The recent article entitled "Bullying can lead to a lifetime of problems" did very little to enlighten the reader about the impact that bullying has on one's future. After I read the article, I had feelings of frustration and anxiety, and it brought back horrible memories about what happened to me as a child growing up in Mill Creek. I am 57 years old, and still to this day, the memories of being bullied have an impact on my personal and professional life. I often feel insecure, defensive; I am an overachiever and I too frequently "aim to please" people just so I will be accepted.
It is a terrible reality that throughout history people have been bullied for their skin color, weight, a handicap, religion, alternative lifestyle, being poor, or somehow, being different than others. In too many cases the victim believes that life will not get better, and they believe they have no other alternative but to end it all. Another reality is that bullying will always be around. In addition, another sad reality is that many bullies grow up to bully their spouses, children and co-workers. Unfortunately, victims sometimes grow up to be bullies. That doesn't, by any means, make it an acceptable phase of life that people have to experience.
What I can happily say is that life does get better, much better. What happened to me 40 years ago while attending Tygarts Valley High School was no walk in the park. I was very, very poor and I loved band, choir and music. I was different. In the end what led to my torment in high school allowed me to go to college. Without music I would have probably dropped out of high school, lived off welfare and I probably would have been in trouble every day of my life.
Even so, I will never forget the horrible names that I heard and endured almost every day of my life. I will never forget the times I was pushed, hit, taunted, tripped or laughed at. I cannot forget, as hard as I've tried, how it felt when half or all of the majorette line said that they would quit if I was named drum major for the high school band. I did everything I could to prepare for the position which included attending drum major camp and receiving private training to prepare for the job. The same band director that gave me the crushing news helped me get into college the next fall. No one can imagine how it felt to be aware of the fact that so many people hated me that much. To this day I don't know how some of my classmates could have been so cruel. Other than being extremely poor and not being a jock, I didn't do one thing to anybody to make them hate me. Unfortunately, many teachers turned their heads and ignored the taunting. Either they didn't care or they didn't know how to stop it. Or maybe they believed I deserved it or I needed to toughen up. I didn't give up. I went back to school every day and I got my diploma.
I will never forget walking through the town of Mill Creek and having a beer bottle or soda bottle thrown at me from a passing car. I walked on as though nothing happened, but deep down the pain was excruciating and I was crying. I cringe when I remember the time I went to the local drive-in theater in Dailey, and I was attacked by two guys when I went to the concession stand by myself. I was kicked and beaten in the head and face, and my mouth was bleeding. How does one forget that kind of incident? No one deserves that kind of treatment.
Yes, it does get better. Today when I see the people who made my life a living hell, I want to scream at them, call them names or, in some cases, I want to hit them. But I don't. I want to forgive them, have their respect and be their friend. I have had a sister, niece and nephew go through TVHS, and I supported them and the school as much as possible as they went through. I do have some fond memories of TVHS, and I want nothing but good things for the school. I still want to call Mill Creek and Randolph County home.
I have worked all my life to prove to people, that regardless of how they may have treated me as a child or teenager, I am every bit their equal. After I finished high school, I attended and graduated from a great college just like many of my fellow classmates did. I obtained not one, but two master's degrees in education from WVU. I have been a very successful educator for the past 33 years, and I have even won a few awards along the way. I belong to a Catholic church and I am active as a Eucharistic minister and lector. I have been a successful member of several local, state and national organizations, and I have held offices in the organizations. I also do volunteer work and provide financial support for a few not-for-profit organizations.
There were bumps in the road, but I stayed on a course that led to a successful outcome. If at some point I have hurt or wronged someone I can only ask and pray for their forgiveness. The worst mistake I made, and I truly regret it, was crushing the heart of a woman who was as good as gold. In spite of the mistakes in my past, I have worked every day of my life to prove to people that I am just as good as they are. The sad thing is, though, I shouldn't have to prove anything to anybody. I am just as good. I constantly believe, however, that I have to be the best. Needless to say, this is very stressful and not at all healthy.
I want to impress upon the victims of bullying that life gets better, so don't give up on your dreams. I never once thought about quitting school as I learned early on that school was my ticket out. Yes, some days will be harder than others, but hang tough. Be proud of who you are and follow your road to the life you want. Once you attend college doors open and there are so many opportunities out there. I also urge you to not deal with this alone. If there is only one person; a parent, sibling, teacher or a confidante to talk with, do it. If it is necessary, don't be afraid to contact law enforcement. I'll say it again; you can't deal with it alone. You have the intelligence and the power to do what is right for you.
This is how bullying impacted the future of one person who survived it.