My story before being more butterfly:
I always come back to the same story in my life. When I was very young at primary school I started getting bullied by the girls in my class. They would stop me from playing, shout obscenities at me and try to stop others from being friends with me too. The boys liked me and I got on with them but that infuriated the girls even more. As I moved into secondary school so did the girls and so their group grew to include more girls from other schools. I never told anyone and I never asked for help. When I finally did though, I wasn’t believed so I left school at 16 and I left them behind.
This is my story and what it has done has caused me to be strong yet stubborn and very insecure in making decisions that affect my life. I didn’t make the right choices during my time at school and despite being told I had the choice of another secondary school where only another 2 children were going I chose to go to the school with the rest of my class. This was a big mistake and one which I regret. I regret not telling my family and for suffering in silence. I know deep down the decisions have led me to where I am but I would like to be more confident in making my own decisions for me on a personal or professional level. I always need to ask others to help me and guide me.
This person would tell me that this experience made me who I am and they would probably say something like “How could you have known what decisions were the right ones to make? You were just a child and they chose to take away your freedom of choice. They took away your sense of control and they made you think you weren’t worth it but you are! You are worth more than every single one of them put together. You have to accept your decisions and own them.”
I was only 12 years old when I chose not to go to a different secondary school. I wanted to go to the same school as my sister, despite the fact she wasn’t there anymore. My sister for me was the person I looked up to most and tried to mirror as best as I could and going to the same school as she did was one of the main reasons. I wanted to be part of the crowd, I wanted to be accepted and I guess I thought since secondary children from other schools would be joining I would make new friends. I was wrong but what was I to know?
There is a lot of negativity surrounding this narrative I have and I am going to take a moment to replace the negative parts with more positive language. This is how I will be kinder to myself today:
This is my story and what it has done has caused me to be strong yet stubborn and very insecure in making decisions that affect my life – This is my story and it has refocused my thinking towards me as a person, it had made me strong and brave and willing to question the decisions I make in life in order to achieve happiness.
I didn’t make the right choices – I could not see what the future had in store so I didn’t know what life would be like. I was so young.
This was a big mistake and one I regret – Making mistakes is a part of life and learning and therefore this mistake to go with the others to the secondary school I was put on a path of self-discovery and learned more about how challenging life can be.
I regret not telling my family and for suffering in silence – I didn’t really understand what bullying was when I was younger and I thought that they were right and that I really was a bad person. If I knew fully the extent to what bullying is then I would have told them. This comes back to the education I received, or didn’t receive, about bullying behaviours.
I know deep down – I know!
…but I would like to be more confident – I am confident now at making my own decisions
I always need to ask others to help me and guide me – I do not need to ask others to help me, I know that I can rely on the support of family and friends when I need it.
So this I can do, I can always see a funny side and now it’s my turn to see the funny side in my own story. There are so many times when I was able to laugh during these times and I can only thank a couple of close friends for my ability to do this.
Going back to the obscenities that we’re shouted towards me by these vile girls I had a sharp tongue (I still do) and when I had my girls by my side I felt able to shout back.
This one in particular still cracks me and my friend up. My friend had tried a brand new hair dye (Sun In) in order to lighten her ash blonde hair but it didn’t work quite how she wanted. Anyway, the two of us were walking back from the local shops and we saw a large group of girls, those girls, and of course they started to follow us, throw things at us and shout at us. We kept walking, ignoring them and trying to get on with our conversation. We crossed over a bridge and thankfully the girls didn’t follow, so one of them decided to shout over one last profanity at us “Cristina* your face matches your t-shirt” (which was bright orange so you can imagine what colour her hair was” and I just shouted at the top of my voice with all the anger I could muster “Joanna your face matches your arse!” Silence….then we ran!!!!! Laughing our heads off but my god did we run!!!
To this day it’s my favorite story and as I write this, the tears are strolling down my face as I remember the look on that girl’s face and on the face of my friend. Classic! That day I really did find my voice and it wasn’t long after that I started telling people what was happening at school.
Let’s call her Jessica. Jessica, you were very wrong about everything. They were wrong too and don’t ever forget it. You were all young and none of you didn’t know any better. The education system failed all of you, including the bullies. It did not educate and promote differences, it did not protect and nurture as it does now for so many and if you really think it was your fault that they chose you then you have to see it from a different perspective. What if it had been me? What would you say to me? So there you go, move on now.
