Can You Make Yourself Bullyproof?
Start By First Being Your Own Best Friend
I’ve been carrying this extra weight around with me all of my life. Because as far back as I can remember, I always felt I was not as good as everybody else. All I ever really wanted was to just fit in and be liked by everyone. This kind of thinking is a waste of time but when you’re in the emotion and pain of rejection, being left out or laughed at, you don’t see that. And it often happens for most at a time in life when they should be cultivating their own sense of self-esteem. Stop and think about it. In the final analysis the only opinion of you that really counts is what you think of yourself. You know yourself better than anyone else.
This concept is hard enough for the average adult to deal with. Try telling that to a kid who’s in the throes of misery because they are being targeted and ridiculed every single day in school. I always seemed to compensate for the things I felt I lacked (a nice figure, fashionable clothes, street smarts and that illusive element that just makes some kids cooler than others) by becoming the ‘class clown’. You know the kind of kid who makes jokes, mostly at their own expense, in order to entertain and be accepted by others. But since looking at most problems when they are behind you (in retrospect – more on that word later), allows you to see everything much clearer, it’s taken me just about lifetime to see that by doing what I did, playing the role that had been cast for me by others, I just gave bullies more fuel for the fire they roasted me in. By the time I graduated high school I was so far from well done. Not everyone can be beautiful, or talented or ingenious but God made us all in such a way that we each as individuals can be unique and have something very special to offer the world as well as ourselves. Don’t compare yourself to others, be an original.
Don't Let the Mirror Define Who You Are
I often have looked back on the timid little kid I was and wished I’d been much kinder to her; defended her more; believed in her more. All I needed do was be my own friend first before being concerned about making others. And I was always of the mindset that I probably deserved this crummy treatment thinking my detractors must be right about me. I didn’t think much of myself or for myself, literally. There’s your first Catch 22 – you get stuck on a hamster wheel and although you’re spinning, you’re going nowhere but downhill fast. After all, I looked and fit the role of victim to a tee. I had no sense of self-worth to begin with, never thought of myself as pretty, and I became overweight from the age of eight. I had to wear thick eyeglasses and in my pre-teens, funny looking corrective oxfords that look more like a boy’s shoe than a girl’s. My curly hair was at times in damp weather, the consistency of a steel wool pad – curls that seized up when I wanted straight hair. My clothes were not what was trendy, but what fit. I remember a lot of long pleated skirts and big, fuzzy sweaters to hide my girth and guilt.
It never occurred to me that other kids who treated me badly were acting like morons. Or even more remote the idea that they were probably just as unhappy as I was but for different reasons. I never stopped to rationalize why they made fun of me, they didn’t even know me or who I was inside, who I wanted to be. What I was thinking or cared about mattered little to them. In fact the main thing that’s still wrong with the world today, is that most people judge a book by its cover and never bother to even open it and read the contents. And everything in popular media seems to reinforce that. It tells us repeatedly that what you see is far more important than what you get. You will be popular, well liked, successful as long as you look a certain way. If you’re out of the accepted norm you don’t fit in. And the lasting negative result of being treated like an outsider often results for most in all that emotional baggage. And if you’re not careful, you’ll carry that baggage around with you through the rest of your life in one way or another. It can easily get in the way of what you really want from life.
Bullying for the Times
I’ll never understand why some kids are just plain mean. And I’d bet they grow up into mean adults. Usually a bully is someone who is more insecure than the person they’re picking on. They try to make themselves feel big by making you feel small. When I was a child, bullying consisted of verbal taunts, unsolicited laughter, nasty practical jokes and maybe even as extreme as a fist fight. You’d probably find yourself with either an emotional or even a physical black eye but it wouldn’t kill you. But the rules of the game have changed considerably since I was a kid. Today social media allows some bullies to wield much more power and influence than they should ever have. It’s not just the kids on the corner or in the cafeteria that are in on it now. Everyone with access to a computer can participate. And in that format, in the way of a true coward, the barbs are usually from ‘anonymous’.
