If you took one look at me today, you’d say that I’m a feisty girl and “mataray”. Some even have called me “over confident”, being able to say what I want and do anything I want within reason. You can look at me and say that I’m really comfortable with the fact that I’m always by myself, that I could handle anything. But you know what? Since I was a kid I haven’t changed much. And though presently my characteristics as being temperamental and being brave enough to do things may be seen as something unique, but when I was a kid it was seen as a threat. A threat I usually had to face by myself.
Growing up, I was taught the difference between right and wrong. I was taught that you should always put yourself in the other person’s shoes, causing me to think critically, to be sympathetic and to be understanding. This caused me to have loyal friends when I was in elementary. But this also caused me to have the worst enemies.
Although I had friends, I still like the thought of being alone at times. I wasn’t a real loner, it was just I was more comfortable keeping things to myself. I realized this just as I was turning seven years old, because I loved to wander around my school usually alone. There was a spot just above our cafeteria where I would just sit and eat my snacks. I would climb to the highest point of the stairs and just ate by the door of the second floor since the door was usually locked.
In class, I was the “new waraynon girl” because my family moved from Tacloban to Maasin because of my mom’s work. So while adjusting to the new language, I spoke in English because I was so used to hear my mom speak english. Although a lot were amazed of how I spoke english, some didn’t. I was branded as “sosyalera” because I couldn’t speak Tagalog that well. But that was the least of my problems when it came to bullying.
One normal day I went up to my usual spot during snack time. While I was going up the stairs, I noticed my classmates’ shoes on the bottom of the stairs. I didn’t think too much of it, knowing that the 2nd floor was open because there was a program there that day. Suddenly my classmates cajoled me into going inside, and that’s when I realized they were the naughty boys who were always sent to the principal.
Suddenly one of them ran off with my half-eaten sandwich. I impulsively ran after him, when the tallest one in their group held my hand tightly, hugging me slightly. He then motioned his hand and hovered it to my “down there” area. Thinking fast, I held my bottle full of water that was hung on my shoulder and hit his head hard with it. I ran before any of his friends caught up with me. I was scared. I don’t remember much, but I do remember not going to school the next day, saying I was sick. I then told my mom everything, and they were sent to the principal. But sadly, they never stopped there.
About a year after, when I was eight, they were still my classmates. There was a time in class, when the teacher would ask everyone who sat at the back to come forward. Since I was already at the front I didn’t have to move. Unfortunately, the bullies sat at the back, and they comfortably sat in front of me. Now I want you to imagine what kind of desks we had. It was a wooden desk just like the ones at church where there was a seat at the front. So the boys would sit there, and when the teachers weren’t looking they would reach below, and they would try to hitch up my skirt. Now comes the humiliating part. When I told the teacher upfront during class, she only said that the boys were just playing around. But it made me uncomfortable, and I knew it wasn’t right. But my classmates were laughing at me for being so “sensitive” so I never really told anyone that. I didn’t like anyone touching me “down there” anymore. It’s still true to this day. I just wasn’t comfortable.
Luckily, the next year I got into a class which didn’t include them. But then the other gender began to pick on me. I always wanted to have something different, and I used to have this bead set wherein I’d make my own bracelets. One time this girl from my class called it ugly, and ripped it from my hand causing the beads to fall to the ground. But for some reason I didn’t care anymore. The next year my family moved back to Tacloban and I was happy to be finally rid of all the bullies. Little did I know that there were more out there.
I was in fifth grade when I transferred. I naturally didn’t know anyone, except for those whom I had summer classes with, but we weren’t close. It was harder to make friends when you had a Bisaya accent and you were the youngest in class. They didn’t understand me, the things I was doing.
On the first few weeks of class, I didn’t have my uniform yet because the tailor wasn’t finished with them yet. So I wore either shorts or pants to school, and pairing them with my blouses that my mom bought for me. Since I was comfortable anyway with being myself, I played in the playground by myself. It was a sad sight to be honest, but I really didn’t care. I would go to the library alone, immersing myself with books. The librarian who worked there is still my friend to this day.
