A funny thing happened the other night. My ten-year-old nephew Ayden called me at home and asked if I could help him with a school project. Now, being the awesome Auntie that I am, I immediately said YES! and asked him what the project was about. When he meekly replied “bullying” to me over the phone, it felt as if my heart had jumped a mile in my chest.
Bullying has always been a tough subject for me because when I was in Grade 5/6 I was bullied mercilessly by one boy in my class. And before you say that the reason why he bullied me was probably because he fancied me, no. That couldn’t have been farther from the truth. In this case, the boy couldn’t stand me. He hated me. He loathed me – and I never ever found out why. We had grown up in the same neighbourhood our whole lives and saw each other at school every day, and I can honestly say that I had never done anything to upset him.
I don’t know why he picked on me but he did. He would throw chairs at me during class (seriously) and everyone in the room would get so scared, they’d all be glued to their seats with their little mouths hanging open. Even our teacher didn’t know what to do or what to say. Every single person sitting in that room was absolutely dumbstruck. Me? I just cried and cried until he stopped.
I don’t ever remember complaining to the teacher, the school principal, or my parents about being bullied. I mean, I didn’t have to say much to my teacher because it was all done in plain sight of her. She didn’t miss a thing – she saw it all unfold right there in front of her. There was never any “he said, she said” because this boy bullied me in front of EVERYONE. Everyone saw what was going on and no one did a thing to stop it (mostly because they were so appalled to see it happening in the first place).
I dealt with it pretty much on my own. Bullying was handled differently back then, I suppose. This was way back in the early ‘90s and I don’t think preventative services and programs were available in schools then to combat bullying and abuse in schools. That kind of stuff was pretty much just swept under the rug until it disappeared completely. In a way, I’m grateful for the way my bullying was handled (or indeed not handled) because that meant I was forced to deal with it on my own and that made a hell of an impact on me and the way I grew up.
Being forced to face my bully on a daily basis on my own without any help from outsiders made me incredibly resilient and strong. Prior to being bullied, I was a softie who would cry at the drop of a hat. Post-bullying, I became hardened and rarely let people see me get emotional. I learned to deal with things on my own and I think that had a lot to do with how independent I’ve become over time. I learned never to depend on anyone else – that I could accomplish anything I wanted to on my own.
So what’s going to happen when it comes time for my nephew to interview me and ask me his questions on bullying? I have no idea. Maybe that’s when I’ll finally break down and let my emotions show (after all these years of keeping them bottled up inside), or maybe I’ll stay strong and tell him about my experience with a straight face and no tears at all. However I react, all I really want to make plain to him is that bullying is wrong. Bullying affects so many people in so many different ways and there’s far more to life – young life, especially – than being made to feel worthless or less of a human being than anyone else.