So Let's Talk About It
When I was going through this I used to think that no one else really cared. I know I wasn’t the only one being tormented, there are always others. But it didn’t seem to be a topic of importance to anyone but me. It wasn’t discussed much or written about. You know, it was just kid’s stuff. Today the effects of bullying have become so anomalous they sometimes go to the extremes of suicides, mass shootings and devastating retaliations that can effect far more than just the person being bullied. It can no longer be shoved into a school locker and ignored. So now we are openly talking about it. Yes, there’s more talk but does anyone have an answer?
I experienced so many miserable scenarios in my childhood. I thought they were behind me but in fact they shaped so much of the adult person I became. They hurt me then but I continued the hurt all by myself each time I remembered the things that were said and done to me. I survived physically, not realizing until many years later that I did not allow some emotional wounds to heal properly.
My objective here is not to elicit pity, or humor (although somethings can seem funny now but were definitely not then), or to reiterate a gloomy past as justification for all the dreams I had but never pursued. What I want more than anything is to write something that may positively affect someone out there who is in pain right now. Someone who thinks the dark tunnel they’re walking through will never come to an end. I want to reach out to as many as I can, particularly the most sensitive who are willing to throw away their own lives or destroy others because they think it will make their own pain go away. No one at any age should be forced to feel like that.
A Checkered Past
For me, there was always something. Sometimes it was trivial but annoying like a devious classmate in High School who seemed to accidentally but repeatedly step on my new white go-go boots when she got on and off the school bus. I was so proud of those boots. If you’re old enough to remember the styles of the sixties, this footwear was widely popular. The short, calf length white boots, the same one’s worn by all those ‘fab’ English girls who hung around The Beatles and always worn by my TV heroine of the time, the fabulous dancer from NBC’s Hullabaloo, Lada Edmund, Jr. Because of my weight, they were one of only a few trendy things I could wear. Heaven forbid can you imagine a nerd trying to be trendy. I remember I needed a lot of white polish for those suckers. It was the same thing for the other few ‘cool’ things that would fit. I had these beautiful black lace mesh stockings that I adored because they easily fit over my lumpy thighs. And they were, dare I say it, really sexy looking – but apparently from the reaction I got at school, only on the legs of other girl’s, not on mine. Same reaction with a new craze in knee high socks. My mom bought me a pair of these really neat looking socks with huge black, red and white checks. She was raving that they would soon be the latest style. I didn’t want to wear them but she insisted. So I matched them up to an outfit of a black skirt and red sweater. But the first time I wore them to school, you’d have thought I’d been dressed by Emmet Kelly. They were pointed out and laughed at by just about everyone. Funny but some of those very same girls who laughed came in within a few weeks wearing the very same style. I never told my mom that when I went home that first day I cut mine up into a hundred pieces.
My hair never cooperated either. While I wanted long, flowing, straight hair with bangs like Patti Boyd’s, all my hair did was curl in the wrong direction. Ever see bangs curling out instead of under?
I’d have died to fit into those empire waistline dresses. Forget it. Miniskirts, ha – no way. A lot of girls were wearing English style caps like John Lennon’s. I asked my mother if she’d buy me one. Turned out it looked great on John but very strange on me. It just didn’t give that cool effect with my fat face, big eyeglasses and curled out bangs.
I suppose I started out in life being no more or less picked on than anyone else. But by the time I was seven I felt I was getting more than my share.
One of the more serious incidents for me came around that time. We were living in an apartment complex in the northwestern portion of Queens and the buildings were separated by a small park like area with benches and awnings and monkey bars for the kids to play on. In pleasant weather, the park was always filled with people seeking respite from their hot apartments. But in the fall and winter, especially in poor weather, it was deserted. Since I was a child who hardly ever listened to sound advice, I wanted to go out and play on an overcast, rainy afternoon when I’d have the monkey bars all to myself. I used to like to climb the benches too and push the accumulated water out of the overhead awnings which made a big splash. So even though mom told me not to leave the apartment that afternoon, I waited for her to take a nap and threw on my coat. I walked down the six double flights of steps since we were on the top floor (I never took the elevator alone because I was terrified of it). I must have been a slim kid then because I remember using the steps often.
