Sheltered Bullying

Today Orange (a UK mobile phone company) launched a Cyber Mentoring On The Move app. It’s a step in the right direction and you should all go check it out! Unfortunately it’s not going to solve the problem over night… there is still a lot of work to be done!

One thing it has done so far today is raise awareness (firstly that there is a problem and secondly that people care and are trying to rectify it) and also sparked some discussion. I just had a nice conversation with @hammyhavoc, @rocketcityrebel and @nurseinsomnia about bullying and how distance learning is a safe alternative. Obviously it sucks that we have to resort to something like that and that good kids are being denied the opportunity to learn in a safe environment with their friends simply because a few wanna-be-big-shots decided that knowledge isn’t interesting enough, they needed to entertain themselves by ruining someone else’s life!

Ok, I’ll leave my ranting discussions on twitter [you’re more than welcome to join in there] and in a more calm and collected manner, tell you about bullying I’ve encountered. It’s not nearly as rough as most of the stories I’ve heard but it still happened and affected my life.

When I was 4 my grandfather taught me like a million rhymes, one of them was “This is my apple, this is my pear, this is my canon-shot and this one really hurts” [it’s translated so it doesn’t rhyme, sorry] and basically you put up your fists every time you mention something. At that age I didn’t fully get what it meant, I just liked the way it sounded. A few months later these 3 boys about a year or so older than me were shoving my friend [9months younger than me] around so obviously I run there from the otherside of the playground and after asking them to back off and apologize [they naturally refused to bend to the will of a 4year old girl] and before I could think, that rhyme came out of my mouth. Now, I have no idea what I would have done after those words were spoken or even if on some level I really did understand it, luckily they scampered off like the roaches they were… and never ever messed with me or any of my friends again.

So we skip ahead a couple of years to when I was 7. We had just moved to the other side of the country, which to me might have been a different planet! Seriously: cultural differences were insane! But none the less I had made several friends in the first few days. Actually two groups of friends. The first being… well… not sheltered at all and come to think of it, they should have scared me. I liked them because they were nothing like me and I could learn a different perspective but one morning my neighbour [whom didn’t really have many friends but I was unaware of it at the time] wanted to hang out with us and these 2 girls refused and called her names and after I laughed at their snobbish arrogance and attempt to convince me to ditch my friend for them, I had way more fun with my neighbour as we pretended we were telepathic. A few days later [still in my first week at this new school] my oldest and dearest friend in the world and I were playing with these two boys and we were mainly just playing tag. However they kept catching my friend because as they pointed out: “she was fat”. For those of you that know me, you will understand that my friends and family is the one thing you are not allowed to hurt or insult! End of story! So when these boys said those little but extremely hurtful things, my mood swapped to defensive and I told them to take it back. The one did because I don’t think he realized what he was really saying the first time around. The other refused and at this point I was willing to turn to my friend and say that they are not worth it but then this little shithead called her fat again. I’ve only ever [intentionally] hit 2 people in my entire life and he was one of them. I’m not really a fan of physical violence but I have to admit it was pretty sweet: I stepped in, took one hit, straight to the face and he fell down like palm tree that’s just been de-rooted. He got up and as he ran away crying with his friend and threatening to tell the principle [think male ego got in his way of following through on it though or maybe the principle was just smart enough not to believe his lies] I turned to my friend and I started crying! I hated violence and I hated the fact that silly people like that still exist and that words could hurt that much. If you’re wondering what happened to him: he took up karate the next week but he never called anyone fat ever again.

My middle school years are sort of a blur, think politics got in the way and girls playing with each other’s lives took precedence. It’s like abuse took on a whole new form, no straight out name calling or fist fights but back handed comments and misunderstandings that lead to 50 girls in tears at an outdoors camp in the middle of nowhere because of one sentence. So let’s just get straight to High School.

First year of High School we expected to get our asses kicked in every shape and form including work load but as it happened our seniors [5years older than us] were pretty awesome! They made sure that no one could touch us except them and even then, they got us to drop the pathetic phase of “I’m better than you” and rebuilt us as a solid unit that had more respect from our entire school than all the other grades put together. This may sound crazy but by the end of the year, most of the teachers saw us as seniors, not juniors because we spent so much time learning from and helping with all of the projects our seniors did. So the next year there was a little issue with people almost failing so they had to put us in classes based on our marks again and this resulted in 130 of the 200 kids in our grade hating our class and the one English class, mainly because the teachers liked us and still saw us as seniors. Combining this with the fact that the actual seniors felt threatened and also hated us, meant we were pretty much on our own. In the beginning it was tough because we couldn’t walk around the school in groups of less than 6 and even then you were taking a risk. We’re not really sure what they would have done to us but put it this way: we literally [as in all 40 of us] would cross the street and walk on the other side to avoid just 5 of anyone else. We could have gone on trying to convince them not to hate us but somehow we managed to turn the focus on our education and push each other and rely on each other and by the time we graduated high school, you really could see the difference in our quality of work compared to theirs. You could see it in the level of activities we took part in compared to the other 130 kids in our grade. You could see our extremely strong bond at every school outing or sports event or even just when we were waiting to go take an exam… I guess what I’m getting at is that bullies suck but if you can find a way to surround yourself with even just a few people who are on your side and like you for the real you, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

Yeah, I know it doesn’t sound that rough but I’m really not in the mood to relive those memories and give you the gory details of my personal haters or how people who didn’t really bother to get to know me had meetings in which they burned photos of me and did weird voodoo doll stuff with cats and whatever. My point is that I have very few memories of the bad things but a zillion of the good ones and if it wasn’t for those small minded people who decided to hate us because of our potential or whatever it is they felt threatened by: I may never have become such good friends with all of these people I still call 5years after high school ended. I may never have been as driven as I am or even as happy to know myself.

Bullying doesn’t suddenly end when you graduate. It just becomes less obvious. Even at work at I had rumours spread about me because I really advanced way too quickly according to everyone else’s measurements but again, them spreading rumours about me and my friends and our managers only brought us closer and our work ethic over ruled anything bad they could ever make up about us. Yeah it hurt and it annoyed us but eventually you just have to laugh at these adults who waste their weekends thinking of ways to bug you, actually I found it sort of flattering.

Like my friend Hammy said earlier: If you have haters or naysayers it just means you’re doing something right! My version of bullying may not be your version of it but at the end of the day, anyone who tries to break you down or makes you feel less than worthy, is a bully! As simple as that! We need to stop this crazy epidemic and take back control of our world! It is NOT too late! We can be the difference. With Projects like Stop Self Hate and Don’t Lose Your Grip it shows that people still care and want to fight not just bullying but its underlining issues.

We [the people who care] hectically outnumber the ones who don’t, we just tend to forget this little fact. Join the fight to Stop Bullying, you don’t have to make some big gesture or try to save the entire world, just start by being nice. Nice to everyone you know and even the ones you don’t… show kindness and trust that it will be showed to you, even if you have to use a little patience.

You are the difference,

AM

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