No, I did not mistype that heading.
The topic of bullies is an ongoing concern in today’s society.
One of my friend’s social media threads recently read as such:
“This is the reason why teenagers commit suicide.”
While there would always be other factors, such as mental health concerns, being bullied is certainly a contributing factor to teenage suicide.
It is freighting horrible how children treat other children. I’d like to add ‘these days’, to that sentence, but I can’t. Minors have bullied and been horrible to other minors for centuries. Knowing someone who recently tried to end it, partly because of being bullied has me paying attention to this behavior.
Quite frankly, it’s not just children. Adults can be mean and horrible too. We usually go about it differently. We don’t call it being bullied. We call it being targeted. Nepotism. Favoritism. Slander. Internet trolling. You get the picture.
It’s a cruel, hard, world. At some point, we need to learn to navigate the shark infested waters we share with both sharks and starfish. Navigation lessons, start very early in life. You can choose to be a shark.
Early on, other children mistreated me. They’d tell me I can’t play with them. They’d say I’m too weird. Seven-year-old I was left to play alone, while the other kids laughed at me. While here it was uncommon for children to form gangs and beat other children up, words can do much damage.
This behavior went on all through until my seventh school year, when we had to go to the next level. My brother convinced me that if I would ever like to fall into the ‘in’ crowd, I should stop being friends with one of the two friends I did have. For the sake of narrative, let’s call her Angela. It all seems like childish nonsense now.
You may ask, why in the eyes of my older sibling was I to unfriend her?
She was a nerd. A bookworm. Even weirder than myself. I’d like to tell you that I told my brother he was an idiot. However, I heeded his counsel. After all in my eyes, he had friends, was cool, and was a rock star. And, he was already attending this new school and knew how to be cool there.
I’d like to tell you, it was the last time I was unkind all in the name of, fitting in.
At first, my plan worked. There were some kids from other schools there too. I’d made friends with one of them. Let’s call her Betty. Betty was pretty. Betty was cool. Betty soon found herself in a situation with a younger girl, let’s call her Camila who transferred there from out of the country. Betty could not stand Camila, who followed her around everywhere. A plan was hatched and I was to break the poor girl’s, heart.
Why I had to get involved in this situation at all .?! Well, I guess some things you learn only from making mistakes.
Camila ended up crying.
“Why are you always so mean to each other,” one of my teachers asked. I felt terrible, but by the time I realized the effect of my actions, it was too late.
Camila ended up flunking the year and was put in a class with children her own age. This once sweet and bubbly girl started dressing and acting like a slut. All in the name of fitting in. I later heard she had become mean and cruel. While you can’t blame yourself for other people’s actions, much of me thought that this was my fault.
If this was the price of having friends, I’d rather have none. A sequence of other events eventually leads to that outcome. By that time I no longer cared. 17-year old I, was pretty happy to sit out the school break on my own.
Now you may ask, why at this point I did not decide to befriend Angela again. Several years had passed and Angela had always remained nice, to me. However, I would have felt like a hypocrite.
I’d like to say my actions had no effect on Angela’s life. 17-year-old Angela, however, fell pregnant. The child’s father was a 34-year-old man. Angela had to drop out of school because pregnant girls got expelled. Since all her marks were exemplary, she was allowed to keep all her subjects, dropped to a lower standard and still write her exam. She would not make it into University, however, she would be able to complete her high-school education.
It may seem like a stretch, to say that the horrible manner in which I treated Angela at age 12, would still have an effect on her life today. However, Angela may have made better choices had I been nicer to her. She is such an intelligent person. She could have been a doctor, saving people’s lives – for all I know – had things not turned out the way they did.
It is strange. All these years later, of all the people who were mean to me, I remember very little. I, however, remember very clearly the two people whom I was cruel.
Many of our choices are formed by past experiences. Especially in the formative years, we seek validation from our peers. Even as adults, we seek validation in all the wrong places.
If I could give my thirteen-year-old self some advice I’d tell her to stop trying to impress all these other people. In the end, it matters not how many friends you had, but to how many you were a friend.
What would you tell your thirteen year old self? Did you have an experience being bullied?
p.s. This post has been the eighth day of ‘it does not need to be perfect’, a series I’m currently running on this here blog.
About the Author
Sarina often sat on the peaks of the dunes of Southern Africa watching the ocean tide drift in. A daydreamer, often dreaming up stories for lands somewhere over the rainbow. She is a mother, a wife, a blogger and an overall creative spirit. Above all, she is a human being.
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