Jessica couldn’t see what was right in front of her, she couldn’t see that other people were having a hard time too and she didn’t know what was going on in the personal lives of those girls to make them behave the way they did. She didn’t know how they were educated at home and presumed that everyone was like her, kind, respectful, educated. They are not and she was wrong to think that but that’s not her fault.
The bullies had it all wrong too, they were jealous and angry about parts of their life and didn’t have the tools to work through these emotions. They did what came naturally to them, put someone else down to elevate themselves. It wasn’t their fault, they made the wrong choices and that’s ok too! We make mistakes to learn and I know they learned something about themselves as they grew up and reflected on how they behaved towards her.
Back to Jessica. Jessica started school at 5 years old and made some friends but thankfully already had 4 friends she made from attending her local crèche. These 4 children stayed by her side until she left at 16 years old and although they were never her best friends, they always spoke to her and at times hung around with her in their local areas since they lived near her.
Jessica started noticing that the girls weren’t talking to her and whispering whenever she came near and she didn’t know why. Nevertheless she kept going to school and holding her head high. She even gave them a bit of lip back when they got into her face and she defended herself well. She wasn’t phased about school so much and got on with it. Even though at times when she had to walk home from school or catch the bus, she would wait until they had gone or got out of school quickly so she didn’t cross their paths. She was a strong minded girl who was determined not to let them get to her, even if they were, and she would never give them the satisfaction of seeing her cry or be upset. As time went on she cried less and shone more for she was a true warrior, fighting back and putting her best foot forward. Jessica got on really well with the boys and they liked her and at the age of 14 she got her first boyfriend who was older than her. This gave her some respite from the girls although it never stopped. It gave her a reason to go to school and a reason to be happy. She never thanked him for saving her life and maybe one day she will get the chance for it was because of him, and her fighting spirit, she was able to finish school and leave with her Standard Grade qualifications.
Good on you Jessica!!!
What would you tell your 10 year old self when it all started to begin? – Start making friends with the quieter children in the class and don’t try to win these girls over, they don’t care enough about you to bother. It’s OK not to be friends with the ‘popular’ girls because they aren’t very nice anyway.
What would you have done differently if you were to go back and relive it knowing what you know now? – Change schools when I had the chance and tell my teachers and my family it was happening.
What impact has this time in your life had on you as a person? – This main event in my life is a main event and has taken me on a particular path that I guess I was made to take. It has taught me to be strong and to see that people will come and go in your life, some have a lasting impact and some don’t. Sometimes it is positive and sometimes it isn’t. It has made me cautious of people and when they hurt me it causes me great pain but a pain I can deal with quite quickly and then I let it go. It has taught me that to live life you can’t spend it suffering and letting things drag you down.
How will you tell the story now compared to last week? – Now I will tell the story with more of a focus on what happened, I learned lots of things about myself and in a way, I am thankful that it did. It led me down a path where I was able to build up courage and strength. I will focus on what I have learned about myself, who I am and who I was rather than what happened to me during those years. I will see myself more in the story as the main character, as the protagonist and heroin rather than the bullies.
Sometimes stories shape us and break us
Tomorrow comes and still we live on
Open up about your pain
Right now is the time, don’t hesitate
You’ll live to fight another day,
And another story!
– Annelouise Jordan
In essence this is what I’ve learned. I’ve been able to give the story less of a grip over my life but it’s also opened up a whole new part of myself I have yet to discover. Yes I’ve loosened the grip it has had on me but I still have some work to do.
I’d like to look at why I don’t hold people to account, why I don’t ask them upfront what I have done to upset them or equally what I should have done to support them further in times of crisis between us. I want to be able to do this with confidence and with more ease. This experience taught me to let things go, to not let things bother me and to always think that the other person has things to deal with so let them be. I need to come out of my protection zone (note I’ve called it protection zone and not comfort because actually there’s nothing comfortable about it) and I need to hold people to account for upsetting me without conflict or negation.
That’s my plan. I’ll stretch my wings and embrace the wind!
I thank @Angela_Browne for publishing this 7 day challenge in August 2020. This was the beginning of a new start for me.
This blog was originally published on www.simply-edu.net and we are grateful for the opportunity to share it here.
Photo credit: All images courtesy of the storyteller.