Then and Now

I am just like everyone else.

I am treated like I don’t belong.

When I was younger I couldn’t understand why I had no friends, why almost every valentine’s day I went home with my little paper bag empty of valentine’s or why none of the kids wanted to be friends with me, or even talk to me.  What I didn’t understand as a young girl was that the other kids were frightened of me and because of that it made them stay as far away as they could. I was always a happy friendly kid, I always loved attention from adults which is why when kids treated me differently I couldn’t understand WHY.  I have recently learned that my name was used as an insult on the playground. The fact that when other kids were playing and joking with each other and when they wanted to jokingly insult each other they called each other my name has been one of the hardest things to wrap my head around.  It’s one thing to be ignored it’s another to know that while kids were ignoring you they were making fun of you without knowing. Maybe I have been kidding myself this whole time, maybe I knew what was going on be decided to be naive and pretend that I didn’t as a coping mechanism. I have found myself thinking about this a lot lately. When we grow up do we change how we remember or do our memories fit themselves in to a smaller box so as not to hurt us?

I have to say that I had it easier then kids today for all the amount of teasing and bulling I had experienced I was never physically assaulted. Kids did gang up on me with their verbal assaults but thankfully I was never beat up. I was tiny (I was older than them and ½ their size) but they never resorted to physically attacking me.

In today’s society kids in my position are treated both better and worse then I was.  Some kids who are different are included more readily, and accepted, they have friends and attend more social activities outside of school. Teachers ensure they are more included, that unlike me they get those Valentine’s Day cards. I see now that there are also more support programs then there was when I was growing up I am very happy with this improvement. But sadly there are still a larger amount of young people who are taking their own lives. Mostly because they are perceived as different, either this is self-actualizing or their peers see them this way.

Another huge development between then and now is the role social media plays in our lives.  Most everyone now has a profile up on Facebook and many of the younger generation all have Twitter accounts, Instagram, and such. This makes us more connected but makes the most vulnerable of us even more reachable.  I was lucky in this regard when I was picked on at school I could leave it at school it very rarely followed me home. Kids today don’t have that luxury it will continue on for them and in some cases intensify. Something that seemed so small at school can be “uploaded” for all the world see and “friends” can get “friends” from all over the world to bully electronically and anonymously. I can’t even imagine what my world would be like today with all this social media and more brazen physical attacks that happen. I hope that kids can realize that there was a life before Facebook and that if it is getting bad maybe unplugging one’s self from social media wouldn’t be such a bad thing. I know what some people might think that it’s not fair that these kids can’t participate in what all the other kids are doing but the alternative is much, much worse. These are the bad aspects of social media I get that it can and does a ton of good because for all the “bad apples” there are many others who would come to the defense of a person being bullied to step in and get involved and/or call the authorities when it’s required. I hope that in the future it becomes more the normal.

Being different can be a curse and for me most days this is how it feels. The feeling I get when I’m just out and about on my way to work, or out with my family is uncomfortable.  It’s hard to describe the emotions that run though me when I see someone outwardly staring at me.  A lot of people ask how I react and my answer has always been that it depends on the day.  Most days I can just ignore it, I can continue on my day without thinking much about it. Other days not so much, I get angry, hurt, but more often than not frustrated.

Every day is a new opportunity a new adventure.  I continue to move forward in the hopes that society will one day come to accept each other as equals and I hope we can stop marginalizing each other.

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