There are a lot of viral videos around. Most of them I ignore. For some reason, I decided to watch a 7 minute video today. It was The To This Day Project, by Shane Koyzan.
Take a minute, take 7, and watch it:
Wow. This video really, really touched me. I was bullied a lot as a kid and teenager. I had an unfortunate and obvious nose-picking habit (and a scrawny body, and big round glasses…but the biggest issue was the nose-picking) that rendered me uncool from an early age, and I was often made fun of. I remember my first crush, in grade 5, when the kid and his friends cornered me and kicked me while I was walking in the school yard. I remember moving to a new school in grade 6, hoping it would be a fresh start but by the second week the kids had made up a song about me and my unfortunate childhood habit and were singing it to me daily on the bus (I had the bad luck that a former co-student from my old school was a well liked student at my new school, having moved there a few years before I did, so my fresh start was not so fresh after all). I remember being 13, and watching my brother go to Bar and Bat Mitzvahs every weekend while I stayed home, uninvited. I told myself it was because my friends weren’t Jewish or didn’t have Bat Mitzvahs…it was true. When I was 13 I had about 4 friends at my school, 3 were not Jewish and one did not have a Bat Mitzvah. My own Bat Mitzvah was very sad for me…though I never told anyone that since I knew it was supposed to be a wonderful day. There were a lot of nice things, but every minute of that day I was painfully aware that it was full of kids that were not there for me (that had not liked me enough to invite me to their own huge Bar and Bat Mitzfahs), but for my brother. Had I not been a twin to a popular kid…it would have been a much different event indeed. It was a big event, and considered one of the most fun ones of the year, and rightfully so as it was a very, very nice affair. Rumors at school abound afterwards, about all the stolen kisses (and more!) in the coat room. I promise you though, nobody was accusing me of these activities. It was known that 13 year old me wasn’t getting any kisses.
By High School, I had found my niche a bit. I had found the kids that I fit in with, and had a pretty good group of friends (although the group changed a few times, I always had a group of friends, and a few stable ones throughout) but even so, I was always the one just a little bit out. The one that was along for the ride because I was friends with someone prettier and more popular than me, and because I usually had a car. I dated a bit in High School…but I never, ever, ever dated anyone from my High School. There, I was someone some people liked well enough…but certainly not someone anybody would ever want to date, and I was not asked on a date at high school once in my 5 years there, though there were some drunken kisses near the end of high school, with boys that barely acknowledged me when they were sober. I went to my prom dateless, and not for lack of trying. I asked 3 close (and girlfriend free) male friends to go with me…they all rejected me. I went with a group of girls and had a great time, but to this day, almost 20 years later (or maybe over 20 years later? or exactly 20 years later? I am that bad at math), I have never forgotten or ceased to be hurt by the fact that I did not have a prom date…even though I was courageous enough to ask guys to go with me!
In university, things changed. I was finally someone who did well in school, and I was away from the place where people had known me since I was a little girl who had a song about nose picking written just for her. I had a loving boyfriend through most of university (a handsome one!) and a small but good group of friends…some leftover from high school, some new. I was generally well liked at school and my part-time job, and voted the president of the School of Social Work Student Union one year.
My life since then had it ups and downs…but it all turned out good. Here I am; happily married to a wonderful man, mom to two great kids, in a job I usually like and always find meaningful and consider myself good at, attractive enough to get flirted with on occasion, with a loving extended family and great friends (although I would not say I have many friends) and with some skills and accomplishments I am proud of.
But I can say, the rejection from being the kid nobody liked and the adolescent who didn’t get invited to the Bar Mitzvahs and the 18 year old who couldn’t get a prom date…it has left it’s mark:
*I am narcissistic, and require an abnormal amount of attention, praise and admiration to feel good about myself.
*I am paranoid, and truly believe that I am always the least liked person in any group, and that when people are whispering and laughing it is probably something bad about me. When I am out with a group, I often feel like the person nobody is really talking to, who would not be noticed if I left, who people are trying to avoid. It is still a feeling I can never shake.
*I cannot maintain friendships well…because I am terrified of rejection and unless someone reaches out to me or I see them often by circumstance (like I work with them) I will let a friendship die, because I am too scared to try and nurture it. I have a very hard-time picking up the phone and asking even my closest friends to go out for coffee…sure that they will tell me they have something better to do. I have co-workers I eat lunch with often, yet I still wait for them to ask me if I am free for lunch more often than not. Texting and email has made this easier for me…I can reach out to people in writing with less fear that I will be rejected…but the issue remains, and probably always will. When I want to go to a movie, I will post on Facebook and ask if anyone wants to go with me, instead of asking a few specific people. How sad is that?
*There are other things I cannot share, because this is not an anonymous blog. I will say that as an adult (mostly as a younger-than-I-am-now adult) there have been actions in my life I have had that I am not proud of (and things that have happened to me as a result of these actions) that that I know come from a place of hurt and a sense of longing for acceptance that stems from the rejection of my childhood and teenage years.
Anyways, as one can guess, the video really spoke to me. It reminded me that bullying can have far reaching effects. It reminded me that many kids and adolescents and teens had it worse than me. It reminded me, most of all, that THEY WERE WRONG. I hope that changes me. It probably wont, I have been the way I am a long, long time…but the reminder that THEY WERE WRONG is still good to have. I hope many many people see this video. I hope adults that were bullied see it and also realize that THEY WERE WRONG. I hope kids and teens that are bullied now see it and know they are not alone, and life gets better. I hope that people who bully, and did bully, see it and realize that their fun is causing people real pain, pain that might follow their victims well past their childhoods, that may impact their lives in ways one could never imagine, and may hurt them until they are 39 years old, and beyond.