I had no sooner started playing in the drizzle when a boy of about ten or twelve I had never seen before came along. He seemed strange to me so I started to walk away from him but he followed and managed to corner me on one of the park benches.
“How many teeth do you have?” he asked me. I didn’t know and told him so. He repeated his question. I replied the same answer. He wouldn’t let me get away from him and kept asking me the same inane question. I actually remember starting to count my teeth when he abruptly and without provocation, punched me right in the nose and then ran away. I sat there for a minute or two, completely dazed. It wasn’t until I touched my face and saw the blood on my fingers that I went running home. Walking in the door, my mother was horrified. I remember she called the police but this little SOB was long gone. In light of the things that occur today, I was very lucky. I was fortunate it was 1956 and the worst thing this troubled little monster could think of was giving me a bloody nose. I often wonder who this bastard grew up to be – a wife beater or an animal abuser or both. Or maybe he even became a decent adult but just like all bullies, first he left a wake of destruction in his path.
My timid nature always seemed to attract bullies to me like a moth to a flame. But even when things would happen to me like I’m certain they did to other kids, I’d never let it go. I would just keep going over it in my mind thinking about what I should have said and done instead of just dismissing it. Another reason to hate myself for my weaknesses. Next time I’ll tell them off. Next time I’ll give as good as I get. Next time. That was until the next time when I’d turn myself inside out and fold just like a cheap umbrella again.
When I was eleven, we moved to a more suburban part of Queens. I hated the change of school since I didn’t know anyone there. Again, I must have been sending out those pheromones. You know the ones like hanging a sign on your back or on your forehead that say ‘kick me’. A boy who lived around the corner from me and was in the next grade at school, frequently made fun of my weight when he saw me on the street. He knew the nasty girl in my class who had taken a shine to picking on me. These two got together and devised a plan to scare me. They were going to ask a crowd of others to wait for me outside right after school and ‘beat me up’ adding the threat of ‘pulling up my dress around my head’. For me, the most terrifying part of those threats was having anyone see my fat thighs. “We’ll wait for you outside at three o’clock”. No surprise, by three as other kids were streaming home, I went to hide in the school library. I sat there for what seemed like hours until a school custodian found me. He asked me what was wrong and when I told him, he kindly escorted me out of the building. No one was there. After all, it was late. Of course the next day I found out from a chatty kid that there was no crowd outside waiting to humiliate me. There was nothing except the fear that these two little evil brats had planted in my mind. Another classmate later said to me, “oh, they were just teasing you”.
Right. They were just teasing me!
Of course children often do mean and stupid things to one another. When I was a kid, it was mainly words and ideas calculated to be weapons reinforcing that old adage, ‘Sticks & Stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me’. Even Donald Trump who never seems to forget a detractor doesn’t believe in that crap. What moron came up with that saying? Isn’t verbal abuse what the courts call ‘mental cruelty?’ I’m here to testify that some words can hurt plenty! And they are almost always hurled at you by people who live in glass houses. But at the time you can’t see that.
Anyone Can Be a Bully
I don’t want to give you the impression that it’s just children who corner the market on meanness and stupidity. Any adult can be guilty of the same thoughtless behavior. Many in authority seem to have their emotions in a vacuum. At times, maybe even teachers too. Human nature can be just as faulty in some people who although they have lived longer and who should know better, don’t. Maybe their lugging their own set of baggage around?
