Kindergarten. First grade. Second grade. Those were the years that I endured bullying.
I remember in first grade, the year I got glasses; I began getting teased.
I didn’t understand why, especially when I wore purple glasses with speckles. How could nobody like them?
My hair, it was so long, that when not braided, I could sit on it. So curly, so thick, and I liked to have it in a braid coming down my left side. My hair wasn’t acceptable either to the bullies.
Besides my appearance, it was who I was as a person that was not acceptable to these children.
I wanted to make friends.
I was shy, I was quiet, but I still managed to make connections with people and become friends quickly with peers. Little did I know the girl who I thought was my best friend was against me too.
We became friends in Kindergarten. I still remember what she looked like back then. She was over at my house often for playdates, came to my birthday parties, and even came to the little league games of my older brother.
Then one day she changed her behavior towards me. The girl I thought for so long was my friend decided to bully me with two other girls. Together, they pinched me, the slapped me, they made fun of me and teased me about everything, my looks and me being me.
I remember the day that my so-called “friend” betrayed me.
We always hung out during recess and entered the classroom together. On this day she screamed at me as soon as recess began.
“Stop following me,” she shouted at me.
Taken aback; I only wanted to play with my friend. But she kept yelling. I backed off and turned around and went the other direction.
Another day I tried again, to hang out with her and other girls. They excluded me. And that was that. Each time they saw me, they chose to bully me, and each time I came home from school, I found myself sobbing.
Feeling betrayed, hurt, sad, confused, went on for too long. I never understood it, and now, over twenty years later, I still don’t.
My younger self, wanted so much to shout at my “friend” and ask why she was treating me this way.
I wanted so much to question why she needed to be mean.
I never did.
I never got the answers I wanted, just the emotions.
As an adult, I still think about my younger self and what I went through with these girls.
Over a month ago I channeled my emotions into a letter. I wrote it to my childhood bullies. My intent was not to blame, not to seek an apology, only to stand up to them on behalf of my younger self.
I hadn’t even intended to send it, simply write it as therapy for myself. I was careful and open while writing my letter, taking breaths as I relived how I had been treated.
I wanted the person I am today, the person they never knew, to come out through my words.
I created a letter that made me feel like superwoman, strong and powerful.
Then I decided I did want to send it.
But how? Thank goodness for the modern world and the use of technology!
I instantly opened up Facebook and tracked down two of the three bullies. When I found their names I flinched, one of the names being my former friend. I typed up my letter to them and hit send. I took a big breath.
“And now we wait and see what happens,” I told myself.
Time passed and nothing happened, no response, which was what I was expecting.
Then, early one morning, I heard a loud sound on my phone indicating a message on Facebook. It was one of the girls. I breathed hard, got nervous, and read it.
To my utter shock, she apologized for her behavior. I was stunned.
After taking in my emotions for what it meant to me to receive that note, I then started thinking about the other girl I wrote to, the one that I spent so much time with.
The one that was around my family. The one, my parents, took care of. The one who betrayed me.
I wondered if I would ever hear from her.
More time passed since my letter, and I assumed I wouldn’t hear anything. Days and weeks went by. I carried on with my life.
Then, over a month later, I was making dinner after a long day of work, I checked my phone for the time, and low and behold there is her name on my screen.
“Wow…I can’t even handle this right now,” I whispered to myself.
My heart was suddenly beating faster, I was nervous, just because I saw her name.
I was so tired; I just kept saying to myself,
“Wow…I just can’t now.”
I stared at her name. Seeing it jolted me and changed my mood instantly.
Do I click the message while I eat my dinner?
Or do I wait until after I’ve eaten?
I pondered. And then, I took a deep breath and clicked the message.
Hi, Sophie. I received your message. Thank you. I wish the best for you as well.
All I kept saying to myself was, “Wow…wow…wow…”
That was it?
That’s all I get?
That’s all I am worth to her?
All the time that passed since I wrote to her, and she took no time to write that. When I read the note, I thought maybe there was more, so I tried to scroll down. Nothing. That was all she had to say.
I immediately wondered why she even bothered to say anything. Even though I wasn’t expecting anything, I was surprised that given her decision to write to me she chose to say nothing.
And then I thought about something: all the build up to this point.
All the anxiety of me wondering if I would hear from her.
My heart beating fast before I even clicked the message.
And the outcome was this? Was that her plan? Was she still using me as a target for bullying?
I want to believe that I am simply jumping to conclusions.
I want to believe that she does feel bad about her behavior.
I want to believe that there is an ounce of empathy in her.
But after reading her message, all that comes to mind is that she was saying;
I started questioning more and more if she’s changed.
It’s hard not to ask yourself a bunch of questions about someone’s behavior and why they would choose to act the way they do (whether in person or through a letter).
It’s hard not to wonder so much and think extensively about possibilities for how a person could cause so much hurt.
I still want answers, but I know I won’t get them.
And that’s ok.
It’s ok that I have unanswered questions.
It’s ok that this girl didn’t want to write more.
I did something I am proud of. I stood up for myself. I acknowledged my feelings. I took a bold step towards becoming a stronger woman.