Freedom Friday- every Friday I am going to free myself from a burden, either an old embarrassing story, a secret phobia, a lie I told and got away with, a fear I can’t win, or something else to be determined. I want to free myself from secrets to end those nagging moments when I can’t sleep at night, or those random thoughts that pop in my head for no reason other than their need to get expelled from my conscious. We all need to free ourselves from self-recrimination, to open ourselves up and vulnerably face our fears. Freedom Friday is my attempt to do that, and in turn take ownership of my guilt so it doesn’t eat me alive anymore.
2nd Grade Bully
In second grade there was a girl in my class who was picked on relentlessly by everyone. I vaguely remember taunts of being smelly or dirty, something like that. I was “secret nice” to her, saying kind works only when other kids weren’t around, smiling at her when no one was looking.
She came into school one day in early January- there was blood on her boots and her hair was a mess. I remember her trying to talk about what happened, a car accident where someone she love was arrested. I remember her crying. I also remember hearing the other kids entering the classroom and seeing me talk to her. I didn’t tell her it was going to be ok, I didn’t even grab her hand in a show of friendship. I turned around and walked away. She had a breakdown that day, ran screaming out of the classroom and out of the school. I tried to catch her eyes throughout the day, tried to say I was sorry through a puppy dog look and a secret conversation. She didn’t look at me again- I still feel like a major creep.
The story gets worse. We were both selected to participate in a gifted and talented program the next year, but it required walking to our in-district school and busing to the location. This was 3rd grade and I hit puberty hard, early and unexpected. I had boobs, body odor and thick leg and armpit hair. I was taking care of my pubescent body as if I were still a child, my mental maturation level no where near my body’s leap towards adulthood. This same girl whom I turned away from became my fiercest advocate. When a little boy followed me home calling me names she followed, too, and knocked him to the ground for picking on her friend. Friend. How did she still see me as a friend after what I had done?
I wish this story had a happy ending, I wish that I learned my lesson and we became BFFs, taunting others in the hallway with our indescribable closeness brought on by our mutual protection of each other. But that wouldn’t be truthful, and the point is to free myself from these secret failures to finally see the lessons. In truth I continued to ignore her when other people were around and the next year she moved away. I can remember hundreds of times that I was bullied, and how shitty it felt, but nothing compares to knowing that my silence made me a bully, too, and I didn’t even realize what I was doing until it was too late to fix it.
In high school I was tormented by bullies for myriad reasons- many of them valid, some completely from left field. I didn’t make the connection that what I did to that girl in 2nd and 3rd grade was bullying until I found the word “hoe” (bad spelling made it funny at least) carved into the trunk of my car in grade 11. In that moment of crying and panic because I couldn’t afford to fix my car I realized that I had no chance of shaking off the label on my car any more than she had the chance to shake off the labels assigned by pure bad luck as an eight year old girl. She moved away, I got a new car, and neither one of us fixed the issue.
The only happy ending I can gain from this story is that I am very careful with Twinkle and Ninja, teaching them the dangers of bullying from the earliest moments of their lives. I am also grateful now that I was bullied, it prevented me from treating people with cruelty (intentional at least) ever again. But I need to put that silver lining shit away, though, because there will always be a girl who felt tortured as a child and my silence is a part of her story.