I don’t really recall how it all began. I don’t remember who was the first person who started it, nor why. I have never been a fat kid, but I was never skinny. I am not rich, but I am not poor. I am not an overachiever, but I am not average. I am not drop dead gorgeous, but I am very pretty. I never mistreated anyone, but tried to befriend everyone. Despite of being a normal girl, kids still found all of this enough to target me.
Yes. I was bullied.
When I was a young girl I was very shy, but once I made friends I stuck up for them and for what I believed in. It was hard for me at first to come out of my shell, but when I did: LOOK OUT! There was one problem, though: up until my sixth grade my parents enrolled me in small bilingual schools. It was good, because I learned two languages at the same time and made good friends, it was bad because in Puerto Rico we graduate to Junior High in sixth grade to seventh grade and the Junior High school I went to was also a High School. From a group of eight kids, I was now in a group of twenty-five kids. And I only knew one of them: the girl that was then my best friend.
But you see, my “best friend” knew a lot of these people because her parents were involved in a lot of things. My parents are doctors and extremely busy so I didn’t really know anybody but her. I tried to make friends but can you imagine? My English was better than my Spanish. My parents drove me in expensive cars and I was a shy girl. It was all too perfect for bullies to pass up.
There were seventy five kids approximately in seventh grade, divided into three groups. I was in “the nerd group” which doesn’t endear you to many other kids. Then, of course, there are the cliques within the “nerd group” itself. I didn’t fit into any of them because I couldn’t even figure out who I was or what I was doing there. It was a very confusing time, all documented in my diaries. I was scared, and most of all, I was alone. Then two of my favorite uncles died, making this officially the worst year of my life. So far.
On eight grade, kids started doing drugs. Of course, this meant that they started acting more and more like idiots. It didn’t help that it was my awkward stage, when my face looked like something out of a scary movie and my boobs grew incredibly... It was during this grade that one kid made fun of me when I fell during gymnastics class then proceeded to tell the entire eight grade that I’d fallen and wherever I walked people made fun of me. It was also during this grade that one kid, in a drug induced stupor, grabbed me by my bag, broke the bag, threw it on the floor and called me a bitch. And when I did something to stand up to these kids all of the others called me a traitor.
I was a traitor, and an outcast, for standing up for myself. All in eight grade.
In ninth grade I grew into my looks, and boys started to back off. That’s when girls moved in. Suddenly, the boobs everyone saw me grow were “fake” and one girl who I thought was a good friend started spreading rumors about me kissing and letting guys feel me up in the locker room. Truth be told: I hadn’t even had my first kiss yet. My cousin was living with us at the time and if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t had survived that year. She gave me confidence and told me to stay strong, that those girls were just jealous and that I needed to hold my head up high. And as hard as it was walking in to school every morning, feeling the gazes of my classmates who, years later, still remember what car my parents drove me in every morning, I did it.
Tenth grade brought forth a new batch of students. For the first time I felt like I wasn’t the girl everyone loved to hate. In fact, I grew more into my looks and I actually had my first boyfriend, outside of school of course, so no one would think I was stepping on their toes. Of course, this didn’t really work. One girl in class was madly in love with a guy from eleventh grade. I happened to be friends with him, because we looked a lot alike, and he used to call me his “little twin”. As you might expect, the girl in my class hated that and promptly made up a rumor that I had stolen the guy from her. Yeah... me, the guy’s “little twin” was actually a temptress and had made him fall for me instead of her. Yeah right.
In eleventh grade I became friends with a guy that was nearly as ostracized as me by our classmates. We clicked and, OF COURSE, we simply had to be dating and everyone had to know. Neither him nor I really cared about these rumors because, truth be told, we did like each other. But we liked our friendship more. It was never more than a friendship I still cherish. A girl who I knew then, who I thought was a really good friend, then, got angry at me for reasons I still can’t recall. It involved a boy, as it often does, but I thought we had spoken about it and were clear. Apparently not. She screamed at me in front of everyone and then proceeded to tell me that if I wanted my money back (my parents had helped her with something) I could have it. I was so stupid, such a child back then that I cried for hours. The nurse had to calm me down. My parents had to go to her house to get her to back off. It was that awful.
As you probably imagine, it got worse. During Senior Year a boy (he was nothing more than an idiot) decided to create a rumor about me. He told one of the meanest girls in class that I thought she was stupid, and that she shouldn’t be our representative in the National Honor Society Academic Bowl. It seems like a silly rumor to you? Well, she took it pretty seriously. On the ONE WEEK I was sick in school she made my life miserable, calling me names, talking behind my back and spilling a bottle of white-out on my long, curly brown hair. Among other things. People saw this, and did nothing.
I had a serious boyfriend back then (whom I married six years ago) and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have survived my Senior Year. He gave me comfort... I could tell him anything and he would be with me every step of the way. He didn’t care if girls called me names or boys talked about me and lied about things they supposedly did with me. And just for the record: I was a virgin until I got married. I had my first baby six months ago. Back then I didn’t do ANYTHING with ANY of the boys in school, but of course, I just had to be lying...
I can’t tell you how it all began, but I can tell you when it ended.
On the year 2000, our Senior Class was standing on the gym stage. We were declared official graduates and we all took off our flat hats and threw them up in the air. While most were hugging and crying, my best guy friend and I looked at one another, wrapped our arms around each other and shouted: “IT IS FINALLY OVER!”
And from that day on, my life began.
I have a Juris Doctor. I run three different businesses with my husband, who is also a Financial Adviser. We have a beautiful home, a healthy, gorgeous baby and a cute yorkie puppy. We are volunteers in Church. We have awesome friends who were there when we got married, celebrated with us our Baby Shower, prayed for my son when he was in NICU and now that he’s with us, love him and us with all of their hearts. We have an amazing family and so many blessings we are grateful for. And this is just the beginning.
God has been kind to me in many ways, one of them being that whenever my biggest bully is around I never see her. I have seen her father, her kid and her husband (if they’re still together) but I never see her. It is as if she doesn’t exist even if she is standing in front of me. I thank God every day that He protects me this way.
Would I change anything? Yes. NO ONE should be bullied. I am grateful and lucky that I had a strong, loving and supportive family that was with me every step of the way but if I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t be the success I am today.
NO ONE should have to go through this pain and humiliation and NO ONE has a right to make others feel inadequate.
I am an advocate against bullying and I will make sure I teach Julian not to be a bully, to be part of the solution and not the problem. What are you teaching your kids? What are you doing to prevent something like this from happening to someone else?