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Judgement Day

October 29, 2012

This is a departure from the usual. There’s not much humor here…making fun of someone else for no good reason just isn’t funny. Anytime. Any place. Ever. These days, it’s known as bullying. When I was a kid, it wasn’t.

I was born in a small town, and for the first nine and a half years of my life, I lived in the country surrounded by loads of aunts, uncles, and cousins. And my grandparents lived just down the hill. I had two brothers, too, but they just weren’t as much fun as my cousins. Maybe because we lived in the same house.

Then Dad got a job as a salesman for a major cookie company…good news for three kids, who anticipated a bottomless cookie jar. For this new job we had to live within the city limits, so we were moving to town.

Now, no one really knew why cookie salesmen had to live in town…but it was a rule…a condition of employment. So we’d move. Maybe there’d be an emergency with the elves, or a cookie crisis of some sort.

The prospect of moving to town thrilled my mother. Having grown up on a farm, she longed for life in the city. Her wish would finally be granted. She couldn’t wait. She felt she’d paid her dues;…she’d lived in the country for the better part of a decade, surrounded by in-laws.

Finally, we moved, and things changed…everything changed…but not in the way we hoped…

In town, the yards were small, and the houses really close together…compared to what we were used to.  School was different…with bigger classes and kids there weren’t keen on newcomers, especially when those newcomers were hicks from the country.

I was oblivious…excited about starting school in town. I imagined myself walking to the bus stop with my new friends. Sitting together at lunch and playing with each other at recess. Like we did at our country school. I figured kids were the same everywhere. But soon I would learn different.

I knew just what I was going to wear on my very first day…my new dress…the coral pink one that Grandma and Grandpa got me for my eighth birthday. It had short puffy sleeves and a round collar, piped in white. The bodice fit and the skirt was gathered at the waist and billowed out when I spun around. Kind of a baby-doll style.

That dress had been way too big for me when I was eight. Grandma had four sons. She’d never bought clothes for girls and she thought that eight year olds wore a size eight, nine year olds wore a nine, and so on.

I was very small for my age, so it took me a year and a half just to grow into that dress. And all the while, I’d admired it hanging in my closet, waiting for me to grow. I would dream about when and where I‘d wear it. I couldn’t wait. I loved everything about it. Color, style, everything. But most of all, I loved that Grandma picked it out specially for me.

Finally, at nine and a half, it fit. And I was ecstatic. I’d wear it with my new white anklets and black patent leather shoes. Mom would curl my hair and I’d wear my new barrettes. I took my time getting ready for school that day…I wanted everything to be just so.

Then I walked in to the school…and received a crash course in fashion…It quickly became clear to me that country school fashions were vastly different from those in town schools. And the kids, the boys too, but especially the girls, were quick to point that out. Lightening quick. Painfully quick.

I’d slept in my pink foam curlers and got up early so Mom could fix my hair…which, as it happened, was as stylish as my dress. I wondered how things could have gone so wrong.

I’d committed a fashion faux pas. A very serious one. Serious enough to sentence me to solitary recess, sitting alone on a swing, swaying forward and back, trying to figure out what I‘d done wrong. Lunch in Solitary wasn‘t much fun, either…I had the whole table to myself. No one to talk to; no one to laugh with. No friends. No friends at all.

All day, the other kids snickered behind their hands. They pointed at me, made fun of my dress and hair…according to them, I was so yesterday. All the girls wore their straight, it was considered so much more sophisticated. Curls were childish. And the girls wore skirts and sweaters…not dresses, and especially not that style.

This was not how I imagined my first day to be…not by a long shot.

I’d skipped down the street to the bus stop that first morning, feeling so pretty and upbeat…excited about the opportunities the day held…especially the thought of making new friends.

And eight blocks later, I felt lower than a bug.

Lower that the ugly bug that no one wants to touch…the one that everyone just points at and says, ’Look at it…it’s soooo ugly! Stay away!’ The bug that fascinates the majority of kids in a grotesque kind of way. The one they can’t stop looking at. Or pointing at. Or teasing.

That’s exactly how I felt…so low and bewildered. Unable to get away. Not a good start. Not a good start at all.

Moving sounded so exciting last summer…I looked forward to it for months. I’d have a a new house, a brand new room, brand new friends, a brand new school. It would be perfect.

But it turned out all wrong. These kids weren’t anything like the kids in my last school…they weren’t nice. They were hurtful and mean. They didn’t even know me, and yet they judged me…because of how I looked.

But they weren’t going anywhere and neither was I. So I had to find a way to survive. The kids eventually stopped teasing me, but we never really became friends. It wasn’t until I was in ninth grade that I made a close friend.

I don’t remember what part of the school year it was, but my new friend’s locker was right next to mine…and we quickly became friends Still are, to this day. We don’t talk often, but when we do, we are able to pick up just where we left off…a sign of true friendship.

To be truthful, those days were pretty dark, and I didn’t always want to survive…but I always wanted to live more than I wanted to die. Either that or I was a chicken. No matter…I survived.

And I survived for a reason. I don’t know for sure what that reason is, but I know it’s there. And I know that there is something…someone more powerful than me at work here.

There are still times I struggle with acceptance and the feeling of being judged. But I’ve got more self-confidence now. I know I am who I was created to be. No matter what anyone else thinks.

I am a nice person. I try to be kind to others. I can be funny. And I have gifts…talents. I have strong points, and weak points; there are some things I’m just not good at, like singing. That doesn’t make me a bad person, it just means that music isn’t one of my gifts. But I am pretty good at painting. I have been given the gift of creativity.

Put a paintbrush in my hand and I’m in my element. