I've had the unique experience of going to two high schools. After going to school with many of the same people from Kindergarten, I moved in my junior year of high school. About halfway through. Now I'm going to be brutally honest with you. I was not well liked or popular. Not even close. I was bullied. For my weight. For being poor. Anything they could find, they would tease me with. In middle school, one of my very best friends mistook a suggestion of us going as a group to a sixth grade dance (which was just how it was done at that age) as a request for a date with her and sparked a huge rumor that I was gay, that stayed with me for several years. I don't think she meant any malice in it, and I've forgiven her for it. Everything is confusing as fuck in sixth grade.
The longer I've gone to school with a person, the nicer they were. In elementary school, everyone starts out friends, at least they did when I was a kid. So as we grew up, we were more defensive of those kids as we got to middle and high school. You tried to stop it more. You stood up for them more. I had people like that. Who remembered the me who was 7 years old and held their hand while they limped crying to the school nurse. Or the me who was 12 and a classmate got her period at school and needed a pad and a hug from someone who cared. Then there were my 'friends.' I use the quotation marks because now looking back as someone who has her life under control (kinda) I can see them for what they always were. You know that saying 'keep your enemies closer.' They were never my friends. I thought it was normal for everyone to back stab everyone else.
They led me down an awful path and turned me into a person I hated. They bullied me the most. Sure it hurt when other kids did it, but they were my 'friends' and that hurt me the most. The people *I* genuinely cared about didn't give a shit about me. And I didn't think I deserved any better. I spent a lot of those years sad. And depressed. I'm ashamed to admit this, but suicidal as well. We lived in a three story building and I thought how easy it would be to jump. But I didn't. Want to know why? Because I was afraid I would fail. Like I did with everything else. If I fell, I would just break both legs or spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair and be my parent's burden. To me, a dead daughter would be better than a crippled daughter. As a Mom, that thought makes me want to go back and beat the crap out of my teenage self. But that's not what she would have needed. She would have needed someone who noticed those things. I think one of the SINGLE most important things a kid needs to hear is
'People might tease, bully and treat you like dirt. Try not to take it personally. That person has pegged you as an easy victim. They are unhappy with their life, jealous of what you have OR don't have and are taking it out on you. It's not about you, it's about them.'
So despite all these horrible things, I was terrified of leaving. I felt that it had taken me SO many years to have what little happiness I had, I was going to have to start all over again. I didn't know it would be better. I didn't know it would get SO MUCH BETTER. Sadly, I did the wrong thing even in leaving. I spent too much time saying goodbye to some of the 'friends' I cared too much about. I didn't focus enough on the few people (I can count on my hand) who I knew loved, cared and accepted me a person. I have done a poor job hanging onto the people who genuinely cared for me at a time when I didn't think I deserved it. And for that I will always be sorry.
I took a week off. Moving is hard and I wanted to have 'my room' and I had a doctor's appt and an ortho appt and we just had to get stuff done. So I went for my first day. My counselor was nice. She was friends with my Aunt, who was a teacher at the school. I walked right onto the newspaper as an editor. I did my work. I kept my head down. There was a bubbly and bright girl who was given the task of showing me around. She did so much more. She was the first sign of better for me. She offered to share her locker with me, because mine was so far from the classroom. She introduced me to her friends. And it kept happening. Despite my best efforts to keep my head down and stay invisible, people kept talking to me. Some even wanted to be my friend.
Back then I thought it was because I was the shiny new object to be stared at. Or because my Aunt was a well liked teacher there. Maybe that was true of one or two people. Today, I can say with confidence that it wasn't true of most people. They talked to me and wanted to be my friend, because I was worthy of their time. I thrived at my new HS. I did everything I could to put my old HS and my past behind me. I was in honors classes. I was pulling better grades. People knew my name from our HS newspaper and I was the girl with the pink hair. My chem lab partner became my best friend. Then my second one was our newspaper editor in chief. I had a crush, fell in love and married him five years later. I didn't get teased on the bus, in the halls or anywhere else. I was happy, and I was getting to know who I actually was. This is what I have come up with. Smart, talented, artistic. Funny, sarcastic, a little bit crazy. Loving, friendly, confident. I love drawing and writing. I love my sense of style and I love food. Cooking and eating it.
My story had a happy ending. And a new beginning as we started our life together. I haven't told this story to anyone, because it's honestly very painful to me still. I have a lot of my past buried deep and I won't let it out. That place and that time is just poison. The people toxic. I deserved better than that life.
And now my unique experience continues because I am looking down the barrel at two high school reunions. One I *WANT* to be invited to, but I don't want to go to and one I *KNOW* I'm invited to and am psyched for. I want to be included in my old HS's reunion because I want them to think of me and include me. I still have that desire, but it's no longer a driving force. I don't think I would actually go. I would have many conditions. Like I'll go if these 5 people go, but not if these 5 people go. Because while it would be nice to see a whole LOT of people, those first five are really the only ones I would *miss* not seeing and I would absolutely terrified to face the other five. Just because I've come to terms with my life, doesn't mean I forgive them in any kind of capacity. My confident self hopes I would hold my head up, be happy and show them they were wrong. But then there's 16 year old me that says NO NO NO.
I'm not afraid of anyone at my other HS reunion. I look forward to nothing but drinks, dancing, food, looking awesome and reminiscing. And showing them pictures of our kids. We'll take cliche prom type photos and maybe dance to some of the songs we did at HS dances. And at the end of the night, I'll be so sad that our days together passed so quickly. That we didn't slow down more in HS and stop trying to be adults and just enjoy our HS days more. And when everyone goes back home and to their jobs all around the country, I will miss them. And count down the days till we celebrate our twentieth.
I tell this tale for several reasons. It's been on my mind a lot with our ten year coming up. It's cathartic for me to finally tell this story. Some people from my real life need to read this and see how their actions might have caused me harm in the past. Some people from my real life need to read this and see how much they have done for me. And it's needs to be told because it has the undercurrent of a cautionary tale on bullying. Suicide was never really a think for bullied teens when I was a kid. We were kind of the 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' generation and I think the last generation that really had any common sense. We still played, our neighborhoods were still safe and life still had some innocence. We grew up with technology as an emerging thing. Personal computers and cell phones were new.
The bullying still happens. Now it's even easier with cell phones, computers and social media like facebook. I pray so hard I can teach my kids to overcome, and to be safe, loving and happy. Sit down with your kids. Explain to them WHY bullying happens, what it means. Ask if they are being bullied or if they think they've bullied someone (whether purposely or accidentally). Teach them the ramifications of bullying. Give them coping skills. Get them help if they need it. Sometimes it isn't enough to tell them to ignore it, because people can really get in your face. Ignoring it doesn't mean you don't hear it, doesn't mean it doesn't hurt and doesn't mean it doesn't cause any psychological damage. Maybe if well all sat our kids down and had this conversation with our kids, less of them would bully. Less of them would commit suicide. Less of them would go absolutely crazy and go on a killing spree. I think a lot more needs to be done and said in regards to the mental and psychological health of teenagers. A normal teenager's brain on a good day is a weird, confusing place to be.
If I could sum up this post in one short quip it would be
Things sucked, got better, can't wait to party BHS '03.
Fluffimama out <3