When push comes to shove

Being raised in the Philippines as an American child makes for some very complicated situations. When I first started at a private school in Manila, my teachers viewed me as something of a novelty. My face was plastered on the school's ads as a draw for parents who wanted a more "cultured" environment, when in reality, there were only three white kids at the institution, while the remainder was predominantly Filipino. Having lighter skin also made me an easy target for bullies.

However, the bullying didn't start until I was in fourth grade. It was like someone had flipped a switch, activating my classmates' evil sides. People I used to sit with began to shut me out and refuse to talk to me, and oftentimes I was forced to stay in the classroom and eat my lunch there while everyone else went out to the cafeteria. I had become an outcast.

The bullying started to get worse in sixth grade. Whereas previously my peers had been content to simply ignore me, someone came up with the idea to begin mocking me. It started with the word "loser" being whispered in my direction when I passed by, and later progressed to being pushed into walls, insults delivered with extra venom (and occasionally a little spit), and being pushed around. I always did my best not to lose my temper, because every teacher and guidance counselor I had spoken to had told me, "Don't let them see that it bothers you, or they'll just keep doing it." I tried, I really did, but I couldn't stop myself from lashing out at one boy who decided that insulting me wasn't enough, and had directed his words at my mother. That's when it all began.

Freshman year of high school I was the outcast again, and as if that wasn't enough, they started to physically hurt me, too. One boy, whose name and face I will never forget, took it too far. He hated me with a burning passion, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out why. I was the type to stay out of people's way, but that never mattered to him. He would slam me into walls, grip my arms with bruising force, and trip me up whenever I came too close. He would sneer at me every time I saw him, and throw my things to the other side of the room, and on one particularly memorable occasion, he punched me in the stomach in front of a teacher.

At the time, I thought, This is it. This is when they'll finally notice what's happening to me, and they'll put a stop to it. But alas, that didn't happen. It was as if my teacher had looked right through me--it was as if I was never even there. It was the loneliest I had ever felt in my life.

From then on, I would go to school each morning dreading the day ahead. I kept quiet in class, avoided people as much as possible, and tried to ignore all the false rumors my classmates would spread about me. It got so bad that the summer after my sophomore year, I tried to take my own life twice, but each time I couldn't go through with it. I would sit on my bathroom floor with a dinner knife held to my wrist, poised right above the vein, and then my family's faces would start swirling around in my head, and I would stop. I refused to hurt the only people in the world who loved me.

Things got a little better after that. I went back to school armed to the teeth with witty remarks and sarcastic comments, and no matter what insult was tossed my way, I had a retort on the tip of my tongue. My bullies soon realized that their taunts weren't effective anymore, because I had realized just how childish and petty they were. I still never fit in with my classmates, but my situation changed when my mom got moved to a different country for her job.

The school I attended was fantastic. I was only there for a year and a half, but I have never felt so at home in a school as I felt there. Thanks to the commitment of the faculty and staff and a very strict anti-bullying policy, I was never harassed. It also helps that I was surrounded by Americans who understood what it was like to grow up in foreign countries, and I finally made friends.

To this day, I still have issues with confidence and trusting people, and it'll be a while before that changes, but I'm getting comfortable in my own skin now and I'm not afraid to speak my mind, so I've got that going for me. In the end, I think the most important thing about preventing bullying is having a strong support system in the school itself. Administrators are in a position to do something about what's happening, but oftentimes their efforts are lacking. If we can give them some initiative, we can stop someone else from experiencing what I and many others have experienced, and perhaps give that person an opportunity to be one's self without fear of being judged.

By writing some words below, you are showing your support and letting everyone know they're not alone.

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.