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Adolescence Won’t Last Forever MAG
Bully. Bullied. Bullycide.
When I was little the only connection I had to the word bull(y) involved a character named Ferdinand.
I remember feeling important in preschool. I was the best reader, the most skilled speaker, the most gifted writer. I was always considered awesome.
Kindergarten was the beginning of the end.
I have hypotonia and asthma. That translates to floppy limbs, a weak body, endless hospital stays, and being on steroids so often that I've developed cataracts, what the kids in my school call moobs, and a small hump on my back.
My inability to play sports, my frequent school absences, my awkward walk – ducks run faster than I do – made me a target for bullying.
The other kids said that I had cancer, AIDS, bird flu, swine flu. One kid refused to sit next to me in class because I coughed so loud it hurt. I tried explaining that I had asthma, but that didn't work.
By the end of the first grade, I no one would sit with me at lunch or hang out during recess. No one wanted to be close to me.
“They're just dopes,” my mom would say. Little kids don't understand invisible illnesses.
I learned to spend more and more time in my mind. That helped with the whole not having friends or people to talk to. But when the bullying turned physical, living in my head didn't help.
I remember my shock at getting punched, slapped, and once even having a football spiked over and over on my head. By a girl.
My mother intervened, of course, as did the school administration. The physical attacks ended, but the isolation? The exclusion? That continues to this day.
What was it like being an object of ridicule for the past nine years? No one rushes to be your partner on any assignment. Group projects usually found me all alone at a table doing the work that it took five others to complete.
This past spring we had a class trip that included a scavenger hunt. I was offered the option of pairing up with the science teacher. I stayed home.
Luckily, I have a supportive family. My cousin, Amanda, helps run an anti-bullying program called Dance 4 Peace. They bring a peace education, and anti-bullying programs to schools all over the world.
Amanda has been my mentor. We text during my lunch so I don't feel so alone. She's helped me to get my story out. Putting my experiences into thoughts and words and movement, and modeling appropriate responses, has helped. I've grown a thicker skin.
And when things are especially hard, I remind myself that adolescence won't last forever, but I know I will.