I read an article the other night that got me thinking. I know, it must have been quite the read to get my slow brain going. It was an online article about confidence and the way certain moments in life will have affected us.
There was a bit where you could comment about an event or something that has happened which has affected the person you are today and I was really shocked by all the people that have had things done or said to them that were so bad, it has led to them having no self worth or confidence.
I have touched upon this story on my blog before, but I didn’t go into detail. After seeing everyone else share their tales of humiliation, I thought I would tell mine. Because why not, I love to make everyone cringe on my behalf….clearly. It is just one of many stories I have about growing up and never quite fitting in. Now I have grown up, moved on and wish nothing but happiness to all the people that ever gave me hell. I’m nice like that. (Or you know… I love the whole ‘kill them with kindness thing’ so much that it has become my motto.) But as a teenager, every comment, every act of cruelness directed to me felt like it would leave a permanent scar….and I suppose this story I am about to tell is the one that left the most destruction. The deepest wound.
My first few years at high school didn’t go very well. Most of my friends that read this blog will already know this. For different reasons…I struggled to master the old high school lark. I never quite fit in.
I think I was around fifteen or so when I decided to walk in and show everyone that I didn’t care about what they said. I decided that if I didn’t have many (or sometimes even ANY) friends…then I would just have to make some. At the time I thought I could do it, I really thought I could become a whole new person and adopt a new personality so that people would like me. It didn’t quite turn out like that. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure why I thought putting on lashings of black eyeliner and putting ironic bumper stickers on my bag would make me any cooler, but I was certain it would work.
At the start of the year, we all had new classes to contend with. New teachers, new rooms and the most important thing….new people to get used to. One class stood out to me in particular….Science. Physics to be exact. On our very first day, I decided I loved this class. I loved the teacher who made classic old man jokes and I loved the subject itself. (I know, weird kid.) I also loved that he had split us all and partnered us up to sit at a table with for the rest of the year. Because nobody much liked me, I would never, ever get picked. You know the kid that would always get picked last…but even worse than that because people didn’t even want you despite being the only person left to pick? That was me. So the fact that the teacher gave people no choice about who to sit next to made my life easier.
The tables were made for two and I got sat next to a boy. I had never been in any classes with this boy. He didn’t know much about me, I didn’t know much about him and to my complete surprise, that first lesson…he actually spoke to me. This carried on for a week, the three times we had Physics. We spoke, we laughed, we worked well together and got high marks.
After a great week of lessons, I walked in to Physics and one of the other boys tripped me over right as I was making my way to my table. My physics partner saw and rather than laugh with the whole class, he asked if I was OK. I know, this all sounds like the base for a very cheesy high school movie doesn’t it? Except for the fact that this particular movie will have a very different end to the ones you will see on screen. The geeky girl does not end up with the popular guy in the real life version……
Anyway….he asked if I was OK. In my eyes….he was basically an angel sent down to be my friend and look out for me. Being a hormonal, isolated teenage girl…that one simple question made me have a huge crush on him. I fell pretty hard. Throughout my whole time at high school, he was really the only boy I ever proper fancied. I soon realised he was very ‘in’ with the popular gang…. as in the gang that made my life unbearable on a daily basis. But it didn’t put me off. It just made me fall deeper. Because he was always the same to me in lessons. He made me laugh, he spoke to me lots…we got so close that he even started writing me little notes during class. Nothing really romantic or anything…but enough to make me think he cared.
One day, I walked into Physics and he was looking at me funny. I asked him why he was staring and he said that it was because I looked nice. Then….he actually said the words….”Your hair looks pretty, you should have it like that every day.” Oh my god!! An actual real living high school person just said something nice to me. Everything was going to be OK. In fact, it would be more than OK. We would be high school sweethearts and he would protect me from all the bullies. We would be together and obviously get married. And in years to come , we would laugh about our days at high school together, glad that we both got through it OK. (I know right. How desperate was I as a teen?)
After about a month of this guy being wonderful to me, someone else in my physics class cornered me at the end of the lesson. This other person was one of his friends and he had never been nasty to me, but he had never exactly been kind to me. He told me that my Physics partner (AKA: love of my life *ahem*) was wanting to meet me at break time. He said that he suspected he was going to ask me out. He told me where to be and what time and walked off, leaving me a complete mess.
I was full of excited nerves…and felt that I would actually be physically sick. No guy had ever asked me out before. And not only was this a guy, this was one of the cool kids. This was a person who I actually liked and clicked with. I just couldn’t believe my luck.
By this point, I did actually have a friend in the year below me. Crazy I know! This friend also happened to be a guy and we would usually hang out at break. I ran up to him, spilling the beans about how Physics guy was going to ask me out and how I was the happiest girl in the world. My friend didn’t say much. He didn’t discourage or encourage. He walked me to where I was to meet my future husband and hung back.