In high school I had an English teacher in the tenth grade who gave my class an assignment of writing a book report. As usual in these instances the book he selected did not appeal to me in any way. So rather than read it word for word, I read some but skipped through the rest. I’ll admit that. I didn’t read the entire book. I was always an efficient but slow reader – fifteen pages at a time was to me a lot. We were given just several days to complete his three hundred and fifty page book assignment. I was not about to read this dull book at the expense of missing an episode of The Monkees or Bonanza! My proclivity was for writing, not reading. I loved to write and felt I was even damn good at it. Had the teacher asked for an original written piece, I might have aced this dumb assignment? Instead, I understood the general story of the book and wrote a snazzy book report embellished with fancy words to dress it up. I used the words ‘in retrospect’ in my report. Upon grading the papers, the teacher (I recall his name but won’t mention it) became furious when reading what I wrote. He failed me but even went so far as to ask my parents to come up to school and see him. Why? When he read what I’d wrote he was convinced I’d plagiarized the entire book report. In fact he came right out and told my parents he didn’t think I was bright enough to know what ‘in retrospect’ meant! Outraged, my father went to the principle and had me taken out of that class. And so, in retrospect, I’m convinced this English teacher was a shallow jerk. I guess he saw the extra weight, the baggy clothes, the nerdy glasses – who knows what he saw but he never saw me!
I remember a girl from my second year of high school. One day she surprisingly approached me in the hallway between classes and was very chatty. She invited me to her house that next Saturday for lunch ‘so we could get to know one another’. I couldn’t understand why someone from a hip crowd was interested in being my friend. But she seemed to be sincere and I was always being encouraged at home to make more friends. Admittedly I was also curious to see what her home looked like. I thought it would be just the two of us but when I arrived Saturday afternoon, I found she’d also asked three of her other friends whom I also did not know. These girls were considered one of the well-dressed ‘in’ crowds and one never saw them around with kids like me. I should have known better but it still took me a little while to figure out why she had invited me in the first place. They began asking me all sorts of personal (and sexual) questions at a time frankly when I didn’t even know what the hell they were taking about anyway. As soon as I realized that I was the butt of their collective joke, I excused myself and left and went home, without lunch except for the egg all over my face. It didn’t take long for this to get around school. Once again I’d inadvertently aced my Humiliation 101 class test. She and her skinny, mod friends never spoke to me again.
Can the Class Clown Swim?
And then there was the infamous Statue of Liberty boat trip. I was in the seventh grade and my reading and writing skills landed me in a ‘two’ class. Each grade had classes separated into numbers in my grade school. This bear in mind was at a time when people’s social security number was plastered all over the place just as indiscreetly. Every kid in school knew you were doing well if you got into a one, two or three class. Anything higher indicated you either didn’t apply yourself, didn’t do your homework, had poor attendance or simply were just not that bright.
My troubles always came with math. Other than the teacher of this class just simply taking a disliking to me, we could never figure out why she did what she did. Maybe my math scores were bringing her overall class performance down? Or she didn’t like tall, gawky, fat girls who had pimples and wore glasses? It’s immaterial really because by her actions she proved (even to me at age twelve) that she should be nowhere around young children!
The school term had barely started when the teacher announced that the entire class was going on a field trip. It would be a boat ride to the Statue of Liberty. I was very excited and went home very enthused to tell my mom and dad. I’d never done anything like that before. My dad often had to work long hours and on the weekends and we’d never visited New York landmarks. I think most native New Yorkers don’t. The ferryboat to New Jersey that carried people and cars was a big treat I recall as a child. When we’d go to Jersey to visit relatives, my dad could drive the highway all the way or we could take the ferryboat, car and all. He usually picked the latter in good weather just to please me although it probably took more time. Mom, dad and I often got out of the car and walked around enjoying what sites could be seen. I loved it. Next to my dad’s aunt Tonta’s meatballs, it was my favorite part of the trip.
The day came for the teacher to distribute permission slips to take home to our parents for the excursion. I remember it as if it happened yesterday. She walked around the classroom and methodically handed out the slips to every child – except me.
I remember getting confused looks from some of the other kids. When she returned to her desk she simply sat down and began writing a note. She folded it and then called me up to her desk.
“Take this note home to your parents” she instructed me loudly in front of the class. I had no idea what was going on or what she had written but she didn’t place it in a sealed envelope. Of course on my way home I opened and read the note. Remember here that teachers are people too and can be just as savage as children. The note read, ‘Dear Mr. & Mrs., I will be unable to take Barbara with us on our trip to the Statue of Liberty. I have found her to be a very clumsy child and cannot be responsible for her. I’m afraid she might fall overboard’. Honest to God, this is the truth. You can’t make this stuff up!
