Never too Late

My name is Marie, and I am 38 years old. Thirty years ago my family moved back to Ohio from Idaho, landing me in a new school in the middle of the school year. It was 3rd grade, and I was as awkward looking as ever, add to that my mother's insistence that I read before even entering kindergarten, and I was way smarter than a fifth third grade. I was 'weird' with a name nobody could pronounce or spell. I was new. And I was ostracized - not just that year but for every year after. Even when new kids came to our school district, I was still treated like the new girl. In high school I was deemed a 'dyke', a 'slut', and a 'n***** lover' after dating the one and only person of color in our school. I don't ever remember feeling suicidal, but I remember feeling lonely, lost, and completely unworthy. I felt like I was nothing, and that feeling of nothingness lasted until I had my first child, six years after graduation.

About five years ago, after a my divorce, I knew that I had to go back to college if I ever wanted to be self-sufficient. I labored over a major - not sure what was the best fit. I thought about the things I had done in my life. What have I done that I want to do more of, like, for the rest of my life?! Recalling the horrible memories of middle and high school, I realized I had to go back. I had to go back and seek out the girls like me with the funny names and not so perfect hair. The kids who were the outcasts, my people. And in less than nine months I will graduate with a degree in middle childhood education. I will be a middle school teacher, and I will once again enter into the underworld of my past. But it's different this time. Now I have some power, some knowledge, and some empathy. I have embraced multi-cultural education as the norm, and I KNOW I can make a difference. I know I can instill in my students understanding, compassion, and love. I have to. I owe it to my 13-year-old self.

In the midst of my schooling endeavors has been my own son's struggle to fit in at the same school district, dealing with the offspring of my bullies who also bully him. But that is his story to tell. It is up to him to tell the world about the suicidal thoughts running through his head, the torture that he feels each day as an LGBTQ middle schooler, and I hope that he can tell it to his children one day - as a survivor.

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