FAVORITED 3 TIMES
By: Rick Ace Rhodes
Nobody has ever said that growing up is an easy thing to do, and if I had to make a guess, I would say that most people would generally say that going to school is one of the harder aspects of childhood. While there's probably a multitude of reasons for that belief, I would make a safe bet on rent that it has to do with one common thing: bullying.
Bullying is something that just about everyone goes through at some point in their life. Whether it's just one individual who makes fun of you for awhile before you both move on with your lives, or it's a large number of people who harass you for many years, bullying is something that everyone experiences.
I was one of those kids who experienced bullying a long time, over a lot of different things and by multiple people. My experiences with bullying occurred over most of my grade school years. It went from being just a minor individual over little things to a small group of individuals over some stupid things, and then eventually a large portion of my school whose actions turned pretty malicious. The things it was over varied from my physical abilities, to my sociability and simply me encountering someone who wanted to teach me a lesson over something.
Looking back, it was a pretty horrible time in my childhood. However, I don't care much about it anymore. I've realized that bullying is something that simply will always occur and kids should be taught to stand up for themselves rather than be taught to be victims. I'm not trying to blame anyone for being bullied, but if I had acted and handled my bullying issues differently than I had, my experiences with bullying could have been less significant and radically different.
I remember first experiencing bullying in Kindergarten, by a kid I'll call LEO. He was in my class, and I really can't remember what he bullied me over or what he actually did. But I do remember the issue was big with my parents. I remember my mother getting involved and talking to my teacher multiple times about what was going on, and my father was constantly drilling me after school to find out what happened that day and to explain how I needed to stand up for myself.
I remember this one time we were on the playground, and I decided to stand up to LEO, which didn't go well at all. We were on the playground's bridge and he was harassing me in some way. I decided to punch him, but when I threw a punch at him he blocked it with his hand.
You might not think that's a big deal but for me it was. It sounds goofy, but up until that point in my life I thought if you punched somebody the punch would always land and hurt your opponent. I was so stunned by this concept that he was actually able to block my punches that I legitimately thought LEO was some kind of super human, and it actually, in some ways, destroyed my confidence in taking on LEO's bullying.
LEO would continue to be in my classes throughout both Elementary and Middle school. However, the bullying issue would stop after Kindergarten. He was actually a nice kid, and while we never considered either of us to be a close friend to one another, we were friends in school and had no problems with each other after Kindergarten.
So then came Elementary school. The Elementary years were more tamed and unsystematic compared to what I would later encounter during my Middle School years, but it was the founding years of my being bullied; the era in which it wasn't as bad as later on, but still bad.
One of the things I got picked on for was my weight. I was very heavy growing up, and around 2nd Grade was when it first became noticeable. It's been talked about before - what this experience is like, and how it can be a big mark on someone's life. When I was growing up it wasn't necessarily as big a deal as it was for many others growing up in the 80's and the 90's, as there were many fat kids in school when I was going to school. Being fat didn't necessarily exile you from your fellow classmates and peers, and I can only name a few times where I was generally made fun of for being fat.
One of those times was in 2nd Grade. We had our annual "Field Day". This was a day in school during the Spring where we would wear our bathing suits to school, bring towels and spend the entire day playing outdoor sports, running around through sprinklers and other water things, and just relaxing outside on our towels. As my class lined up for some sprinkler event outside the cafeteria, a group of my classmates were pointing at me and laughing at how amazingly fat I actually was.
I was so humiliated at this that I wanted to skip field day whenever it came, though I never did. During field day of 3rd Grade I was made fun of again, though this time by one person. As soon as I took my shirt off, a kid from class went running and said "I knew he was a fat a**!" to some other classmate of mine.
So while I did get made fun of for being fat, it wasn't as big a deal or as common as it was for many others who grew up long before I did. However, there was something that separated me from the other fat kids: strength.
I was by far the weakest kid in school. While other fat kids were actually strong and could still perform athletically, I was physically weak and could never do anything remotely athletic. Whenever we would do the mile run in gym class, I was so slow that not only would I come in dead last, but I would get such a humiliating time of completion that people would automatically laugh and tell me how pathetic I was upon hearing the time. Whenever we played a team game in gym class, my teammates would always tell me to get out early so I wouldn't cause problems down the road. Or if it was something like dodge ball, I would have to wait until a teammate got out and then sacrifice myself to bring them back in the game.
As a result, people signaled me out as being the weak kid who could do no damage if you went after him. One time in 2nd Grade I got into a fight with a classmate, who we'll call Soprano. I sat down at our classes lunch table at the very end of the table, and Soprano sat down next to me. He asked me to move over a little bit, which I did. He asked me to do some more, which I refused. When he demanded I do it, I told him I couldn't move over any more or else I would be hanging off the seat. When he told me to do it again, I told him once more no.
And then all hell broke loose.
