I’m preparing to visit family in my hometown next month. It’s actually a great little city and has really grown in the last decade however I’ve never liked the place much, and always felt like it was a bit of a fishbowl. I’ve also had some pretty horrible experiences as a kid in school with bullying, and never quite felt like I fit in.
Primary school had its moments, but middle school was the worst. A group of core girls really hated me, they jumped me after school one time, and got some other asshole boys to vandalise the garage at home with graffiti and eggs, they spread nasty rumours and made my 8th school year pretty shit. I had a difficult time understanding why all this was happening at the time, but in hindsight, a lot of it began when I started “dating” this guy a year above me. Who a girl in that core group was in loooooove with. Turned out that fuckboy had a long distance girlfriend in another country so we all got played in the end. But to the haters, this was enough fuel for them to target me as a “slut”, “whore” or whatever horrible name 12/13 year-olds could think of to make another insecure and feel like her world is ending (bc that’s how you think as a pre-teen). My dad would pick me up in his old rusted yellow and brown pick up truck after school, which I found embarrassing, but really he was watching out and ensuring I wouldn’t get beat up after school. Obviously as an awkward tween you don’t realise that rogue hormones are to blame for the anti-social behaviour, and the discomfort of puberty messes with you AND everyone around you. But at the time “life is like, completely over and I’m a piece of shit human being”.
University was when I started to find myself. I suppose once forced to think more independently a sense of freedom and individuality comes out, at least for me it did. I was a bit of a late bloomer to the party scene, the first house party I attended was in my early 20’s at university. A few years later I began travelling with by best friend and we really began to fly….in more ways than one. Our hometown seemed to get smaller and smaller the further we travelled.
It was after dad died when I decided to act on this feeling inside, yearning for the bigger world out there, and I moved to London. I remember sitting on the plane and wanting to wave my middle finger through the windows at the city below. I’ve always felt like I wanted to be better than what was expected of me, as a young person filled with shiny ideals about how the world “should” be, I always disliked how one’s credibility was assessed by the way you look or who you hung out with. Ever since the bullying in school, it solidified that feeling of wanting to prove others wrong about who I am. With that massive chip on my shoulder I set out to live a different life than what it could’ve been had I stayed.
Now as a grown woman, I look back and realise evaluations based on former clubs, groups and institutions in fact don’t stop, we just formalise that shit on a well written, perfectly formatted, Curriculum Vitae, with references of course! I still have that feeling of never quite fitting in, and cliques and judge-y people never disappear. Now they gossip and plot behind office doors, around water coolers and on curated social media accounts. Or in the open like boardrooms and congress or parliament meetings. Now I know It’s actually in our nature as social animals to form tribes, this gives us a sense of belonging, sense of purpose, and created a better chance at survival in a community….all was very useful as early man on the savannah. Nowadays instead of plotting to conquer rival villages, we just gossip and try to outdo our colleagues and neighbours as methods to survive in a world of cheques and balances. What we experienced in middle school as hormonal tweens are survival techniques developed through evolution.
So this bullying actually prepared me for adult life. Because there were times when I definitely felt like I was chewed up and vomited onto the streets of London in a big smelly puddle. But giving up was a non negotiable. So time and time again, I just picked myself up and kept going.
Now that people around me all have their own children I see how much kids these days are coddled, and yes, bullying is not fun and sometimes can be taken too far. But without it, the lessons it teaches are not learned, and seems the breed of young people nowadays are unequipped for survival in the real world.
So I’d like to end this post by thanking those silly bitches all those years ago for the bullying, they did me a favour to prepare me for, well, life. This may be a dying art, the art of survival in jungle gyms.
With Love, Flo xx