Over the last few days, due to the suicide death of the Rutgers Student over the video made of him which was spread over the internet, there has been renewed discussion about bullying.  It seems that every time there is a death and bullying has been found to be in that person’s life, the discussion resumes.  But, like so many other crises, the discussion ultimately wanes, as we move onto new events, and a good solution is not really found.

Bullying has been around since the beginning of time.  I believe teasing, “human pecking order” and competition are part of human nature, so I suspect we can never truly eradicate it from our schools and society.  However, kindness, love, empathy and compassion are ALSO part of human nature, too.  It’s a matter of encouraging the latter, and discouraging the former, making it less inviting to act upon these unkind, mean traits.

Please read this blog entry, which is what has moved me to write this.  Clearly the affects of bullying run deep – and are lasting.  If this doesn’t motivate action on bullying then nothing will…

"Memoirs of a Bullied Kid" from the blog, "Single Dad Laughing"

After reading this blog entry, I realized I had it good, but it does remind me that those school years were not the best for me.  I also think that everyone has a story of some kind, and know that none of us are truly alone.

I was not overtly bullied when I was young.  However, I was ignored, almost like I was being “shunned”.  It was as if I didn’t exist to my classmates.  I felt invisible – isolated and very alone.  I believed that if I disappeared, no one would notice – or care.  I was a “non issue”.  Whether this is the “truth” of how it *actually* was is not the issue.  It’s how I felt – and when I look back, I still feel.

I had (and still have!) a few friends who stuck by me, but particularly in high school it felt (to me) like they had to live two lives in order to continue our friendship:  one with the “crowd” they hung out with – and then one with me, because I was not a part of that crowd – or any crowd.  I’m grateful that they made that effort.

“The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.”  When I first heard this quotation (and I do not know the origin of it), it resonated with me – and described how I felt during my school days.

In elementary school I felt as if there was this “pecking order” of students from the “top” (most popular) to the bottom, and I was in the “bottom two”.  Here’s an example of this:

I remember in 6th grade – which was the oldest grade in our elementary school — when the class voted on who would become a “Safety”.  To explain:  “Safeties” wore these white “belts”, which went around the waist and one shoulder, and who were stationed in key areas around the school during recess and before and after school to help the younger elementary school children line up, cross the street, etc.  (In a way – this is a lot of responsibility for that age child, but this was back in 1960 when, I think, we gave more responsibility to children – but – I digress…)

There was only need for a certain number of “Safeties” so all the students in the class could not have this coveted job.  In order to pick who those students would be, the teacher had the class vote on who would be the best “Safeties”.  Of course, considering our age, this made it basically a popularity contest.  Sadly – most of the class did become a “Safety”, and I was among the few remaining who were not voted “in”.  This sealed my belief that I was on the lower end of this “pecking order”.

In junior high during gym the gym teacher would select two students – generally the most popular – to be the captain of a team, like for softball or basketball.  They then would pick a team from the rest of the students.  It’s hard being the last one standing because you’re the last one picked.  Then they have to take you – not because they want you, but because they have to.  You’re all that’s left!  So many of my generation felt the sting of this, as this was commonplace – maybe still is, though I don’t know.

Things got worse in high school because social life revolved around boyfriends and dating.  Some of my friends were dating, and boys trumped “girlfriend time” – so I became even more isolated, although I enjoyed playing in the band, and being a part of some of the drama club productions.  I never dated, and was not invited to any dances – and one did NOT go alone to them.  I attended my junior prom only because I invited a family friend who went to another school.  I found out later he was “made” to go with me by his parents, but didn’t want to because he had a girlfriend.  I did not go to the senior prom.  I still remember that “left out” sadness of that night.

What a relief it was to finally leave high school and move onto college!  It was there where I found myself and my voice.

I still – to this day – wonder what I did – or didn’t do – to make my social experience so difficult while growing up.  Was I socially inept?  At times I didn’t speak up enough (was terribly scared I’d say the wrong thing), or at other times I tried too hard, and probably said all the wrong things, making it worse.  Or – was it about everyone else and there was nothing wrong with me?  Maybe it was a combination of the two.  Whatever the case, I still do not know the answer to this.

What is interesting, however, is that, despite the fact that life is a lot more positive these days, these feelings continue to travel inside of me.  I feel like life is about being in a pecking order, and it’s my job to make sure I’m not at the bottom.  I feel like I’m perpetually chasing the “in crowd”, but the faster I run to them, the faster they run from me.   Or – I may reach them and it’s like I’m not there.   I work to not make this the theme of my inner life, but it overcomes me at times, despite knowing that it’s truly not that way.

I have more thoughts that have come out of the publicity of that suicide – but they will be left for another entry at another time.