It was a new school for me. I knew several of the girls because I had played soccer with them for a few years. My best friend, who was a year ahead of me, went to school there and I was friends with a couple of her friends as well. I was excited for the opportunity to start at a new school, make new friends, and be at a school with people of similar faith.
The first few weeks were fine. I thought I was making new friends and fitting in just fine. I will even admit to trying to fit in with the "in" girls by making fun of the less social girls. But soon, things deteriorated.
It did not go exactly as planned. I am not sure when my parents recognized that something was wrong. I can remember so many things about that year. The feeling of nausea every single night before school. The feeling of being an outcast. Boys acted like they liked me, even setting me up to talk to a boy, only for him to tell me that my nose was too big for my face. The joke was on me apparently. Girls soon became extremely mean. I can specifically remember being in our weekly mass and turning around to say peace be with you, and one of the girls saying "I am not shaking hands with you, I hate you."
The thing that finally was the end of things for me there was right after Christmas break. I had gotten an adidas coat that matched my brother's. I was so excited about it - I really looked up to my brother with how sporty he was. One of the guys kept complimenting me on my new coat. Naive Katie took it as a nice thing...but I can still remember being slightly suspicious. Finally, a girl pulled me aside the next day to tell me that that boy had taken my coat off the coat hook and spit all over it and jabbed a pencil into the pockets.
I lost a ton of weight that year, probably from feeling sick the majority of the time. The girls that I admit to making fun of at the beginning of the year ended up being the only girls nice enough to tolerate me being an outcast. They were truly my saviors that year.
I started at a wonderful school the following year and I am so happy I ended up where I needed to be. And the bullies - I got a nasty voicemail from one of them on my home answering machine the week back to school - inquiring as to if I had had enough of them and if I was returning to school. The audacity they had to call someone's home phone and leave a message that will certainly be heard by parents!
I have seen all the so-called bullies since that year on multiple occasions. I have kept my distance from most of them. I doubt they think what they did is called bullying, or that it really could have had such a negative impact on me. But it did and I certainly hope they never have to witness their child going through such an ordeal. I have no idea what sparked them to react to me that way - but in my eyes, nothing, absolutely nothing warrants that type of cruelty.
As a parent, I can only imagine how painful it was for my parents to watch me being bullied to such a degree. And to my 5th grade self - I wish I could pass along some self-esteem and could tell her that all will be okay. I attribute that year to toughening my skin, to making me more compassionate, to shaping me into the person I am today.
This month is bully awareness month. Have you ever been bullied?