TULSA - This is my story.
No, you don't know what it's like
When nothing feels all right
You don't know what it's like
To be like me
To be hurt
To feel lost
To be left out in the dark
To be kicked when you're down
To feel like you've been pushed around
To be on the edge of breaking down
And no one's there to save you
No, you don't know what it's like
Welcome to my life”
-- Simple Plan
Sadly, too many of us do know what it's like. I know.
So does 2NEWS Anchor Karen Larsen .
2 Works for You Meteorologist Julie Chin - she knows.
Weekend Anchor Jason Grubbs ? Yep, him too.
2NEWS Reporter Breanne Palmerini as well.
I was bullied in elementary and middle school. I was teased, hit, scratched, pushed around and isolated. It came from boys and from girls. I felt scared, helpless and hopeless. I was in pain and I thought it would never end.
When I think about it, the hurt feels as fresh at 43 as it did when I was nine.
I was too skinny with frizzy red hair and freckles. Bookish and the perfect victim because...?? I'm not sure why.
I wasn't a pretty child or even cute. Redheads are rare and tend to be the target of bullies. Many times it's even worse for ginger boys than for girls. I seemed to anger bullies by just being.
In elementary school, a group of girls cornered me at the park. They circled around me, giggling at my fear. They started pulling my hair and two of them ripped my shirt off. One of them ran into the bathroom and put my shirt in the toilet. Completely humiliated and in tears I went into the bathroom, fished my shirt out of the toilet, rinsed it out as best I could and put it back on to wear the rest of the afternoon.
There was a little office at the park where you could check out basketballs, hula hoops and board games. There were a few adults who worked there. They all saw what happened. None of them did anything. Well, one did. He pointed and laughed.
In middle school, my 7th grade year, I became the target of a group of girls in gym class. They would steal my things. They would punch, scratch and kick me. When I asked for help the teacher said he never saw anything (it all happened in the girl's locker room) and he doubted it happened at all. My mom took me to the doctor hoping when he saw the scratches and bruises he would write a note of some kind to get me out of gym class, where I didn't get any exercise other than serving as the punching bag. The pediatrician was of the opinion “kids will be kids” and I would be “just fine.”
In the 8th grade, a boy found the most amusing way to finish off lunchtime was to push me to the ground and hold me there. He threatened daily to catch me after school and hurt me. Again my mom tried to help. The administration's solution was to let the lunchtime attacks continue and for me to leave school 10 minutes early every day and escape before he could catch me.
I was bullied more days than I wasn't. Sometimes it was the typical “mean girl” stuff. Excluding me from groups, activities and conversations with the cool kids.
It wasn't that I didn't have any friends. But in my circle we were all pretty much in the same boat and unable to help anyone else out of it.
I don't know why people bully. I don't understand feeling happy or more powerful by hurting others.
Sometimes bullies were victims first. Sometimes they're insecure, afraid and think no one will discover their secret if they strike first. Sometimes people are just cruel.
It started getting better in high school, though I never attained “cool kid” status. I wasn't a varsity cheerleader or a star athlete. I didn't drive a cool car, nor did I win any beauty contests. My GPA was more than a 4.0, my circle of friends was small and I was a show choir “Gleek” 20-plus years too soon.
Today, I am surrounded by the most amazing group of beautiful friends, beautiful inside and out.
My mom and I are close and almost daily I find new reasons to marvel at what a wonderful woman raised me. I've been blessed with brilliant children who make me laugh and smile every day. I can laugh at myself. I can be a nerd and not be embarrassed. I've traveled a lot of this world. I have a successful career and a big part of my job is helping people.
So am I a cool kid, now? Nope.
I'm still a redheaded nerd with freckles who loves Latin. Does that mean the bullies won? Absolutely not. Because I survived and I am happy. Because I learned it's better to be kind than to be cruel. Because I love people who are different. Because now I laugh every day. Because I remember and love my friends from elementary school on, and I'm still in touch with many of them and their lives. Because I don't remember even one of my bullies' names.
So if you're going through it, keep going. Keep asking for help, but most importantly, keep being yourself. Look for ways to show kindness even if it's not returned.
If you see bullying going on around you, make it stop. Don't participate. Offer a hello and a smile to someone who needs it. It