I had the luxury of being bullied when I was younger. Some will read this and roll their eyes, especially in light of the senseless death of Jamey Rodemeyer and others who have taken their life s a result of the relentless bullying of which they were the central focus. In no way, shape or form do I mean any disrespect to those individuals, their family’s or anyone else. I mean to focus on what I have learned from my own bullying experience as well as the gifts from my father which hoped me to not only survive but to also live my life to it fullest.
My dad walked with a limp, a gift of a childhood diagnosis of polio. That limp never bothered me probably because I never saw it bother him. I never heard him complain and there was never anything which I saw him unable to do. I was a little overweight as a kid. In those days it was referred to as “pudgy” or “husky.” When I went shopping for school clothes my moth and I looked on the racks marked “husky.” That too never bothered me. I was who I was.
When I began the second grade, a little overweight, shy, non-athletic, my dad’s limp and glasses reminiscent of the bottoms of soda bottles, the jokes and fun making started to add up. I struggled academically and was later diagnosed with Dyslexia. At first it began with name calling punctuated by a shove now and then. I never told anyone and kept to myself. I was awkward and geeky and definitely not one of the “cool” kids. I began to focus and personalize these differences. It was as if they were under a magnifying glass. They were now something which I sought to hide.
As my years progressed so did the bullying. I hated going to gym and showering was even more difficult. I don’t recall speaking about what was happening to me to anyone; I was too embarrassed. Who would listen? What I did do was turn inward. Through my quiet demeanor I forged a belief system which helped me the majority if the time. Music became my friend and constant companion. Running, as I grew older became my solace.
I was always different from the other kids. I liked things, activities which most of my peers did not. I enjoyed photography, classical music, opera, solitude, reading, backpacking and running just to name a few. I learned the importance of placing family first. These activities, these likes, did nothing to enhance my popularity. What they did do was help me to establish who I was; what I liked and to find out what I was good at doing. I firmly believe it was these same activities which have helped shape both the social worker and the wedding/portrait photographer I am today. As I continued to grow older, I found myself losing my grip on these same activities which had defined me. I lost my direction. I lost my meaning. I lost who I was and who I needed to be for myself. I started to change. I acted more like a chameleon than I did a human being. I became a human doing. I did what others taught me to do, what others told me to do. I became vanilla and found myself blending in with everyone around me. I looked like everyone else and acted like everyone else. I was sad. I was depressed. It never dawned on me…I was not me.
As my marriage, personal life and social work career progressed; I began to experiment with being the only thing I thought I knew how to be…me. I say I “thought” because I had spent so much time practicing to be something I was not, I had lost my way. It took me many years to get where I am today. I have thanked my parents, the same parents who I had cursed when I was younger. I still look at my dad for inspiration and I realize today both of my parents did the best they could do with what they had available at that time. Today I am thankful for the person I am and comfortable with the fact that I do things differently. Today there is little to no fear about coloring outside the lines and ruffling feathers. My smile is huge when I have ruffled those feathers. I am proud of myself for coloring outside the lines.
Thanks mom and dad for pushing me and forcing me to take responsibility when I was afraid. Those pushes forced me outside my comfort zone and helped me to grow and to become the person I am today. Others may not like that…but that’s no longer my problem. As they say, “Deal with it!” Namaste