Midvale School for the Gifted Alumni Association

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

You Thought I Would Forget But I Remembered

All of the heightened awareness of bullying, particularly here in Massachusetts, after the suicides of Phoebe Prince and Carl Walker-Hoover, has been hard for me to watch without emotion. Granted, as an educator, it's been good to see such a firm and definitive response from the legislature, reactive as it may be, to this problem that has been existent in school since we became aware of "have" and "have not". But for me, it's brought back memories of my childhood that though I've never forgotten, I have worked really hard to overcome.

You see, I was the target of bullies beginning in fourth grade and continuing, in some form or another, into middle school. And it was vicious, and it came without warning, or explanation, or resolution. Not for lack of trying. My parents called teachers, who never saw it happen, as these girls were slick. Whispers through closed lips in line at lunch, on the playground, sitting close enough at lunch to make the hateful words heard. My parents called other parents, who of course believed their own children rather than me. My parents loved me and tried to protect me the best that they could, but obviously, they couldn't go to school with me; they made sure my life at home was safe and happy.

And there's the difference. I could go home at the end of a horrible school day. I could go home, and not have to worry about Facebook or IM or texting invading my privacy, my recovery, my safe shell. Phoebe and Carl never had that chance. Today's world has so many more ways to connect one another, in both good and terrible ways. The bullying I endured was limited to the hallways, the school bus, the playground. I endured it, and I survived it. This pair of girls sent eleven other girls my age to counseling through their torment. And each of us stood by silently as another was targeted because we were relieved the venom had been directed elsewhere, and desperately wanted to keep it away.

I think about Phoebe a lot. I know what she went through. And I don't think I was any more resilient than she, or any stronger. I know I never considered killing myself an option, but I know exactly how she felt. There is a certain sense of solitude and despair that accompanies this, when you watch bystanders ignore the tormentor's actions, when you hear your parents fighting with other parents, when you see the puddle of tears on the lunch table as you try and eat a sandwich while crying silently. There is a certain amount of discomfort typing these words right now, decades later.

But I made it. I survived my bullying and came out stronger on the other end. And I support my colleagues in education and in public office as they make pro-active stands against this too-common imbalance of power. I still see a shadow of myself in Phoebe though, and her story makes me sad, and uncomfortable, and unbelievably lucky that I lived to tell my tale.

Fighter - Christina Aguiliera

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Midvale School For the Gifted

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