A couple of months ago I finished one of the three books I was reading, titled The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door. I was in tears at the end of the book, for the victims of bullying. I was quite familiar with how that feels. And honestly, I can admit I also handed out the bullying as well. Witnessing and living through how bullying works, I followed suit. Yes, sadly true, my friends. I’m not sure when I started to stand up to bullying. At what age do you start to think about how your behavior affects others? I will need to watch that for my kids.
The book got me to think about my own childhood and adolescence. It was quite painful at times. Growing up with Navajo kids on the Navajo Rez, where school athletes were stars and school leaders, I definitely didn’t belong in the cool crowd before high school. Why was I so different? I probably wasn’t very different but if you weren’t a star athlete (or their friends), then you were an easy target for bullying. It probably didn’t help that I made myself different by reading every single reading material I could get my hands on (example: encyclopedias). Though some were required reading, I enjoyed reading John Steinbeck, Homer, Beowulf, Robert Frost, Christina Rosetti and Sylvia Plath. I did find solace in a few other friends I managed to acquire, probably because they were like me. I was an easy target for bullying because I was different and usually didn’t defend myself.
High School was different. The friends I made in high school still remain my friends at my age, decades later. These friends have seen the worst and best of me. They’re family. I recently watched (again) The Jane Austen Book Club. And I thought about this line from the movie, “High School is never over!” And I’ve heard a friend express the same sentiment some years ago (before I heard it in the movie). I hardly remember high school. I do have memories of not having to care about money, finances and having little to no responsibilities. I know I was fortunate to have experienced that in my life. Mostly, I was so bored out of my skull and couldn’t wait to get out of high school so much, that I started college early.
My mum recently dug out an old yearbook from Junior High. It was bittersweet to look through the pictures, because of the bullying experience described earlier. Then I saw the program from my 8th Grade Graduation. I had a speaking part in the program, probably because my favorite teacher Ms. Crumbaugh had aspirations for me to be great orator, leader, actor… It meant the world that someone (outside my family) saw potential or something special, in me. Either the program or the yearbook had a survey of the 8th Grade Graduates, of what their aspirations were. There were teachers, construction workers, secretaries, doctors and lawyers. I don’t remember what my response was.
I digress. Back to bullying. In my job, there are times I witness bullying behavior. I do not tolerate it in any form. I also realized that I need to do a better job of realizing and nurturing potential. I have so much more work to do and I’ve just been sitting back for far too long.