My mother went up to school and had me placed in another class. As we were already into the school year, the only room they could make for me was in a five class. So I went from the frying pan directly into the fire in a class of goof offs and way under achievers. These kids were tough and more disruptive. I of course forgot to leave my ‘kick me’ sign at home. I finally did get to visit the Statue of Liberty, in 1980, when I went on my own at age thirty one. I felt I’d outgrown the need for a lifejacket by then.
I was a total ‘Beatle maniac’ and completely in love with everything British in the sixties. I wanted to see the new hit film, Georgy Girl. It was playing a few towns away and a friend of my mothers who drove her own car picked us up. I was enthused at the start of the film but the credits had barely rolled by when I found myself feeling very uncomfortable. There she was, Georgy, a sweet, naïve but overweight and unattractive girl who loved to be around children but otherwise seemed very uncomfortable in her own skin. It was alias the tried and true story of beauty only being skin deep. Her gorgeous, popular but cold and promiscuous roommate winds up pregnant and Georgy becomes the loving surrogate mom. Even her roommate’s boyfriend falls for Georgy by this time because he realized her true beauty came from within. (Kudos to this day to the late Lynn Redgrave for allowing herself to look frumpy enough to play this part.)
My mother’s friend was very sweet and always accommodating but slightly on the ditzy side. So unfortunately, on the ride home she made the comparisons between Georgy and me. My mom said nothing until later that night, when she became very upset by her remarks. I just shrugged my shoulders and began another unsuccessful diet in a series of many, many unsuccessful diets.
A Very Wrong Move
There were other troubles. And these added the worst insult to injury of all my experiences. They came outside of school, right where I lived so to speak.
We were living in my grandfather’s old house in Boro Park, Brooklyn after he had passed away. My parents decided to make the move back again to a more fashionable part of Queens. They thought they were bettering themselves by buying a more modern house in a relatively new section of the town. Now we would have a nicer home, with a lawn and backyard. In truth, they actually could just barely afford it. It always bothered my mom that we didn’t live as nicely as many of their relatives who had moved out on Long Island after obtaining financial stability. My parents started looking out there first but even in the early sixties the Long Island property taxes were just too steep on my dad’s income. Time was running out to vacate our Brooklyn residence which had been sold, so they settled for this house in suburban Queens that my dad discovered in an advertisement in a newspaper he found in the subway on his way to work. Years later he would often joke, “I should have left that newspaper in the trash where it belonged”.
He always struggled to make a living but wanted to provide whatever my mom desired. My mother worried about aesthetics. What others thought about her, her house, her clothes, and her tastes was very important to her. But there was an exception to this. When anyone would say or do something she didn’t like or that made her angry or upset, she’d very readily let them know it. Always very stubborn, she hardly ever let anything go by and so sometimes even minor disagreements became monumental ones. But her saving grace was they were also very short lived. She never held a grudge.
My dad on the other hand, was more the diplomat who believed you could catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It was not important to him to win an argument or who was right or wrong. It was important that things remain civil, especially in a new town with new neighbors where he had boxed himself in financially. They couldn’t afford to up and move if things went south.
It was only about a year and a half later after we had moved in that a disagreement arose between my mother and the old biddy next door. My father spent a lot of time and money fixing up our house inside and out. And nosey Mrs. Biddy didn’t miss a thing. Her husband couldn’t fix a flat tire. Meantime several of the other immediate neighbors had become almost too friendly. They were frequently imposing on my dad to repair something for them. He of course complied.
I’m not even certain what the first argument was about. But it didn’t take much for mom, like a kid walking across our grass, to peeve her. What my mother didn’t realize was that this old biddy was thick as thieves with many of the other neighbors. In fact several of them came from the same old neighborhood together. This women didn’t take long to go around badmouthing my mother to them. Pretty soon it became apparent that my mom had poked the wrong rhumba (rattlesnakes nest) this time. Other disagreements soon followed with other neighbors.