As I walked up to Physics guy, I found it quite alarming that he was surrounded by a particular group of people who really did like to give me trouble. There were probably about ten of them, and they really, utterly and truly…despised me. A mix of boys and girls. They were all gathered around him, and started nudging each other when I walked up to them. Obviously in hindsight, I should have ran away there and then….but I was blinded by teenage love, what can you do?
Physics guys eyes lit up and he actually took my hand. I thought that he must really like me to gather these people here. That it was some grand gesture. A big screw you to all my haters if he was willing to ask me out in front of this lot.
And ask me out he did. It wasn’t very romantic, I mean…we were teenagers. He said something along the lines of….”I like you and think we should go out. As in boyfriend and girlfriend.”
Amazing. What a time to be alive. I nodded and was so happy that I went to hug him. I was a little confused when he stepped back as if he had just been burnt. I was even more confused when he started laughing so hard he had to clutch his belly. The gang around him laughed as well. I heard one of the girls say to someone ‘I can’t believe she thought it was real.”
I made the whole situation more painful for myself than it needed to be by just standing there. I couldn’t quite get my head around what had just happened. I mean…this guy liked me, why was he laughing and acting all grossed out by me?
I just stood there, not knowing what to say. When he finally stopped laughing, he spoke.
“Did you really think I was being serious? I wouldn’t go out with you if you were the last person in the world. You are disgusting. Everyone hates you.”
Then someone from the gang chipped in with ….”He would rather go out with the Physics teacher than you.”
He laughed again, nodding in agreement. “I really would.” Then he walked away with the group, most of them still laughing.
My friend from the year below who had walked me there just sort of directed me to a quiet place in the school field and thankfully…didn’t utter one word about what had just happened. And he never, ever mentioned it the whole time we were friends which I really appreciated. No, he didn’t stick up for me. His street cred would have been ruined. But he never made things worse for me. He didn’t abandon me and for that I was grateful.
I went home and I cried myself to sleep. Not just that night, but for many nights after. I actually was so distraught and gutted by the whole thing, that I managed to bag the next day off school. The ordeal must have made look a little ill, because my parents were no pushovers when it came to time off. I cried and replayed it in my head a million times. In every replay, I beat myself up. I never thought….why did he do it? How could he be so cruel? My thoughts were always…..how could I be so stupid to believe him? Why did I show my face to be humiliated? Why did I bring this on myself?
Of course, it was extremely painful to go back to Physics and face him again. He smirked really nastily at me and from then on….acted like a moron if we ever had to share a book or do an experiment together. I would turn a page and he would make gagging noises and wipe off my obvious digustingness from whatever I had touched. He basically became the class hero and I became more of a loser than I ever had been. The class I once loved now became an hour of torture three times a week.
Out of all the incidents I endured at school, that was the one that stayed with me. It was the one that hurt the most and yes, changed me for how I would act with men later on in life. You see, at the time….I honestly believed Physics guy liked me. We got on so well and laughed all the time, it was a shock that it was all a joke.
After high school I went out with people casually. I never, ever believed that they wanted to be with me. I honestly just waited for the day they would tell me it was all a big joke. I convinced myself every time they were seeing someone else and that the whole reason they were with me was because they wanted to impress their friends with what a twat they could be when they dumped me. Of course, these casual things would fizzle out with no cruel jokes, no bad blood, no nothing. But I was always waiting for it.
The day my first real boyfriend asked me out, instead of giddily saying yes and blushing like a loved up puppy, I stood there with my arms folded. I frowned as he stood there waiting for my answer. You see, he had chosen to officially ask me out in front of five other people….on a rooftop of all places. When the silence became deafening, I asked him if he was joking. He shook his head, obviously confused. With these people watching us, I asked him a million questions to determine if he was telling the truth or not….it was embarrassing for him and it made me look like a loon. I asked if him and his best friend were in on some prank to destroy me…which puzzled him no end considering his best friend had only met me once and that my boyfriend himself had never ever been cruel to me in any way. After that, we officially got together and he explained that my behaviour that night had been really weird. I didn’t go into why I had acted the way I did, I just brushed it off and decided that in order to never be hurt again, I would just have to care less. Eventually, me and my first official boyfriend broke up. The reason he gave me when he ended it was that I just didn’t appear to care enough. He was right. I had built myself a brick wall, then added another one hundred layers of brick wall around it just for good measure. Drastic from that one single high school event maybe….but at the time it was something I thought was necessary. All the relationships I have had have been a mixed bag. Some have ended with the common ‘cheating’. Some have fizzled out. Some have ended because just like my first boyfriend told me…I just didn’t seem to care enough. (By the way, that makes me sound like I have had loads of relationships…..we can use the term relationships loosely….most of what I have been describing have been casual dating lasting no longer than a few months…a couple have been serious.)
