Wednesday, March 21, 2012
They spit, they whisper, they punch, they cackle, they taunt and they jeer. In this modern age, they type. You are that tall brick wall that they want to tear down, a once-majestic building defiled by grafitti. I recently just read Dear Bully, an anthology about writers who have opened up about their experiences with bullying.
In many ways, reading that book was painful. It wasn't my usual getaway experience from the world but it brought me back to many of the things that I was trying to escape from.
This is something that I've been wanting to write about for a long time but the opportunity has never presented itself to me. I guess now it has.
I was bullied. Multiple times. However so many adults want to just brush it off as some normal childhood ritual or whatever, it's not.
Yes, it has built my character. It also ended up tearing me apart at some point and it has left me with profound emotional scars. It still affects me today- whenever I'm at school, with my friends, or even certain times when I'm alone. I'm not one to be crying victim here but it's true. However much I want to deny what happened, I can't.
To be honest, I've repressed a lot of these memories. I don't want to think about it or talk about it or anything. It's how I've moved on and how I've kept it from totally killing me every day.
I've always been different. I guess they picked it out, like a scent. There was a time when I wasn't the nicest of people to my peers but I think a lot of that was because I simply didn't understand that. I used to be pretty confident as a little kid too so I think some of them just wanted to tear me down because of it.
It took me a while to realize that it was bullying. A lot of it was exclusion actually, being barred from the girls' table and having kids refuse to play with me. There were a few times when people actually berated me and pointed out all my flaws (okay, more than a few times). A few of them even called me some nice, four-letter names I won't repeat here. I've also been shoved and had books thrown at me, but besides that, I didn't really have any serious bullying happen. I didn't really let it tear me down until fifth grade, when I had to face it every day, all the time, and I didn't feel like I could tell anybody the extent of what was happening. And then eighth grade (last year) came along and it tore away everything I had left. Right now, I'm just trying to pick up the pieces and find the courage to be assertive once again.
I remember teachers looking the other way at these sorts of things, despite how they went on and on and on to us about how bullying was wrong. I also remember watching various scenes of bullying as a kid and not doing anything.
So, from all of this, I do believe I am quite qualified in saying that so many things that I have been told about bullying are wrong. And this is moving past the people who think that bullying is some kind of sick induction into life.
On a similar vein, people say that only you give those words power. Excuse me? Again, this is blaming the victim and it's not fair. We are social creatures as human beings, first of all, and being left out and alienated goes against all that we are set up for. Do you really think that if they punch you enough or say enough things that it won't hurt you? That I'm letting them hurt me? I think it's pretty much impossible not to let those things get to me a little bit.
Secondly, I also get annoyed when people say that bystanders get involved. That is definitely something inconsiderate. I don't blame bystanders (besides the teachers, who could have done something) for not stepping in. Really, I don't. My bullies could have easily turned on them and many of them also barely escaped these bullies' attention. Maybe they could have diffused it but maybe not. I don't expect them to take the risk for someone that they hardly know. It's one thing if you happen to be confident and have If I can't stand up for myself, how am I supposed to stand up for somebody else? It's no good to save a drowning person if you can't swim yourself. I don't appreciate adults trying to make me feel guilty for that.
So why don't I tell a teacher? someone might ask. Well, good question. The problem is the teacher will probably be lazy, reprimand the student once, and then have everything go back to the way it was but worse. Telling the teacher is often anything but compassionate.
In addition, they tell you not to defend yourself even if you are being bullied physically. You're expected to wait for some white knight to come and save you. Well that's bullshit. Everyone should be encouraged to keep their minds sharp and their fists too, if they ever are bullied. I'm not saying start an all-out fight but I am saying that you should have the right to defend yourself.
I also get annoyed at the promise of "it gets better". While I appreciate the intent, I have a few problems with that. One, why do you have to wait until the end of high school? Why can't you try to do something about the bullying now? If the administration won't do something, I strongly recommend you getting other friends around you to help. Fellow outcasts make great allies, I must say. Also, if you can get out of that situation, I'd recommend things that help you build confidence so (or the appearance of confidence) so that the situation can be prevented from happening again. Secondly, it really only gets better if you want it to. While it's great to tell a depressed person that it will get better, that's not a guarantee. A lot of the better part of it comes from changing your surroundings and getting away from the toxic people that make your life hell. Bullies exist everywhere, unfortunately and are pretty much a constant of life.
Bullying is a big problem today but it also has been for a long time. I've had adults say to me that they never had all of these mental illnesses when they were kids or that no one killed themselves for bullying. That's blatantly wrong, though. It was just something that was tucked away and not talked about.
Many teachers don't think it's their problem. But really, it's everyone's problem. Not only does it permanantly mar a person's psyche, but it is also a huge distraction in school. It's hard to study when you have rumors flying in the air and bullies up your back.
Hopefully, everyone will at least not bully. Also, it starts with developing an accepting environment. This can be done by accepting differences and not being so judgmental of other people's lifestyles (whatever they may be).
All I know is that that book really did get me thinking and I appreciated it.
The cynic in me doubts that bullying will ever be solved. It's human nature for many and it's been taught too frequently. I do hope that it can at least be reduced though.
If anything though, remember this. They might spit, they might whisper, they might punch, they might cackle, they might taunt and they might jeer. They might type their words of hate and they might start up rumors that might tear you apart. They might do all of this, but it is not your fault. It's theirs. They might get you to believe that there is something wrong with you but it isn't. It's all them. They have issues in their lives and hearts making them do this and many will regret it later. It may be impossible for them not to bruise you up a little bit, but don't let them conquer you.