I'm 32½ years old now. I use the ½ because it sounds better than 'pushing 33'.
When I was in early elementary school (1-5th grade-ish), all I knew was the happiness of going to school and seeing my friends. Recess was a blast, classes were boring, and everything was just so routine to me... ---Go to school, mingle, lunch, gym (everyone's favorite class back then), and go home---. I didn't have a care in the world. When I would go home, I'd have my really close friends I would hang out with and everything was good. I always had that feeling of excitement in me and the positive mood.
In the latter years of elementary school, a few kids in my class formed their own clique and while it was a small class (maybe 15 kids), I was zeroed in on as someone to mess with. Maybe it was because I was quiet or maybe it was because I didn't stand out, but they just got to me. Nothing crazy at this stage but going to lunch, they would come up to me and mock the way I walked (slight hunch) or intentionally bump into me when they could have walked around me. I began dreading recess. As I said, it wasn't anything crazy but it did have me begin doubting myself. I found myself laughing at other kids that were picked on too. Not because I was happy they were getting picked on or because whatever the bully's said to them was funny, but because I knew it was a deterrent from me getting picked on.
High School was a bit different. I went to Holy Trinity High School on Long Island, NY. I only went there because my brother did and I was so attached to him as a protector (which to this day he still doesn't know) that I never even considered another school. I had a 'Ringo Starr' bowl hair cut my whole life and didn't care. It was me and I was comfortable with that.
I made friends but with the unpopular kids. Kids that might have been chubby, smelled, glasses, acne, gay, and so forth. I was fine with that. In fact, those are usually the coolest and most interesting kids. I have more in common with them then the ones that were into sports or talking about girls.
In my freshman year I was getting picked on by a group of seniors. I didn't know why but they just did. I continued to believe that my problem was a number of things. My hair style, my slight hunch, and the people I befriended. To this day, I believe the real reason was that I was anti-social. Not on purpose. I was just shy. To this day I'm shy. Get me in a conversation and I could be the life of the party. But getting to the party has always been my problem.
So the seniors would follow me every day from lunch, to the next class. Since I wouldn't have time to go back to my locker to make my next class after lunch, I carried more books than I would have liked. If you have a full backpack, you may as well have just had a target on your back.
They would be sneaky and unzip my backpack so all my books would fall out. "There goes any chances I may have had at communicating with a pretty girl that I liked who would have seen it", is what I would be thinking.
Deep down, I wanted to get revenge. Have the nerve to fight them. I was a big Marvel Comics fan and wished every night that I had the super powers of Wolverine or the villain 'Carnage'. I would never have hurt them, but like they did me, I wanted to scare them. I was so scared of getting into a fight.
One of the seniors at the time told me, "You're a herb...You were born a herb and you're going to die a herb" (herb was another way of saying loser). This is 15 years later and I still remember those exact words and exactly how he said it. It hurt so much. All I thought was, "yes sir, you're right. Please don't hurt me...please leave me alone".
I tried fending them off with my white handkerchief. I would pretend to blow my nose in it a few times when I knew they were behind me and then I'd just hold it in my hand. I felt, 'better everyone see this gross hanky and think what they want than for me to continue to get picked on'. It seemed to work for a while but then it continued.
It finally stopped when I told my brother... I felt so weak telling anyone. Like any lingering reputation I had would be gone. He was a sophomore at the time and he, unlike me, wasn't afraid. He got a few of his friends and followed me back from lunch. He saw the seniors do what they do and then cut them off. Later he told me that they had a talk with them and it won't happen again...sure enough...it didn't.
The coming years I changed my hair style and personality. My brother had told me, 'you can't stay quiet...talk to people’. So I did and made friends with more popular students (unintentionally) even though they knew I was friends with the less popular ones. I didn't care what they thought regardless.
Senior year hit and for some reason, there was a kid by the nickname 'Fitz' who had it in for me. He was a more verbal bully than anything. I don't remember too much about him aside from his face and sound of his voice. He was mean to more people than just me. I only thought, 'this is your last year Joe...just get through it'. I did and there were no physical confrontations.
I had been diagnosed with Diabetes that year too and someone I thought was a friend had made fun of me when I returned. So on top of the personal hell I was going through, I had to worry about people rubbing it in my face that I was now 'different'.
For me, I was fortunate to not get to the point where I considered hurting myself or others. I had thought bullying was a typical part of life. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't.
Like many, I always think, "Man...I wish I could go back in time and be who I am now....then. I am so much smarter about this stuff now than I was then. I could have easily put a stop to it." But so is life. You can't change the past.
I believe sites like this one are important.
It would be great if every school passed on the mentality to the students of, "We are all family...you are looking at your brothers and sisters...we each have everyone’s backs here. Don't hurt your brothers and sisters feelings. There will be times when you don't get along, but take a breath and work it out. If you find you can't...then simply ignore the person and move on"
I feel my teen years were consumed by this. In my opinion, these are the hardest years of anyone’s life. Either you get lucky and are popular for one reason or another, or you aren't. You might have been born with big ears, a stutter, or a different sexual preference. That doesn't make you a bad person or different or weird. They’re just traits. Some kids can't handle it. It starts with parenting and then the teachers. No kid should have to go through the emotional torment that I had to or others do. I went through emotional hell and feel lucky when I read other stories. I'm looking forward to helping get the word out. I always wanted make an imprint on this world in my lifetime and while some will be famous, own a business, or be rich, I believe this is be a good way and a more important way for me to do so.
By writing some words below, you are showing your support and letting everyone know they're not alone.