Soprano took my lunch bag and started smashing it and throwing the food contents all across the table. The lunch monitor immediately stopped it before it could escalate any further. However, by that point my lunch was already destroyed. When the principal came I was in tears about how Soprano destroyed my lunch, all because I didn't want to move over any more. The principal took Soprano away, and she gave me a free lunch from the cafeteria. I ended up not eating any of it for two reasons: because the cafeteria food was horrible (but that's an article for another day), and because of what happened next.
Soprano was eventually brought back to the table to finish eating and apologize for what he did. After he sat back down I simply looked at him. When he caught me looking at him, he angrily asked me why I was staring. All I said was "You destroyed my lunch" and he responded "Oh yeah baby? Well I will destroy it again!" before lunging at me.
He grabbed my new lunch and started hurling it across the room (it was a burger and fries). He then took the cafeteria tray and threw that like it was a boomerang across the cafeteria. The monitor immediately rushed over again to stop his antics, and he was dragged away, not returning again for the rest of lunch.
Being picked on for being weak was just one of the many issues that people picked on me for. The biggest issue I ever had to deal with was my social skills.
In school I was somewhat of a loner, and it stood out. To give you an example: birthday parties. You know how in Elementary school you have to invite every kid from your class when your having a birthday party? Well I was that one kid who never went to any of them. Seriously, in my whole entire four years of Elementary school I remember only going to one of those parties. There was always invitations on my refrigerator, but I never chose to go. According to my classmates, I was the only one to never show up.
My parents always thought I had social anxiety, or that I was socially awkward. That was never the case at all, I'm just not the person who pursues friendships. If people first contact me and open up to me, then I become friends with them. I never make first contact. As a kid I had my group of friends and that was all I needed. Most of my friends didn't go to school with me, so I didn't have a lot of friends to hangout with during school hours.
Unfortunately, my loner attitude stood out. People generally thought I was the "weird kid" and an "outcast", and beginning in 4th Grade, they started treating me as one.
There was an assignment we had to do where we wrote our name on a piece of paper and then sat down in a circle. Our teacher told us we would pass our papers around the circle, and everyone had to write down something nice about each person on that person's paper. As we were going around writing our things down, a girl who had my paper spoke up and said several people were writing down that I was just okay. The teacher got extremely mad at this and scowled at everyone, saying that this was not the point of the exercise.
Deep down inside that hurt me bad, to the point that it created a first for me. After coming home, I hid in my closet so my mother wouldn't hear me and actually cried, the first time ever that something that happened in school actually made me break down after getting home.
4th Grade was a springboard for what would happen when I got to Middle School the following year. The Middle school years were not only the worst years of my childhood, but the worst years of my life as of yet. The issue with bullying became much more widespread and malicious, with people now targeting me just to bring me pain for being a loner and weak. My classmates would get into fights with the teachers because they refused to sit next to me in class, and they refused to do group projects if I was in their group. On field trips, no one wanted me to be in their group either, and kids whose parents chaperoned our group would actually get into arguments with their parents about me being in said group.
Only a handful of kids in school were nice to me, and there were more bullies than I could count. There were a few bullies who I do remember especially, like a kid who I'll call Wannabe, an Italian boy who acted like rapper, who always tried to get a rise out of me. And there was a kid who I will call Gay, because he was extremely effeminate and had a last name that actually rhymed with the word gay. And just to clarify: no one ever picked on him. He took every opportunity to always put me down just because I was an oddball to him.
In 6th Grade, there was a girl who I'll call Piglet, who was a tomboy who harassed me on a daily basis. She would physically hit me when no one was looking, and she would refer to me as "Ti*s", given that I was fat and had man boobs. She would also call me poor because I lived in an apartment.
Her bullying me continued into 7th Grade. One day we got into a fist fight. It was during wood shop, I was at the sink in the back washing off paint from a project when she came to the sink as well. She pushed me out of the way so she could get into the sink. When I tried to get back in there she pushed me again. This time I pushed back.
And just like that, she snapped. She punched me so hard I nearly fell to the ground. I pushed her one last time and that was it. She started wailing on me and wouldn't let up. Eventually my teacher noticed and came to my rescue, though that was not a good thing. My wood shop teacher in Middle school was a colossal a******, and he only seemed to be around to further humiliate me and make my life worse.
When he broke up the fight, he immediately asked what happened and I explained to him how I was simply cleaning up when she started trouble with me. Despite other people verifying my story, I ENDED UP GETTING DETENTION WHILE SHE GOT OFF SCOTT FREE!
You must be thinking that I am exaggerating this, right? Well I'm not. He gave me detention because I was a boy and twice her size, despite her being the one to physically attack me. She got off scott free while I received a session of detention (there's another story there, but I'll save that for another time).
And that was just a minor highlight of 7th Grade.
