Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Apology from My Bully & A Response

I wrote a post about bullying I encountered in elementary school and shared the link on Facebook.  At the time I wrote it I hadn't thought about my bully actually reading the blog post, but she did.  Not only did she read it, she responded to it by sending me a private message via Facebook.  I've sat on responding back to her for reasons I can't really articulate. It isn't that I didn't want to respond I just haven't had the words...the heart and mind don't always synchronize.

Until now...

Here is my response to her:

Dear           ,

I hadn't anticipated hearing from you in response to my recent blog posting.  The fact that you recognized that I had written about you and reached out to me within an hour or so of my publishing threw me.  While I read your message, I saw you and I as ten year old girls.  While I can't get back the years of childhood that were stolen, I certainly don't define myself by those years.  Your apology has settled in and I can honestly say it was good to read.

My one regret is that I did not stand up to you.  I did not stand up for the other girl who you targeted either.  I suppose even as an elementary student I could see you tearing me down had more to say about you than me.  You were my Nelly Olson.  If I only knew what I know now.

I appreciate you reaching out to me and sharing how I left a mark on your heart when you experienced tragic loss.  I vividly recall that day I came by your home. I was terrified to drop by but with my mother's urging I knew it to be right.

My posting brought to light how bullying is pervasive,  how bullying is damaging, how powerful it is when someone speaks up and says I will not witness this bullying and let it continue.

I'm grateful for your message.

I wish you only the best.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bullying, A Memoir

As a young child, I attended a large school in Los Angeles County.  Despite the large number of students and staff the atmosphere was warm and inviting.  I developed friendships quite easily.  Learning was joyful.  My days were carefree and I liked school.  I even recall being chosen as a student that was bestowed "The Pride of Victoria Award."  Feeling confident and secure, I partcipated freely and gave my best effort in class.

At the end of my second grade year we moved to Orange County.  My new school was just a block away from our house.  The school was small with just one teacher assigned to each grade level.  I wouldn't know anyone in my class on the first day of third grade and was quite anxious.

My transition to a new school was difficult.  I was the "new girl" and being such I was different from the rest of my classmates who had known one another since kindergarten.  One particular female classmate found fault with me being different.  She found any and every opportunity to tease me.  To her standards, my clothing was odd, I wasn't athletic, I didn't have the bonds they had or anything in common with the rest of the class.  I was befriend by one student initially, (which I will forever be grateful for) but that friendship diminished year after year as the teasing and ridicule by the other classmate grew stronger.  As she taunted me, I fell silent and offered no defense.  The rest of my classmates remained quiet as the teasing persisted, sometimes a few would chime in.  No one to my knowledge ever spoke up about it.

For the remaining years of my elementary schooling I would remain being pegged as her target for teasing with taunting ridicule, crank phone calls, being picked last for PE teams, having our home toilet papered, etc...  At the ripe old age of 10, I was labeled "pink petunia" and "thunder thighs."  I don't believe for a minute that teachers were unaware of what was happening, but they turned a blind eye. Perhaps they saw this as child's play?

I never was given another award for achievement; accolades for citizenship never came my way either.  I lost interest in my school work.  My once in tact self esteem was chipped away little by little.  I no longer enjoyed school and would come home with my eyes filled with tears. 

I was thrilled when sixth grade was over, I felt seventh grade would finally be my chance for a fresh start.  I prayed for a clean slate.  You can imagine my internal stomach plunge when I saw that the student I had hoped to get away from was in my seventh grade traveling group.  At first, I grit my teeth and dug deep, she wouldn't keep up the antics would she?  I poured my heart out to my mom and pleaded for her intervention.  

My mom wrote a letter to our Vice Principal.  There was no way I was going to directly hand him the letter.  Rather, I headed to the main office while I knew he was on the playground.  I was a nervous wreck handing that letter to the office manager.  The letter's contents were never reviled to me nor were they ever discussed by my mom, or other teaching personnel.  Yet, a change was made.  I no longer was in the same traveling group as my taunting classmate.  It was over, or so I thought.

While I no longer had to be face to face with my bully in class, I still heard her in my head.  Even to this very day, I am affected by the years of criticism.  Thankfully her voice isn't quite as loud as it once was, but even though we age, we carry the years of our past with us.

I've had other encounters with bullying since her, but none were as damaging.  I will never know why they choose me, perhaps they sensed  I was sensitive and unprepared to defend myself.  Whatever their reasons, I will always carry the affects.
My mom and I during my sixth grade year