Friday, October 15, 2010

It Will Get Better

Pull up a seat, why don't you? I'm about to get really personal.

Let's put aside the events and introspection and downtown nightlife adventure. Let me press pause on talking about life out-and-about, and instead tell you about another time in my life when I was shut in.

A time when I really felt I wanted to die.

Yeah, we're gonna get a little heavy here.

My story is not unique. Surely you've heard many tales about the young people taking their lives after coping with brutal bullying. Many students have similar cases of heartbreak, but my story is my own, and if it helps you put a face to a victim of bullying, then I am happy to share.

I'm also happy to tell anyone who may be struggling with their own times of trial.

It was 1990. I was in seventh grade. A decidedly dorky girl with "white girl afro" frizzy hair and the worst wardrobe this side of the Mississippi. It wasn't my mother's fault - she did her best to help me keep up with appearances and stock the closet with Esprit, Pasta, Guess? and every other brand coveted by the junior high set.

Unfortunately, every piece of clothing looked just a bit off on me. Red checked Esprit pants ended up looking like a Bob Evans tablecloth when I wore them. My black-with-white-polka-dots Guess? jeans? They were decidedly rodeo clown.

The point is, the world was not ready to embrace my personal brand of style, and I was too young to disregard what anybody thought.

I was an easy mark.

And so it began. Between my ill fitted fashion sense and my brainy tendencies (it seems junior high is not the best time to be heralded for checking out the most library books in a given year), I was earmarked a dork. A nerd. A geek. A loser.

Most of those monikers were ones I was comfortable carrying - something about that chant, "That's alright, that's okay. You will work for me one day," that I kept humming inside my head.

That's when the name calling became brutally mean.

Between seventh and eighth grade, someone decided to circulate the inaccurate and hurtful rumor that I was gay - a tough thing to be branded at 13, especially when it's not true. Especially when your school district is ill prepared or unwilling to handle the abuse.

In a two-grade school with about a thousand students, I was likely degraded, teased, insulted, and threatened by no less than 400 students a day.

A day.

With few exceptions, teachers did nothing to stop the abuse. In fact, one teacher called my mother to tell her I had a "problem," and informed my mother that she sent me to a male counselor to "talk about it."

This school district - one of the most affluent in Cincinnati - clearly did not have their shit together where student harassment was concerned.

It was my cross to bear.

Every day. Verbal abuse. Teenage monsters threatening the few friends I treasured. Cretins tripping me and yanking my books out of my arms. Wickedly cruel people defacing my locker.

Textbook tactics of harassment.

It has a way of grating on you after a while.

For all the abuse, I managed to keep things bottled up, even with my parents.

I distinctly remember sitting with them in the family room one weekend afternoon. I was wearing a navy blue Benetton sweatshirt we'd bought in Austria a couple years prior. My parents pleaded  with me to talk to them. They begged me to trust them and open up.

Home was the one place where I was safe. It was the one place I could go and never hear those words, never feel that pain. And that was the way I wanted to keep it.

I was so afraid that, by talking about it with my mom and dad, home would no longer be a place where I could forget about the harassment.

There were a few times where I honestly thought life was too hard to survive. Thankfully, my dad told me that, no matter what burdens life dished out, there's nothing - nothing - that's too difficult to survive.

I cling to those words in my adulthood.

And I know my father's right.

The tormenting harassment of my early years has actually done a few wonderful things for me. It's made me incredibly resilient where hearsay is concerned. These days, I can give a flying fish what others say or think about me.

I am also extremely compassionate and supportive of the GLBTQ community. While I am straight, I have personally experienced the abuse, harassment and discrimination that gay and lesbian folks experience.

Nobody, regardless of their race, religion, creed or orientation, deserves to be treated with anything less than acceptance and respect.

I often say I am grateful for everything I've experienced. It's a true statement.

I am grateful I weathered an extremely trying situation that cemented my confidence and gave me steel-like resilience.

And I am grateful I can live to say it will get better. No matter your challenge in life - whether it be constant harassment, grief, heartbreak or another trying time.

I promise this - it will get better.

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


Classicgrrl said...

You've inspired me. See around lunch for my own story.


PS: You totally rock!

Kevin Dugan said...

That was a dark ride with a great ending Kate. Thank you for taking us on it.

Nancy Kahrimanis said...

Way to be beautiful girl! Sometimes the only way out is through. It is so important to find those in your life that help you get through... family, friends, good teachers, anyone who believes in you. The world is a better place because you are in it, and despite all the lumps you took, you are probably a better person because of what you endured. The notion that "It gets Better" is applicable in so many ways and needs to become a mantra for anyone that hurts.

Thanks for sharing! I'm gonna link!


The Better Half said...

A wonderful story, Kate. If the experience helped make you the person whom we all know and love today, then we are all better for it.

George "Loki" Williams said...

That is probably the best thing I've seen you write. Brilliant blogging and an important perspective.

Learned a lot about what is survivable five years ago when we thought we had lost everything. I'm very glad you held on, both as an example to others and because I'm proud to know the person you grew into afterwards.

Very moving. Thanks.

Colin Talcroft said...

Although some things never seem to go away, things do get better.

Thanks for sharing.