My first day of school was my first experience of bullying. I remember being excited to make some friends, so I chattered on to the boy next to me. After a while of him not saying anything but just staring at me, I started to feel self-conscious. All throughout my elementary school career, whenever he saw me, he stopped whatever he was doing and stared.
Another boy in my Kindergarten class picked me up and swung me around the room. I screamed and cried for him to put me down, but he kept swinging until I supposed he tired himself out. The teacher never intervened. The boy’s name was Robbie.
A third boy on the bus tortured me as well, all throughout those grammar school years. I don’t remember what he did, only that when we moved after fourth grade, I rejoiced to never have to suffer his abuses again. His name was Jack.
Countless other boys in grade school mocked me by lurching about like monkeys. I didn’t know why they did this; I didn’t look or move about like a monkey. Nevertheless, I hated it, and no one stopped them. I cried too many times to count, even more frustrated at the lack of assistance by teachers. My only solace was the library, or the nurse’s office.
In my first year away at college, I had bullies in my dorm. These were girls this time. They physically bullied me, the first time I ever experienced that. I was always smaller than everyone else, so I felt powerless even more so in being able to stop them.
I never knew what to do about bullying. My mom told me to ignore them, but that didn’t stop them. Only one time I stood up to the boys, I kicked them in the shins. I guess I didn’t know yet about inflicting pain in the groin area. In college, I only stood up once there too. After a girl shoved me into my closet door, I spat in her face. I am still surprised that I managed such a trajectory.
After the suicides in the school district that I attended and still live in, I grieved for the students who felt so powerless and lost that they believed there was no other option. I know that feeling. If there is no consequence, if there is no support, bullying will continue, even into adulthood and the workplace. No child should have to suffer this way. I know my parents did all they could, but it was a time when children with disabilities were first integrated into regular classrooms in public schools. There were no services for kids like me. We were on our own.
Some say that bullying is part of life, but I say it doesn’t have to be. Who would want their child to suffer needlessly? Who would want to live in a Lord of the Flies world? I don’t want that for me or for future generations. Even though my niece is homeschooled, she suffers bullying in her after school programs. I want to protect her forever from the cruelness of others, but I know, like me, we will suffer this all our lives. We live in a world that doesn’t embrace difference. It is survival of the fittest.
But I also know that we have to be victorious and rise above the behaviors of others. To retaliate in violence only escalates it. I have tried to teach my niece that it is cool to be different. We are fun and interesting, not boring. I have tried to teach her to stand up for herself. I hope that she will always have confidence, and not be like me, living in fear for most of my life.