I fell into a really weird place in middle and high school. I was picked on all through elementary school because I just didn’t get it. You know, the whole make friends with certain people because of certain reasons: hair, clothes, back packs, etc. And because of that I was chatty and friendly with everyone unless they were mean to me. At which point I’d probably still be friendly because I was too afraid to be anything else.
So when I got into Middle School and started caring a little bit more about myself I realized I made some pretty cool friends pretty quickly. But then something happened and this overwhelming self consciousness came over me and I just started to feel like n one actually wanted to be my friend and that they were all in on some cruel joke. I was wrong. They did actually want to be my friends but by the time I’d realized this it was too late. Which put me in a weird place. I was still picked on by some people. I had a couple superficial friends and I had some friends who were popular. I was a floater, I guess. Still nerdy but maybe just a little cool? Who knows. It all seems so long ago.
This round about explanation is all for one reason: an act of kindness. Because I was so, ahem, accustomed to being picked on because of elementary school I had a soft spot for anyone who was clearly not “popular.” (Which, by the way, is a word I loathe.) I’d say hi to them and actually become friendly with them. I didn’t discriminate against friends. A person was a person. And I didn’t care if I got made fun of for seeing them as an actual person. I’d get made fun of anyway.
There was this kid. We’ll call him… M. M was the bottom of the food chain nerdiest nerd, dorkiest dork there was. He was interested in things NO one was interested in, not in Middle School anyway. He was way smart and wore a lot of sweat suits. He was quiet and kept to himself most days. We’d spoken a few times but he wasn’t a friend. Just a boy I knew.
We were in the same gym class, which if you ask me is always the WORST class in middle school. As if we all aren’t awkward enough as it is, toss in some balls and horrible gym uniforms and it just makes things that much worse. And there’s more “hang out” time in gym class. It was our last class of the day and there was always too much time between changing our clothes and waiting for the final bell to ring. That’s when trouble happens. Class if over but we’re not dismissed yet. We’re no one’s problem for those five minutes.
There was this cool kid who was even too cool for me. And by cool I mean he was a jerk. And said jerk just started in on poor M. For no reason. He was calling him names and pushing him around and poor M was just taking it. And then the jerk’s friends started in too. And M was completely silent, just letting it happen. But I saw the look in his eyes and I felt such a surge of anger I couldn’t stop myself. I yelled back. I stood with M on his side and started spitting back at the jerks. For every rude comment they threw I had three lined up. And somehow, I got them to leave M alone, finally.
The next day in class M handed me a box. I opened it when I got on the bus and it was a little box full of unique stones and rocks (confession: I used to have a thing for rocks when I was a kid) with the sweetest note ever thanking me for sticking up for him. It was no skin off my back. And I didn’t do it because it would make me look good. I did it because I knew exactly how it felt to be standing in that kid’s shoes and I knew how many times I’d wished someone would have stuck up for me.
I hate bullies. I wish they’d go out of style…