Isn’t it absolute madness that one teeny thing can change you for life? Being asked out for a joke is that one thing that changed me. It still affects me today. I find it hard to accept compliments. I can’t just say a simple thank you. I have to tag a joke on the end of your compliment or say something sarcastic. And that means about anything…whether it’s a compliment about my looks…or my outfit that day….or my personality….or even if someone simply messages me and says….’Great blog’….I find it hard to accept that they genuinely mean it all because some high school kids upset me one day. Of course, as much as it affects me from time to time….I am getting so much better. With the help of my friends, I have learnt to say thank you. Even if deep down I don’t fully believe the compliment…. I would like to think you mean it and I won’t throw it back in your face because that’s just awkward and insulting for everyone. I am getting better.
It was definitely one of those moments in life where you will be laying in bed as a grown up, and suddenly…when you can’t sleep at three in the morning, that day will come back to you and the humiliation and shame you felt at the time will make your cheeks burn.
But it’s also a moment that I learnt from and come away from as a stronger person. I read a quote in a book once….the exact words I can’t remember….but it said something like…..”People are mean because they are scared. People are mean because they are trying to find out who they are themselves……people are never mean for the sake of being mean. There is always a reason’
How true is that? Looking back now….I know that the Physics guy liked me. Perhaps not in a romantic way…but I certainly didn’t make up our weeks of friendship, laughter and concern. He perhaps felt he had no other choice if he wanted to be accepted at school and I was an easy target. He wasn’t mean to be mean, he was mean to try and figure out who he was.
Of course, some people are just arseholes.
I am proud of the fact that if I see someone new now, I don’t act like that humiliated girl from the school field. I act like a grown up. Even if inside I don’t believe that they could possibly want anything to do with me. I at least try to believe it…..It’s been years and I am a very different person to my angsty teenage self. If I meet someone new in the near future, I am old enough and wise enough to know that high school is long gone. This is real life now. People aren’t so mean with age. I hope.
Reading that online article shocked me at just how many other people have experienced the whole ‘asking you out for a joke’ thing. So many people have been through the same. At the time, I honestly thought I was the only person it had ever happened to. You have enough dislike for yourself to believe that you are the only person in the world who could generate such a cruel joke from someone. As I got older I realised we all had our own various forms of hell at school. We all suffered in some way.
My bestie and I were talking the other day…this might make her embarrassed but she has always been my little cheerleader. She has always had confidence in me and sees me very differently to the way I see myself. And she asked me why? Why do I dismiss myself so much? I guess it is hard seeing someone do themselves down time and again, whether in a jokey way or real. But many of us insult ourselves before others have a chance to.
Over the years, I have had very special people in my life try to convince that I’m not that girl who everyone runs away from. I was like Elphaba only minus the green skin. And special powers. Basically, I was a really uncool Elphaba who couldn’t even sing. But to quote Wicked itself….I’m Not That Girl….(anymore) .
I’ve spoken on here before about how those years changed me into the person I am today. And sometimes, even if I don’t believe others like the girl I am now, I like the girl I am now. She’s stronger because of everything.
I’m not bitter anymore….I just wanted to share this story after reading that so many others have been through it as well. Even when you think you’re alone….you aren’t. There is always someone there.
And getting older, dealing with serious matters such as life, bills, relationships, jobs and sadly even deaths…..it doesn’t make these troubles that you once had nothing. It doesn’t make them go away. These are the things that shape us and turn us into who we are. But to anyone out there who has struggled or is struggling….don’t ever let it define who you are. Take it with you, learn from it, but don’t let it overtake you and ruin relationships or ruin your self esteem. Wear the struggles as your trophies. Be proud of who you are now and keep that head up.
On a completely different note….Don’t forget it’s flu jab time!! If you have health problems, are over the age of 65, have children who need it done or none of the above but you are just considering getting one, do it. Please do not be ignorant and believe everything you read…..these jabs save peoples lives.
I had to get one because of past medical history and up until this year…I ignored the flu jab letters and clinics. But as you all know in February I got the flu + a nasty chest infection + mild pneumonia. It was probably the worst I have ever felt in my life and that’s something for a girl who had a hole in her heart. It knocked me down for nearly a month and I honestly believe had I been any weaker, it could have been a very different outcome.
It helps my Dad with his chronic illness every year, it helps so many people.
Of course, I never demand people do this or that. I don’t force people to think how I think. Everyone will have their own opinion and that is that. But if you are even considering if you should get one…. I would kindly push you in the direction of the jab….for your own good of course 😉
And if it helps sway anyone…. Yesterday when I had mine, it was painless due to the dreamy male nurse I had. All good, all good.
Please take flu seriously and don’t let it kill you.
On that cheery note, I’m off for a cuppa. As always, here’s a couple of totally unrelated pictures. I went out the other night for the first time in aaaages. It was such a good night!