For those of you who are not interested by the television show Dr. Who, (a sci-fi drama that has been around for over 50 years). The basic idea is that Dr. Who is a thousands of year old alien (no he's not from Mexico, he's a genuine space alien, from a different planet). He's a very charitable alien. He spends his time jet setting about in a space ship that looks exactly like a pay phone in England. (The series is British, but many of we "Colonials," also enjoy it).
You climb in the ship, (which is MUCH larger inside than out), and poof you land two hundred years ahead.
That was my feeling last Friday evening. I spent almost an hour and a half trying my best to look my best fifty-eight year old self. I went all out...yes, I wore jewelry, AND did my make-up! I was a nervous wreck by the time I arrived at the venue.
Walking in I recognized two faces. They were ladies I have known since 5th grade but hadn't seen for at least thirty-five years. They rushed forward to hug and welcome. That would have been even nicer if they had treated me like that 40 years ago.
To put it plainly, my attitude about this experience was stinky! Grades 1-12 for me were Hellish. I was tormented on a daily basis. I was an odd kid. I had beat death many, MANY times by the age of 6. This living with fragile health thing made me grow up very, very fast. I felt more comfortable with my over sixty year old friends than I did with my peers. I had much more in common with my elderly friends.
In High School, if I walked in through the main door there was a group of "Jocks" that sat in a bench there and they would judge the girls walking in. They didn't give me any number from 1-10. They would just bark at me. I dare you to start your day that way sometime...have people sitting on a bench judging you, and finding you seriously deficit. I learned where all the other doors were in the building to try and avoid this early morning greeting.
Sexual harrassment? That phrase had not been coined yet. In one of my English classes (the subject that normally was my favorite class), three boys sat around me. They would constantly barrage me with images of their various male apparatus. They even passed me a drawing once. If that didn't receive the required "Reaction," they put a tack on my chair, many times. It took a few times before I got smart and ALWAYS checked my chair before I sat.
The final straw came when they threw a pen AT ME. It hit me in the forehead about an inch from my eye. It hit hard enough that it stuck in my forehead. I had to pull it out.
Mama took me to the doctor who cleansed it (Gratefully, it didn't need stitches). Mama marched me into the Vice-Principal's office. She demanded that justice be dealt to the miscreants. (I think I just channeled my husband the attorney''s spirit. I don't usually use words like dealt, justice, and miscreant in the same sentence). The Vice-Principal said, "Mrs. Cheney, they are just teenage boys going through a phase. It wouldn't make any difference if I did call them in to my office and discipline them. In fact, (I think I saw the light bulb above his head as he had a new idea), they would no doubt, torment her even worse."
Another day Mama went by herself to speak to my English teacher. He was an excellent teacher, but I soon found out a miserable advocate for justice. He had given me an U in citizenship for the class. A U was pretty close to failing. I had NEVER received a lower grade than S for Satisfactory. The U was UNsatisfactory. Mama told him about the torment I was enduring, and asked about the citizenship grade. (I was also far too timid to earn a U in citizenship).
He said, "Nobody else would sit by those boys. Where would I put them in the class?" He continued, "I gave Caroljoy a U because she does not participate in class."
When Mama reported I was stunned. I didn't participate in class because I was too busy trying to run away from the harrassment and cruelty of these boys. I would read, read, read, anything, all things, to try and deflect the misery of their non-stop comments.
I did my best NOT to tell my parents about the daily almost non-stop torment. I had a wonderful home life. My home was my sanctuary from my school misery. I DID NOT, wish to to bring that misery home with me. In addition I had seen first hand that having my parent intercede in my behalf did NOTHING. If anything it accelerated the ongoing misery.
The really odd thing to me was that after leaving high school I attended a wonderful college in another state. I did NOT change in any obvious manner. My skin still broke out from time to time. My hair still liked being frizzy. My teeth WERE perfect now. That was awesome. Suddenly I was popular, people wanted to be my friend. There were even some young men that liked me. I had my first serious boyfriend that year.
You might ask, "Why would I ever want to return to the group that made my life so miserable?" I am a proud third generation Davis Dart. My Grandmother, Grandfather, and Mother also attended this high school. I am proud of my heritage! I refuse to let the cruelty I experienced sabotage my academic heritage.
It was astonishing, forty years later, to be treated as a valuable member of our class! I didn't get up and mingle very much. I have two bad knees, and a really bad back. I didn't have to stand and go to others to mingle. They came to me! What fun it was to associate with these people of my youth, with the daily harrassment gone.
I fully intend to attend my fiftieth high school reunion if I make it that far. Now, I'm interested, invested in these people. After forty years, it seems as though they have finally grown up. Maybe I have too? Grown up enough to realize that we were all just kids, the torment that I received grew out others insecurities.
Was it OK for those kids to bully me? NOT AT ALL! At the same time one of the greatest experiences in life is to understand the motivation of people who seem to be your enemies. In understanding them, their behavior loses some of its sting. In forgiving them, letting go of the past, lies true freedom and self-knowledge. In striving to be the best self I can be, is the greatest power that I may receive in life.