I’m gonna go on a bit more of a serious route this time around guys. This story may not seem interesting to you, and it’s a bit more scatterbrained than my other posts, but it’s all things I needed to say. Thanks for being apart of my journey.
The other night, I found myself scrolling through Instagram, bored. So I decided to look up old friends from high school. As I looked at how much we had all changed in the nearly 5 years since we’d seen each other, I decided to look up a girl, now a woman I guess, who spent many of our younger years bullying me.
The earliest I can remember being bullied was the 2nd grade. It was around that time I started eating my feelings, hoarding food, not being nearly as active as I once was. I started putting on weight and my eating habits got so bad that by the time I was in high school, I spent a lot of time just eating to fill the time. While there’s probably many psychological reasons behind my eating habits, up until very recently a part of me found it easier to blame my eating habits and weight on the bullying that happened to me in elementary school. That’s when I remember it all starting.
This girl in particular (we’ll call her Joan for this article) was your typical popular girl with a bratty side. She wasn’t the queen bee, I think even then we were too young for that, but she had a group of girls around her like a shield. All of them from rich families, never wanting anything in life. It’s true, my family was not as rich as some of the other kids in this applied learning school, but we weren’t poor. I had friends, and I was happy with what I had. But a part of me wanted to be accepted by these girls, and when I tried to become their friend, I got burned.
I remember small things from elementary school, being tricked on the playground, getting ignored by people in the hallways. People calling me names, Joan calling me “Anika Pickles- Pain in the butt” (which hurts a lot when 20 and teaming up with another bully to call me “dirtbag 5000”. I started gaining weight and the fat insults streamed in. I joined theatre and the weirdo jokes happened. I had my group of friends and even though all of us may have been picked on from time to time, to me it felt like I was the only one who was truly singled out for being “abnormal”.
Then middle school hit and Joan wasn’t there. She went to a different school. I still had bullies, but to be honest I can’t remember any of them. Mainly because I have blocked out almost all of my middle school years. I mean, who hasn’t?
I started High School, and did my theatre thing. And for 2 years, I faced hurdles and really only had one bully, who coincidentally had the same name as joan. But then, at the end of sophomore year, beginning of junior year, Joan transferred into my High School.
It was like elementary school all over again. And before ANY OF YOU say something along the lines of “you were older then, people can change, etc” Just stop. At the time, it felt like not a damn thing had changed. She made fun of me in our shared classes, she laughed at me in the halls. She sneered at me at prom, and spread rumors about me. And she still had the gaggle of perfectly dressed girls surrounding her. She wasn’t a cheerleader, but she was friends with all the cheerleaders. She was one red scrunchie away from being a Heather. Untouchable. And I was Martha Dunstock, never brave enough to stand up to her.
I remember getting really mad at her one day…Our teacher had stepped out of the room after she made a nasty remark about his teaching style and she continued to make some really terrible comments about him. I remember confronting her, asking her why she felt the need to be such a bitch and she just turned to her friends and laughed. I was fuming,and she just laughed. She didn’t have to say a word, just laugh and my whole defense crumbled. From then on I avoided her like the plague. Seeing her made my blood boil because I realized that she was just a girl who had nothing better to do than to tear others down.
I don’t know why I looked her (and a few others) up on instagram, and later facebook. I’m not going to lie, I was shocked to see that she had moved to New York not one month before I did. I know she’s probably living off of her parents money in Manhattan somewhere, and we will probably never cross paths. I probably have less of a chance of running into her here than we lived in Fort Worth, a place with where we have friends in common and shared haunts. But nevertheless I found myself scared at the idea of running into her. If I ran into her tomorrow, what would she think? And why is it having such an impact on me now, as a grown 22 year old woman?
Honestly, in the month I’ve been here I’ve done pretty well for myself. I’ve gotten a great apartment and roommate, a job that pays the bills and doesn’t make me want to kill something, a friend circle and social life, and an internship doing what I love which already includes helping produce a festival that’s going to be featured in the New York Times. Not too shabby if I say so myself.
But I realized it wouldn’t matter to her. And her opinion shouldn’t matter to me. I would just be the same girl I was back then, as she is to me. Or she might not care at all. I’ll bet you anything she hasn’t even thought about my existence since we graduated. Not once. So why have I been thinking of her?
I looked at her pictures, and where she was smiling I saw a sneer. Where she was probably laughing with joy, I saw malice. I projected all these things onto her, and I realized that there was no point of me looking at these photos. A part of me wants to scream at her and all the other bullies and people who tore me down. I want the High School Reunion where I walk in looking amazing with this awesome life and making every one rethink how they treated me. I want to scream “LOOK. I MADE SOMETHING OF MYSELF, I MADE IT”. But then I realized that I would just be giving them something that they could take away. I would only be giving them the map to my Achilles Heel.
I thought back to a few years ago, when Joan 2 (from high school) reached out to me on facebook. I remember accepting her friend request and then almost immediately unfriending her. My small way of making it clear that I didn’t want to be her friend. And why would I? She was awful to me in High School. She had a knack for getting other people to laugh along at her cruel jokes when I was the punch line. She had zingers for everyone, of course, and I think she used her sharp tongue as a defense mechanism. But of course, I felt that she was always crueler towards me than anyone else. I wish I hadn’t unfriended her back then. I wish I had had the strength to move on, but no. I wasn’t ready yet.
I am now. Or at least I think I am. I’m making the first steps
A few months ago Joan 2 popped up on my dash, tagged in a mutual friend’s photo or something. I added her, and she accepted. She lives in NYC. I hope to one day be able to meet with her in person. Baby steps.
The marks my bullies have left on me have lasted this long because I let them. Because every so often I think about what they did back then and what they might be doing now. I know that the marks will never truly fade, and I don’t want them to because they helped me become who I am today. I would say forgive and forget, but at this point I don’t think there’s anything to forgive anymore. And I’m not going to try to force myself to forget, because that will only make me think about it more. I don’t want to find myself stuck in the past anymore, afraid of meeting them again. And I don’t want to imagine a situation where it appears my life is better than theirs because it’s not a contest. I got to where I am on my own merit, and no one can take that away from me.
All that’s left is moving on, accepting that I do not live in a world where I have to prove myself to my bullies. My worth does not come from having a better life than them. It comes from accepting that I exist in the same world as my bullies, and we are all just trying to navigate it as best we can. And as long as you try, that’s what matters.
If you are someone who suffered or still suffers from bullying, I implore you to find someone and talk about it, no matter what age you are. I know you may feel afraid that people may laugh at you, or tell you to “get over it”, but I promise you there is someone out there who will listen. And if you can’t find them, you can always email me. Remember that your self- worth is not reliant on other’s opinions. YOU decide.
And you, my friend, are a star.