Soon enough, the teasing started. They began calling me “Miss Playground” or the girl who loved to flaunt her Barbie blouses. I was ashamed, so I never went to playground alone again. I pleaded my mom for my uniform, and I got them. I was soon making friends with the very people who bullied me, because I knew they just didn’t know me enough so they judged me. It was in the middle of the school year when I found a best friend, so I felt like everything was going to change. As usual, I was wrong.
In sixth grade, my “best friend” began ignoring me, so I was once more on my own. I found a “sister” though, and we became inseparable. But when we befriended two other girls, we became “personal assistants” in a way. They made it clear that they were the Alphas and we were the Betas. My friend and I didn’t mind though. We still enjoyed being with each other.
But although I had a best friend, I was never comfortable in telling people my problems. That’s when I discovered my love for writing. I wrote everything I could think about, all my bottled up feelings. Until the day my adviser took my diary, and I felt outraged. To make things worse, it was my own best friend who ratted me out. But as forgiving as I am, it didn’t bother me. When graduation day came, I thought it was bound to get better. Not.
I was shocked on the first day of highschool when I saw my name in the “smart” class. I was so used on being in the average class that all my friends were in the average class. So I was pretty intimidated when I entered the classroom. I felt like I was being judged, like they sensed that I didn’t belong in that room with them. I was lucky that my “sister” was in that same class, but she quickly had her own group of friends.
And as try as I might, I was never really accepted into the group she was in. I always felt left out. I usually came home crying, blaming myself for being so darn different. There was a time when I cried in school, but I always composed myself, not letting them see me broken. As used I was to being alone, I really wanted to feel accepted for once in my life. I was going through the “identity crisis” stage, and I lowered myself into picking up their trash, being as obedient as a dog, just so they would finally accept me. I just wanted to please them. But everything just backfired. Soon enough they were calling me a cruel name, “Chimiaa” At first I didn’t understand it, but then I had a feeling it meant maid. That was the night I attempted what no twelve year old should do, I attempted suicide.
I was just so tired of everything. Of not being smart enough, of not being pretty enough, and all that jazz. I ended up just having a small wound, which was easily covered by my watch. Stupidly enough, I was afraid of blood, so I didn’t go through with making a big wound.
From that time on, I always resorted to hurting myself. I knew it was wrong, but other than writing there wasn’t another way to get it out. I secretly did it, hating myself the next morning. Then when I was in my sophomore year, I did the stupidest thing. I let them read my diary. They liked how I wrote, so I let them read it. It became a novel to them, and I was happy to have pleased them. I have let the bully accept me. From then on, I got used to get picked on. I got used to being pushed around. As long as I had “friends.”
Fortunately for me, when I was in my senior year they became my real friends. I also had other friends from the lower years, and I felt like the world was at last in balance. I didn’t feel bullied anymore. They just had to know me to be able to accept me. I felt happy. That was when I built my confidence. That was when I looked back and saw that I would never be the person to be stepped on again. That gave me confidence. Having friends who didn’t really talked about me behind my back and having an understanding boyfriend helped too.
So to clear everything up, that’s my story. I was bullied and I walked away from it. Through the tragedies, through the mess and everything else in between, I could tell myself I was really strong and brave because I was able to endure all of that. I know that after you people read this, some of you will pity me. Please don’t. Because without all that, I wouldn’t be the girl I am today. Strong, confident and ready to face anything.
My point is this though: not everyone could have been as brave as I was. Not everyone could have been strong enough. So after you read this I hope you realize that bullying is not something to be overlooked. I was lucky enough that I had writing to distract me from everything. But what about the kid you taunted? Is it fair to think that they have something to distract them from the pain you caused? Always, and I repeat, ALWAYS, put yourself in their shoes. This is why I never resorted to bullying myself, because I put myself in other people’s shoes. You should never judge a person so easily. Be human enough to think about what they might be going through.
Could you be human enough to put yourself in their shoes?