When I was in seventh grade I was just your average teen, who was rail thin and who’d already grown several inches taller than most of the girls my age. I had one true best friend that I spent time with and girls I called friends, but who were mostly just acquaintances. I’d never been the target of bullying and thankfully I’d never witnessed it either.
Then one day, out of the blue, a girl on my bus, Sarah (not her real name) started picking on me. Sarah was the “tough girl” who hung with the rough crowd who always claimed the back of the bus at their turf. Once Sarah started her “I hate Patrice” campaign I was miserable. I couldn’t understand where all her animosity had come from. Sarah and I lived in the same neighborhood but had never hung out together. Every day after hearing her make snide comments about me, calling me names, etc to all the other kids on the bus, trying to incite them to get involved…I’d get off the bus, go home and lay on the couch and cry.
Finally I talked to my mom about it. One of the things I always appreciated about my mom is that she didn’t always take my side just because I was her daughter. She asked me, “Did you do or say anything to upset this girl?” I shook my head, at a total loss. “I don’t even talk to her, Mom.” But my mom’s question kept rumbling through my mind, so I asked a girl named Hera (not her real name) who lived in my neighborhood if she knew why Sarah was attacking me like she was. And that’s when I learned that my neighbor across the street, Tiffany (not her real name) had told Sarah that I’d said something about her in an effort to become friends with Sarah. Of course my reaction was, “REALLY? With friends like Tiffany who needs enemies!” (Sure I wondered why Hera didn’t say something right then if she overheard this lie being told, but she was a couple years younger than us and probably intimidated) I asked Hera to please tell Sarah the truth, that I never said anything about her. Sarah never said anything else to me after that. She never apologized either. She just left me alone.
I’m telling this story for anyone who’s reading this who has ever gone through or is currently going through bullying…you’re not alone. A lot of people have gone through periods of bullying and we understand your pain and how alone you might feel. But as alone as I felt, I decided I was not going to be Sarah’s target and I was determined to make it stop. Sometimes the solution is not always as cut and dried as mine was, but no matter what, YOU matter. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Be in control of your own happiness, and never let others dictate it! Don’t keep your worries bottled up. Tell your parents, enlist friends’ help. They are there for you! And you know what, it does get better as you get older. You will occasionally run across bullys, cliques and exclusionary groups even as an adult, but the difference is…you learn to care less what others think. And it is the most freeing feeling in the world.
Ah, and in case you’re wondering about Tiffany…I never spoke to her again. You only get to burn me once.