Names have been changed.
Being bullied and losing a friend made me loud and obnoxious. By high school, when I realized what I had become, it was hard to change.
It started in elementary school. In kindergarten I had a good friend, Sam, and we did everything together. But in 1st grade, we began learning more about the English language, and my fellow classmates realized what my last name meant in English. It’s a juvenile word for a body part, and it cracked kids up. They teased me every day about my name. I’ve hated it ever since.
I was also a year younger and smaller than my classmates, so I was prone to being picked on. To make things worse, Sam made friends with other kids and started laughing at me too. I often went home crying.
Filled With Hatred
Once during one of our lessons, we took a trip to the rooftop of our school. Kids I didn’t know from other classes were on the roof. I noticed a girl sitting on the ground by herself against a brick wall. I walked over and said, “Do you want to be my friend?”
A smile stretched across her face. “Sure.”
Her name was Molly and we grew closer after that encounter. We talked to one another during breaks. The following year, we were put into the same class. We started talking more and grew closer.
Although I had Molly, school was tough. In 2nd grade, other kids continued to make fun of my small frame and my last name. I slowly filled up with hatred and anger at other kids for not liking me—and at myself for not being “likable.” I started talking over my classmates and tried to act like I was more intelligent than they were.
Because my classmates didn’t include me in their talks or games, I butted into their conversations and business. Being left out increased my longing to be a part of everything. Consequently, people found me intrusive and annoying.
Invited to Join the “In” Group
That same year, a new girl named Pamela joined our class and swiftly became popular. She was friends with the pretty, preppy girls, and they formed their own clique. She started talking to me and being nice. I liked the new feeling of being included and felt happy when she invited me to join the “in” group.
Molly warned me that Pamela was mean, but I didn’t listen. The popular girls in this clique were nice to me and made me feel wanted. They asked me about myself like they were interested, and I told them everything.
But after a few months, they turned on me. They used my own words against me by spreading mean gossip. When I tried to start conversations, they said, “Nobody cares.”
They only talked to me when they needed something. They used me for information about others, ate the food I brought from home, and tormented me for each other’s amusement.
Then Molly confided in me that Pamela had bullied her too, even worse. When Molly and I were together, and Pamela approached us, we started to ignore her to prove that, together, we weren’t bothered by her. We were stronger together for the rest of elementary school.
But in middle school, Molly and I were in different classes and she found another close friend, Vicky. This saddened me. Molly was the only one who got me, and now I was losing her.
During the long break mid-day, Molly and I met in the cafeteria to talk. It was our time with each other, and I valued it like gold. But now, she brought her new friend Vicky along. I hated how Vicky looked and talked, and the way she acted like she was better than me. I mostly hated how she was stealing my friend.
I told Molly I didn’t like Vicky. Molly said she didn’t care what I thought and that she was still going to hang out with her. Molly and I drifted apart, and once again I was alone.
New School, New Me
I grew up with people laughing at me, often with few friends to confide in. I went on the offense to protect myself, but I ended up not liking who I was.
I graduated middle school (which was part of the same elementary school), and it was finally time for me to leave. I was off to a new school for 9th grade.
The first thing I noticed about high school was that the students were more diverse. Back in my old school, there were only two groups: the popular kids, who were smart, social, and pretty, and the “weird” kids.
The kids at my new school weren’t mean to me so I wasn’t mean back. But it took time to make this adjustment: Sometimes I didn’t even realize I was being mean or rude by cutting people off, acting superior, or not listening to their thoughts or opinions.
I also reconnected with Molly even though we went to different high schools. We stayed friends over the years. Molly told me that Vicky turned out to be very rude. I apologized for being jealous. We talked more about our terrible experiences in middle school, and Molly pointed out that I used to say loud, obnoxious things. She said I still sometimes cut her off when we speak on the phone.
I realized she was right.
I Try to Be a Better Person
After talking to Molly, I made a few new friends in high school and after each month passed, I became more aware of the way I’d been shaped by all those years of bullying. I started noticing the rude things I did and said.
I realized that acting superior and pushy alienated people, so I decided to change myself. I told myself to talk less and be more respectful of others. I reminded myself that I don’t have to know everything everyone is talking about and that I should have boundaries when talking with others. I started assessing my words as I spoke: Does this sound like bragging? Am I being rude? Was that too harsh? Are they tired of listening to me? Am I being invasive?
I think I’m naturally loud and a rambler, but I’ve learned to be quieter around people I don’t know well. I think about how others might react to what I say. I try to talk less and listen more. I try to be a better person and not say obscene things.
I’m also working on not worrying about what other people think and becoming more comfortable in my skin. I still talk freely when I need to ask for something or speak up about a subject I’m passionate about. The urgency of the topic sometimes overrides my need to not disagree with or offend others. For instance, if someone bad-mouths one of my friends or something I support, I speak up.
Being bullied changed me into someone I didn’t like. But now that I’m no longer in that situation, noticing other people’s feelings is helping me become who I want to be.