that I told his sister about how much I still admire him for that. Even my own friends, at times, would get some jabs in, just to keep the wolves off of them.
When I was a senior, I was expelled for missing classes. I ended up at a school for kids that couldn’t adjust or were in trouble all the time, and I did graduate, with a diploma from my home high school, since each kid in the place I ended up was still sponsored by the school that they had been removed from, but the final nail was driven home. I never went to college. My transcripts were horrible. In 4 years I went from straight A’s to to failing. I’ve spent my entire adult life, maladjusted. Afraid to fight, backing down to physical confrontations. Giving up easily when faced with severe challenges that life just sends your way. My relationships have been failures and I’ve never really stuck to anything and it all goes back to what happened to me. I carried a big chip on my shoulder for many years, and even to this day, I still have a lot of resentment. I’ve always felt like the loser I was accused of being as a kid. Only during the time I was in the Army, did I finally find an escape from it. I think that, over the course of my adult life, I’ve known immense popularity at times. I’ve let myself be involved in as many things as I can, not just for the experience, but looking for acceptance, but it’s always just eluded me, and I think it’s sad, that I’m still affected by what I went through.
When bullying became a mainstream topic in the 90′s, I found myself sympathizing with the victims that deflected what they were going through into violent acts, like Columbine. Now, as I look at my kids, so young, I constantly worry about which crowd they’ll run with in school. How they’ll handle bullying, no matter which side of it they find themselves on.
And I think that so many people I went to school with are on my Facebook friend’s list and will see this and I wonder, I just wonder… will they remember?
From September 16, 2011