I was 11 years old. I was a cheerleader. It had been a great football game that Saturday afternoon and we were on our way home. I was a happy six grader full of achievements and good friends. I grew up in a Ohio Valley steel town with of all types of immigrants and religions, but I didn’t know prejudice, none of us did. We never thought about our parents bank accounts or status. We were all friends and liked each other because we were classmates, we were neighbors, we were girlfriends.
My emotional slate was clean. Every small dream I had was realized. Every goal I wanted was achieved. I loved my parents. I loved my brother. I loved my friends. I saw no fences and I knew no fences. The meaning of hate and envy was never a part of my life up until ‘THEN.’ And it was when after that football game on Saturday that ‘THEN’ happened and my life changed forever and my perfect childhood world came crashing down around me.
My girlfriends and I used to walk together the few blocks from Roosevelt School to our homes on LaBelle View after the football games together. One by one we would say goodbye as each girl would reach their house until the last cheerleader was left to walk a few blocks to her house. This afternoon was different though as all the girls walked me to my house first. As we were saying the cheerful goodbyes, all of the sudden one of the girls started saying mean things to me. Then a couple of the other girls chimed in while the rest stood silent looking at the sidewalk and their feet.
I think I have permanently blanked out a lot of the conversation, but words like ‘snob’, ‘stuck-up’ remained in my mind, permeated my clean slate and cracked it wide open. The pieces stuck in my throat and I remember having no response other than to turn and walk up the cement steps to our front porch and into the safety of my house.
I was stunned and heartbroken. I remember lying across my bed and crying for hours as though my life had ended. This was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life since I had been on this planet. I was so humiliated that I couldn’t even share my pain with my parents. I suffered in silence. I felt my life was over.
I am a firm believer that mind and body work together to keep us healthy. So it is of no surprise that a few months after this incident of embarrassment and abandonment by those I thought were my good friends that I became very ill. Diagnosed with rheumatic fever I was bedridden for four months. This was the pendulum swing in my life. I returned to school a shy and introverted girl, never in my teens to recapture the self-esteem that was broken and beaten down by my small group of friends that I loved.
I have since shared my story with several of my close friends and at least two of them have had similar experiences as young girls whose lives have been altered by what we now call ‘bullying.’
It’s amazing, although we’ve matured and most of us have had great achievements on our own since leaving the torturous girls behind in their small dust, the scars remain.
I understand. I really understand every time I read a tragic story of a young person reacting to being bullied. And of course today it’s so much worse because of the cyber bullying that is so easy to do. It is so easy to destroy a teenage psyche because they’re thin and fragile and not yet hardened to the reality of life and have strong self-esteem.
So today I was especially delighted when I discovered that my cousin’s daughter is involved in a program, Lets Band Togetherto help stop bullying.
Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved.