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I am Stronger
“Kathryn, My friend called and said you were sitting alone at the field trip today,” My mom had said, as she mopped the kitchen floor. “Why weren’t you sitting with the other girls?” I nervously picked at my fingers. How was I supposed to tell my mom that the girls in my class didn’t like me? That everyday I sat with the boys at lunch, because the girls would ignore me. And that those boys would verbally bully me, because they didn’t want a girl sitting with them.
“Uh, I was just daydreaming.” I told her quietly. But my mom didn’t believe me, and although it took almost an hour, she squeezed the story of what had been going on in my class out of me.
It all started in the cafeteria. Kimmi, one of the most popular girls in my class, had brought one of the biggest brownies I had ever seen for her lunch. All of the girls were looking excitedly at her treat, myself included. Kimmi, being the generous person she was, divided the dessert up, handing pieces out to all of us. Soon, everyone had a section of the brownie… except for me.
“Kimmi,” I said, “You forgot me!” I could almost taste the luscious chocolate melting in my mouth. And then, the bomb.
“Oh, I’m not giving you any,” said Kimmi, brown crumbs sticking to her lips, “I, uh, don’t have anymore.” She turned to her friends, giggling. Tears pricked my eyes. I averted my face, and finished my peanut butter sandwich in silence.
The exclusion did not end there. It only worsened, with the girls flat out ignoring me if I tried to join in their conversation, or - even more humiliating - mocking whatever I said. And then there was the fateful day they squeezed me out of the group for good. Squashed together, elbows linked to create no spaces, I was no longer permitted to sit with them. Forced to sit on the boys side of our table, I thought it might be a bit better. But it wasn’t. The boys to, did not want me there. However, they weren’t as subtle as the girls were. Instead of excluding me, they verbally attacked me. Names such as, “freak,” “weirdo,” “loser,” and “idiot” were constantly thrown at me. I was the perpetual loner, the consistent punch line of their jokes. I was completely alone.
I was so miserable, that I began to question the value of my life. I considered swallowing a bottle of OTC pills several times. My classmates bullying had driven me to to thoughts of suicide, at the ripe old age of ten! I cried myself to sleep every night, my days were a cycle of isolated pain.
When my mom found out what had been happening at school, she immediately contacted my teacher. A plan was set in place, but it did little. In fact, I feel it made things worse. My teacher would basically follow me everywhere, making sure the other kids were including me, and I think they resented that.
For example, at the time I was really into playing football at recess. I was the only girl, and when the boys didn’t want me there, the teacher joined in the game! She would encourage them to pass to me, and was met with rolled eyes and reluctant throws in my direction. Needless to say, I stopped playing football.
The school year came to a close, and I was put in a great class the following year. But the pain my peers inflicted on me, has never completely gone away. The ironic thing is, some of the girls have come up to me in later years, and asked why I never sat with them. Their rudeness towards me was so insignificant, they forgot about it.
Despite this, I have forgiven my tormentors. Holding on to the pain I’d felt for so many years, would only hurt me. In fact, I became best friends with a girl whom, although she was never outright cruel to me, stood by and watched as these people hurt me.
A few years later, I went to visit my old elementary school. When I came back to the lobby, to go home, my mom motioned me over to a friend of hers. With the friend, was a little girl, who was in tears. The friend explained that her daughter, a fourth grader herself, had been kicked out of her classroom “clique.” They wanted me to tell her my story, and comfort her. Kneeling down, at eye level of this poor girl, I told her what I wish someone had said to me:
“I know it’s hard. To be excluded and called names. I’ve been there too. But you can’t let them get to you. Remember that you’re stronger, and even though it seems impossible, don’t let them hurt you. You have the choice to let this ruin your fourth grade year, you’re the one who decides what hurts you. Don’t let some stuck-up girls ruin your school experience! Cause, in the end, they don’t matter. They really, truly don’t! They can say whatever they want to you, but you’ve got the upper hand! You’re beautiful! And you gotta remember that!”
The girl nodded, and a flicker of a smile came to her lips. I gave her a hug, and as her tears wet my shirt, I realized that what I had told her, applied to me as well. I’m beautiful. And I have the choice to decide what hurts me.
Sticks and stones, words ands ignorance… they all hurt. But with the power of love and forgiveness, each can heal in their own time.