This past week, I decided two things. First, I'm going to post a weekly serial story on my own blog. Second, I'm going to submit some story starts to a new writing-education tool that someone I know online is in charge of and is soliciting submissions for.
Those two decisions led me to going through some of the stories I wrote in high school. I still have most of what I wrote between the ages of 12 and 22, much of it in the original spiral notebooks that are now falling apart. I also have my old high school newspapers that ran my fiction column (written anonymously) for half of my sophomore and all of my junior and senior years.
The stories are pretty good, and the one that ran in the school paper is forming the bones of the serial story. But looking at those stories and the old school papers reminded me of what my life was like in high school. It wasn't fun.
On the totem pole of high school, I was a slug in the mud at the base of the pole. The kids who got picked on, picked on me. I'm not sure if a single day went by in my entire junior high and high school career when at least one person didn't make a snide comment about me or insult me in some way. There were times I wanted to change schools (my parents wouldn't let me); times I wanted to run away (but I had nowhere to go); and times I wanted--and tried to--die.
Don't underestimate the effects bullying can have. To this day, there are people from my high school whose *names* make me cringe because of how they treated me. There are people I wouldn't speak to if my life depended on it. I still have nightmares and flashbacks to the high school days.
Some people who are bullied do grow up to really take the world by storm. Bill Gates, anyone? Some at least grow up to put the bullying behind them and lead good lives in which they believe in themselves and have self-esteem.
Then there are the ones like me. Bullying isn't the only thing that put me where I am. I was also the target of frequent verbal and emotional abuse at home and from my grandmother, who babysat me from ages six through eleven. But the bullying meant that I had no safe place in my life. Home wasn't safe; neither was school. There was nowhere else.
So I haven't grown up to take the world by storm. My dreams of an amazing career in special education fell by the wayside for a variety of reasons. My goal of being a rich and famous author? Well, I'm still working on that. Given that my writing was one of the things that got the most insults and snark from my schoolmates, right now I'm just pleased to be able to say I'm published.
And that's the point of my post. Is Jo Ramsey a household name? Nope. Are the people who bullied me "washing my car," as Finn sings in Glee's "Loser Like Me?" Nope. But I survived high school, and that right there is something to be proud of. I taught for a number of years before having to leave it entirely due to health issues, and in that time I made a big difference for a number of students, including one whose *mother* cried when I left that position because I'd done so much for her son. I have two amazing daughters who are growing up to be awesome people, and I have a husband who thinks I'm something really special. My books are being published, and total strangers are reading them. Some of them even seem to like them.
I may not be taking the entire world by storm, but I'm pretty happy with my life and proud of what I have accomplished. And that's what's important. Other people's opinions only matter if you let them. When you're in the thick of being bullied, it's hard to remember that, but the truth is your opinion of yourself is all that matters.