So amid the nicely trimmed lawns and neatly painted houses, there was dissention. It seemed to come from the few immediately around us while others on the block said nothing. I remember these miscreants started that summer by sitting out on lawn chairs next door in a large group making noise, playing loud music and talking until all hours. My parents had the front bedroom and often lost a lot of sleep because of them. Asking politely did nothing to stop them.
Later that summer well after the fourth of July, someone set off a cherry bomb in our front yard at about three in the morning. My parents were jolted out of bed. My father even had chest pains from being startled. I remember I was scared silly. But he was OK.
Several of these families had teenaged sons ranging in age from fourteen to seventeen. Suddenly the husbands of these women were no longer being friendly or saying hello to my dad either. Now that the silent treatment had begun it must have been easy for all of them to look the other way as not to see what their sons were doing. In fact I’d bet they even condoned their behavior.
For the next several years it was hell on earth living there. My father was often working and my mother obtained a modest clerical job she could travel to by bus to make ends meet. So I was often home alone. And these teenaged boys did everything they could think of to harass me. It came in very handy that my dad was handy because we started to suffer from one incident of vandalism after another. Apart from shooting out windows with Beebe guns that these boys so obviously proudly owned, or constantly damaging a white picket fence around the front yard that my dad had built from scratch (cutting literally hundreds of precise spokes out on his home table saw), they tossed garbage on his car especially whenever he had just washed it. But they reserved an entire set of persecutions especially for me. In light of what goes on today, I suppose these were minor, but it had a lasting detrimental effect on me. I guess I made for the perfect soft target.
For example, when I walked home from school I had to pass a large, wooden fence on the corner of our street which was in front of a vacant lot. The fence collected the usual graffiti for years until shortly after these events began happening. Someone (who could it have been) took a spray paint can and wrote in huge letters across the entire fence F_ _ K Barbara. I could not only see this fence from my house, but since the school was just a block away, many classmates walked home that way and it got around that I had fans. There was no other Barbara living around there. I was embarrassed and humiliated by that fence but had to look at it for almost a year until mercifully it was torn down to make way for a new home being built on the lot.
These boys would also frequently wait on the corner for me to come home from school. I crossed the street to avoid them but it never stopped the cat calls, noises and obscene gestures toward me. I dreaded passing that corner and even tried walking blocks out of my way to avoid them. But soon they were waiting for me directly across the street from my house. The only time they didn’t trouble themselves was when the weather was bad. I remember I used to pray for rain a lot.
Following a rash of home robberies in the area during this time, our house was robbed too. But instead of just taking whatever of value the thieves could find, my mother gradually while cleaning the house found subtle little damages on things she had prized. Scratches etched on a figurine for example or the nose missing from another. She was convinced it was done spitefully by some person or persons who knew how meticulous she was. What kind of burglar spends time doing that?
But as with everything else, unless you catch someone in the act you can’t prove anything. That was until the afternoon they decided to use me for Beebe gun target practice. I can still hear the pellets hitting the spokes of my bicycle as I rode down the street. And shortly thereafter I saw one of them walking down his driveway with gun in hand. He mostly hit the bicycle but I did receive a small bruise on my leg. But when my mother confronted the boy’s mother, she denied her son would do anything like that and slammed the front door in her face.
A Satisfying Tail
That was the last straw. My father always loved German shepherd dogs and he decided we should have one. Maybe a guard dog would send a powerful message. And she did. A beautiful animal from a private breeder selling three remaining puppies of a litter at an extremely low price. She even came with AKC papers professing her as the great, great, great granddaughter of the original Rin Tin Tin. I don’t know if that was so, but she was a magnificent animal, handsome, bright and fierce. (Believe me our mailman thought so). But we never let her out in the front yard by herself. It was bad enough they were always trying to hurt us. I know my dad would have gone ballistic if they tried to harm that animal.
