I was recently reading a novel which involved cyberbullying. The whole time, I was thinking that I was so glad the Internet wasn’t around when I was a kid. This is because I had many experiences with bullying and know just how emotionally harrowing it is. However, in my day, it wasn’t half as bad because technology wasn’t prevalent. What happened in the school yard stayed in the school yard. Even prank calls weren’t as bad as what I can imagine some kids going through these days. Therefore, I want to share my own “It gets better” message. I encourage parents to share this with their kids, as this is really a message to them, and I hope it will open up some much-needed conversations.
The bullying started with people drawing the lines of popularity and unpopularity in first grade. Once you were in one group or another, your fate was set. Either you’d pick on people or people would pick on you. Guess which group I ended up in? Even at a young age, I’d get picked on by kids in my class. I felt like I had to pounce upon new kids first, so that other people didn’t convince them to not like me. It was always this way from one grade to the next. I once made the mistake of quietly dancing in place to some music at a party and suddenly I was taunted about that too. It was a never-ending cycle. Seventh grade was the worst. I had just barely survived a very hellish sixth grade experience (complete with someone whom I thought was a friend betraying me by the end of the year) and would have to hide at lunchtime to avoid getting picked on by a group of girls. They managed to find me anyway. I’m still thankful for the gym teacher who put a stop to all their nonsense.
The bullying continued through high school, but in a milder form. Still, there were times when I felt like staying home sick for a few days. I did have some friends and teachers looking out for me, which made things more bearable. (If you want to hear more about my experiences, you can read the following posts from my personal blog: Sticks and Stones and No Broken Bones Here.) I realize that what I went through isn’t even as bad as what some kids have endured. In all the times I was bullied, I tended to run off crying or let my emotions show, wearing my heart on my sleeve. I was terrible at standing up for myself. I had a friend in grade school who would be mean to me because she thought she was teaching me how to stand up for myself. It didn’t work too well, but she was the same friend who later apologized to me during our college years. At that point, it was well behind us, but sometimes I still remember how much I dreaded going over to her house for play dates.
When my mom first read my “Sticks and Stones” post, she told me that she had no idea this had all been going on. However, I know she spoke to my teacher about it at conferences once, so maybe she just blocked it out. It took me a while to say anything to her at all and she had to drag the information out of me. This brings me to my first point. Kids, if you are being bullied, tell someone you trust! A parent, relative, sibling, close friend, guidance counselor, teacher, etc. Just tell someone and don’t keep it to yourself. It’s tempting to not want anyone to know because you feel ashamed and embarrassed, like it’s your fault. It’s NOT your fault. And if you can’t tell anyone else, tell me and you’ll have my support! I am not personally familiar with cyberbullying, but keep whatever you get in case you need proof to show a trusted person what is going on.
It’s also important to have a “saving grace” in your life. Mine were always pen pals, V.C. Andrews novels and extracurricular activities (especially speech team). Toward the end of my high school years, I found my “salvation” at a local theater that played “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I made a new group of friends there who didn’t judge me. Even though my parents didn’t feel safe about me going there (it was late at night in a somewhat rundown neighborhood), it was the safest I ever felt. I’m not saying these should be your child’s” saving graces,” but help them find something that makes them feel happy and secure all the time and stick with it!
My message to kids is that it gets better. It really does. There’s so much out there for you to accomplish. New places to go, people to meet, friends to make. In time, people are going to forget they ever bullied you. They may be the same people who end up flipping burgers or asking if people want fries with those burgers, while you’re successful at whatever you set your mind to. I may have dealt with a lot of peer-induced heartache during my youth, but I came out on the other end with an amazing husband, three adorable kids, a job I enjoy and a book blog that is doing incredibly well. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. So keep looking forward and when all else fails, listen to “Mean” by Taylor Swift and make it your theme song.