Hold Onto the Light (Part II - Building Blocks)
Bullying is TWO of the top 10 reasons teenagers commit suicide (Cyber Bullying being the #2 while In Person Bullying being #10) and as you can see, social media is a big part of it. That’s why we’re here doing #HoldOntoTheLight, so that this part of social media combats the other.
I thank God all the time that the internet, social media, and Smartphone’s weren’t around when I was a teen. I can remember 4 very clear things from my junior high years with concern to bullying and I’m going to share them with you today. Some people know these, but not all many. Were there more than 4? YES! Was it only in junior high? NO! But the worst ones were between 7th and 9th grade and to be honest, I’ve blanked the other ones from my memory…which is likely for the best. My brain chose to let them go so I could heal, forgive, and move onward.
The four instances I do remember enough to share are below. I’ve changed the names of the guilty, except for one of them. Why? Because I need to name her. For me. It’s time. I won’t state which one is the real name though.
*Note: #4 was when life changed for me in school.
Julia had a locker next to me one year (I think 7th grade) and she terrorized me. I’d avoid my locker at all costs. That meant getting to school late, dawdling before and after lunch to “miss” her, and dawdling again at the end of the day. I would literally plan out my entire day around that locker. No lie, my day revolved around HER. How sad is that? It meant carrying all my books almost all the time. It meant taking the long way to some classes to not go past my own locker. It also meant that I planned out bathroom breaks to take up time to create gaps. It was an all consuming task for a year of my life. I told no one. I was too afraid to.
#2. SHAWNA (and her cronies)
Late spring. Gym class. We were playing a game where we had to run back to touch the back wall and to be “safe.” When we did this, the girl next to me (Shawna) accidently hit the fire alarm. Obviously this meant we all had to go outside. Hearing a person near me try to throw her under the bus, I stood up for her, saying, “It was an accident. She didn’t do it on purpose.” (You can already see where this is headed, right?) Someone decided to twist my words and I got jumped in the locker room by Shawna and her cronies. They were ready to kick my ass. The one person who’d stuck up for her. But did they ask? No, they surrounded me like prey with lockers to my left and right and a wall behind me.
To be honest, I have NO idea anymore how I got out of that. I have no memory of it. Likely, I convinced them all of what I really said and as it was deescalating, an adult probably walked in and they scattered like roaches in the light.
**Added note: For weeks one of her cronies would follow me home ¾ of the way (I walked home) yelling threats at me of physical harm. I told no one. I should have.
#3. SHERYL AND ELLY
These two girls made it their mission to verbally torture me. It didn’t matter if it was a Girl Scout meeting or school; they went out of their way to make me feel stupid, different, and isolated. No one who heard them came to my rescue…and I know many heard them, including teachers. It got so bad that I did tell my mother…I had to. She had realized by now my sign of super stress was sleeping and all I did was come home and sleep before dinner.
Thankfully, my mother stepped in by calling a friend of the family, who happened to be the vice-principal. She was beside herself. I was an emotional mess every damn day. He said he knew how to deal with it without the two girls thinking I’d “tattled” on them to my mom or the school. His plan worked and they stopped. I thought they’d gotten bored with me…for I had NO idea what my mom or the VP had done. I didn’t know for many years. I think she told me when I was in college. Thank God for Joe Ombrey, may he rest in peace. <3
Choir. A class I loved and felt secure in. But the girls here were annoying and mean and I had a damn target on my head. I’d been taught to turn the other cheek, and I did, over and over again…until I didn’t.
It was one of our big performances for the classes and I’d choreographed a good portion of the show. Prior to our first show I needed to give a note to one of the girls in the section I was in charge of. She was in the side room walking/talking through choreography for another section with her partner, Jill. When I knocked on the door and stepped in, I’d not known they were doing this, so once I saw that, I apologized. But I’d already interrupted so I gave the note quickly, again said I was sorry, and shut the door.
It took until I’d walked to center of the risers for Jane to open that door and come storming after me. She grabbed my arm, spun me around, and with her finger in my face began to yell at me; telling me I had no right to barge in and ruin their rehearsal and so on and so forth and…well…I snapped. I don’t remember what I said anymore, other than I ordered her finger out of my face (likely moving it) and verbally took her to church, in front of the whole class (it’s was a big choir). I then turned my back on her and walked away…I walked the whole length of that long, blue room (passing my teacher’s office in the process where she gave me a “thumbs up” as I went by) and into the hallway.
I remember pressing my back to the cool, beige brick wall and hyperventilating. I’d just told one of our class bullies off and I was sure she was coming for me to kick my ass. I peered through the small rectangular glass on the door, but nothing was going on. She’d gone back to the side room and shut the door while the choir sat in silence. I’d never raised my voice. I’d never told a person off, EVER. No one knew what to do.
Jill was never mean to me again that I can remember and the bullying in class stopped. In fact, the bullying of me stopped completely at that point. Sure, there were small things here in there in high school, but they were more like people starting rumors or lying to others about things I said to start trouble and I began to confront those who’d been lied to; even showed up at their door when they wouldn’t take my call. The bullying was different in high school…and rarely to my face (that I recall) and I never let anyone twist my words without making sure I set the record straight. It helped that I got involved in school shows and had friends there.
Many ask me why I’m so tenacious when I see bullying in any form. Why I will step in and be, as Emily calls it, Momma-Tamsin, and verbally drag someone out on their ear. Because I know what it’s like to be belittled and hounded for days without an end in sight. I know about people who go out of their way to make you small to build themselves up. I know what it feels like to have rumors about you spread and lies told to about you so that you’ll be smaller than they are. I’ve been there and that day I told Jill off was the start of me standing up for myself and others. By college, I was loud about it. I still am. In fact, I’m louder now, especially for minorities and those persecuted for their color or sexual orientation.
I used to hold my tongue sometimes, afraid that I’d offend people if I stood for what I believed. That ended this year when a LGBTQ nightclub in Florida was shot up by a bully with a gun and hate in his heart. A place I could have just as easily been as anyone else (I go to Florida, I like to dance, and I have a lot of LGBTQ friends I club with). I’ll never be silent again.
Congrats, bullies of my school…you gave me the building blocks to stand for not just myself, but for others. That was not your goal, I’m sure, but you lost this one, and ya know what, bullies tend to lose in the end…they really do.
Tomorrow will be part 3, the last segment of my Hold Onto the Light posts. It’ll be about why having Staying Power pays off.
Until then, write hard, bathe in imagination, and tell an adult if you’re being bullied. If you are an adult and you’re being bullied, talk to a friend or a therapist or the police. You are not stronger by staying silent. You are not weak for being hurt enough to say something. In fact, you are stronger than most when you speak up and let others know. You take their power away…power they’ve never earned and don’t deserve. Take it back from them, it’s yours!
P.S. Just as I set this to post to go live tomorrow (for I'm doing this on the 25th), my phone flashes that I was tagged in a status on Facebook. I look and see that the anthology I contributed to has been released in E-copy on Amazon TODAY!
If anything is a testament of who I am, who I stand up for, and what I stand for, it's this. How appropriate it comes out now as I finish this post...and how fitting this is my first short story to be published by someone other than me and the proceeds support those who are bullied more than most. Check it out HERE or go to Amazon!