Slice of Life Challenge
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What do you do when you have something to say and you fear the response? That's when I write in my notebook...but this deserves an audience bigger than me. So crafting today's post is a delicate act of arranging words in just the right way.
The topic is bullies...not the playground bullies that stand over you and threaten to punch you for your lunch money...the adult bullies. The ones who tear down and gossip and do their damage while there's a smile on their face. Maybe bully is the wrong word for this. I've struggled to find the right word for years. It's a person who says things to constantly put me down...even if it's "all in good fun". It's the gossip and judgement about people who are supposed to be friends. It's the excluding and whispering. I hate the term "mean girl", but maybe that's it. It's hurtful behavior that's constant and can't be escaped because of circumstances.
Have you encountered that? I thought that this a part of childhood and once I survived middle school, I'd be free...I was naive and wrong.
As a child and a teenager, I protected myself from bullies by trying to be invisible. I did anything I could to avoid the bullies or I made sure I wasn't the one they noticed. I did that by pretending to like the cool things and to be like them and not like me.
No one likes to be made fun of...as a child, I was a target because of my weight and how I cried easily. Also, I never liked to do the same things as the crowd. Many were drinking in middle school (it felt like everyone) and that seemed weird to me. My parents...oh I was blessed with the best parents in the world. They helped me so much! They supported me and loved me through the mean words and being excluded.
"Michelle, you're building mus'cles!" my dad would proclaim. (He mispronounce it like Popeye to make me laugh.) My mom...she'd make sure I'd have something to do, even if it was just going to the movies with them. (I loved spending time with my family, so it was never a bad thing.) As an adult and knowing my mom like I do, I can't imagine how hard this was for her. Seeing her daughter hurt and sad...she's so protective of those she loves. I felt all of her love and those lessons I learned in seventh and eighth grade certainly have served me well.
I realized that I started to live my life to avoid the bullies. I didn't want to be called out and teased, so if someone was coming in my car for a ride, I used to change the radio station to the "cool station" and turn off my Barry Manilow. I'd see movies I didn't want to see because everyone else wanted to see them without ever voicing my preference. I'd go and see my movie alone. I let the bullies take over. I let them win. And all the time I thought I won because I didn't have to hear their teasing...what I didn't realize is the voice in my head was them, not me...ALL the time.
Here's the grace of growing older, I do what I want to do and I embrace it. I love showtunes, musicals, Barry Manilow, The Sound of Music! I prefer going to bed early and waking up early. I love to read and read and read. I love to write. I'm loud! I laugh loudly and live loudly too! I get excited over little things like pens and shoes and kinetic sand. I'm passionate about teaching and I work hard at being the best teacher I can be. I'm a rule follower. I eat junk food without apology.
The past few years I've felt liberated! I'm me! Being myself is a risk and I've not only loved it, there are people who love me for me!! Because I'm me!!
The bullies still exist. They try and shame me when I'm loud. They roll their eyes when I talk about a book I love. They put down my passion with a sneer. They ask, "Why are you eating that?" with a look that says, you shouldn't eat that. It used to make me mad, so mad. The gossip. The negativity. The judgement.
I'm not mad anymore. I'm sad for them. My life is filled with joy and people who love me. I have found people who get my choices and help me be a better person without judgement...without snarky sneers...without negativity. I wish the bullies could find the same joy in their lives that I've found in mine. My message to the bullies is: don't waste your time on me. I'm good. You won't change me with your negativity. I won't laugh at it. I won't participate in it. I'd rather listen to some Barry Manilow.