For my mother who loved a clean home, there were drawbacks to having a large dog. Like constantly shedding hair that became like tumbleweeds in the corners of a room. But we came to love this animal so much she was part of our family. My dad named her 'Misty' in honor of my mother’s favorite song. And after she arrived some things actually started to improve. But every time my parents went out to a movie or to visit a friend on a weekend night, it was unfortunate for me that Misty was not trained to answer the telephone. As soon as my dad’s car was gone the phone calls started coming. It sounded like a group of guys with musical instruments (one jerk across the street had his own band - didn’t every guy want to be a Beatle then) and they’d sing out my name with obscenities over and over on the phone. My mother didn’t want me taking the phone off the hook. And in an age before cell phones or text messages, my parents wanted to be able to reach me if necessary. So these calls could go on for hours. Dad had to incur the expense of an unlisted telephone number in addition to all his other troubles.
Finally everything stopped abruptly and coincidentally with the auto accident death of one of the boys. He was the oldest and probably the ringleader. Driving too fast on a rain slicked road, he and another fellow who survived, crashed into a fence. My father insisted that he and my mom attend his wake. In fact he dragged my mom there. My parents expressed their condolences to his family and spoke to several other neighbors who had remained silent for quite a while. One of the men, not a father of any of these harassing boys, took my dad aside and told him candidly that everything they had done to us was in an effort to try and make us move away. What these horrid people didn’t know was we wanted too badly but simply just could not afford to. My father had spent most of the little money he had saved in opening a new business of his own.
The Emotional Baggage of Bullying
For many years as a young adult, I had a problems making eye contact with others. Socializing – forget it. Things that seemed to come easily to others became extremely difficult for me. People talked but I only pretended to be interested. I wasn’t really listening to them. While their lips moved, I was thinking about how they were perceiving me. Did I look OK? Did I understand them? And I’d have to be ready with a clever response when they finished, didn’t I?
As soon as I was old enough to have some money in my pocket, I’d go to movies or Broadway shows or walk around Manhattan by myself. I liked the idea of being by myself. I wanted to be my own boss and not have to conform to what others wanted to do. Alone, I could be myself and didn’t feel I had to please anyone else. But having few friends is not an answer either. Isolation only encourages more isolation but being burned by a hot stove so many times made me settle for a cold sandwich. And that became OK with me.
There were other things I could not mentioned here because mercifully I’ve forgotten many of them.
The Die Had Been Cast
I pretty much kept to myself when I started working as well. I had acquaintances at work but only one or two really good friends. The problems I brought from school turned into problems at work. I could never take any criticism without taking it too personally. I lost my temper a lot. My attitude got me in trouble a lot. But I was a good secretary and had a long career with the same employer, a local hospital. I had an excuse not to socialize very much. My work schedule was such that when others were off, I was working (weekends and holidays) and vice versa. I volunteered for it.
But did my life turn out the way I wanted it too? How many peoples do? No one has a guarantee of happiness. But I’m still wanting to place blame somewhere. Shall I blame it on all those who hurt me or on myself for giving them the power to hurt me? That’s pretty much a moot question. The end result is what it is. Life should be a long and learning experience. Live and learn and never let your past cloud your future. My mother coined a phrase, ‘use every knock as a boost’. But that is so much easier said than done.
Don't Limit Your Results
It’s taken me almost a lifetime to realize that it is not what happens to you, but how you handle it that is important. In other words you’ll never change or control human nature; what other people do or say about you and to you. You can only control your own reactions and emotions. Although it’s tough to turn your back on emotional pain, you have to train yourself to.
Say it, think it, and mean it! Make it a vital element of your survival. But don’t just survive – make your life happy by pursuing your interests, your passions, your strong points and surrounding yourself with as many people as you can who truly care about you. And if you look at things more clearly, you'll find those people. They can be your parents, siblings, trusted friends, advisors; intelligent and caring people in authority. Look and you will find others to care and help because it's simply too hard to do alone.
Go for becoming the best person you can be. The more caring and strong people in this world that can’t be bullied, the better! That’s the one sure way to combat being a victim of bullying. Find the strength from inside you.
After a lifetime that has led to a lot of regrets, it's the only reasonable answer I have found.