7th Grade was the worst year of my life. That was the year that the bullying went to it's highest levels, and the year I was never once happy. The bullying was so bad that I was emotionally spent. Every morning it took every ounce of willpower I had just to get up out of bed and go to school. When I would get home I was actually home by myself for a few hours because my parents worked. I would spend every one of those hours with the lights and TV off, just sitting in the dark thinking about that day's events and how much I hated going to school.
One of the major issues was the school bus. There was a kid who rode on the bus who I'll call Ranger. We had been riding on the bus since together since we were both in Elementary school. However, come 7th Grade, he started picking on me for whatever reason. And he had a group of lackey's to help him out too. Throughout that year I got into numerous fights with his lackey's over his bullying of me. I never got to him until one day in May...
I would do my best to get to the bus early and grab a front seat by the bus driver. It was the only way I knew nothing was going to happen that day. However, Ranger's lackey's would grab the front seats so the bus driver couldn't protect me. One day when I got there and saw one of Ranger's lackey's in the front seats, I told one of them to move over, as I was not having any of their sh*t that day. This of course started an argument, and at one point Ranger struck me.
He grabbed me from behind and started pulling me away. I immediately got loose and pushed Ranger to the ground, which in turn caused a full on gang fight. Ranger's lackey's all pounced on me, and I started throwing punches. The bus driver ran out of the bus and got the principal and security guard, who ran aboard and stopped the fight.
I was taken off the bus and to the principal's office (Yes, only me. Everyone else rode home). This had been the last incident in an extremely emotional year, so I broke down. I yelled about how I was getting picked on from all angles and that the school wasn't doing anything to help me out. After that tirade I had to call my father to come pick me up, and after I told both him and my mother what happened, they were both heartbroken at how much I was losing it at school.
The next day a miracle had happened: the principal brought both me and Ranger in to discuss the matter at hand. She grilled into him about why he was acting this way, which caused him to actually tear up and not get the answer out. Following this incident, I didn't have any more incidents on the bus for the rest of 7th Grade. I had an assigned seat next to the bus driver to insure that.
In 8th Grade, Ranger and I actually got along very well on the bus, almost to the point of friendship. We would dap upon on entering and actually would discuss on the way home things like sports or current events.
Outside of the bus, 7th Grade was still a nightmare. A lot of things happened that year that lead to my emotional outburst at the principal, but there was one that stood out...
I was physically assaulted.
As I was leaving a classroom, a kid attacked me. While he was in my classes, I never messed with him or even talked to him. However, probably at the urging of other kids, he laid into me. I ended up on the floor of the hallway, crying because of how much I pain I was in because of my injuries. And this hallway was the center of the school, which people had to walk through to get to the stairs. So everyone saw me as I laid there, physically injured and crying. It was without a doubt the most embarrassing and humiliating incident in my entire grade school career.
Some classmates surrounded me to make sure I was okay. Faculty was also around me. I had to be taken to the nurses office via wheelchair because I couldn't walk, which is where I would then have to call my mother and tell her about this incident. My mother felt useless because she couldn't protect me, and I thought my father was about to go to prison. Later that night I ended up having to go to the hospital to fix one of my injuries.
This incident broke me. I got home and actually cried in front of my mother. The bullying had gotten so bad that I thought I wasn't going to make it out of school in one piece. At that moment I thought it could never get any worse than it was right then.
And then it happened again.
Several months later, this time in 8th Grade, I was assaulted for a second time. It was by a different kid, and while I didn't end up as injured as I did before, it was still a big deal. I didn't end up having the emotional breakdown I did before, but once again I couldn't believe how bad school was going for me.
Much like with LEO and Ranger, this kid and I actually became friends after the incident. You must be shocked upon hearing that, but I guess once boys fight they get over it and move on with their lives. His mother was really mortified at what her son had done, and I got the feeling he was genuinely sorry for what he did.
Outside of that incident, 8th Grade was still a struggle. While the bullying actually died down, a new group of individuals picked on me because of my voice. Over the summer between 7th and 8th Grade my voice began to change. My voice became squeaky, and the sheer deepness of it at points made me sound like one of those "Identity Not Revealed" people from documentaries who are covered in black and have their voices modified.
My hatred for school and how bad the bullying had gotten was a major factor for my parents deciding to move out of state. The summer after 8th Grade we packed up and moved out of the town I had spent my entire life in. Entering High school in a different state was one of the best things for me. I ended up liking it a lot: I made new friends, was never bullied and I looked forward to going to school each day. In High schoo,l I just dealt with people who were either idiots or just simply a*******, never bullies. High school was where bullying finally died for me.
Being bullied was a traumatic experience growing up. I was in physical pain, emotional pain, and I generally was a worse person to be around. In the years since I left Middle schoo,l I have found peace, and I have gotten over it. I only hope someone else reading this article has found peace as well.
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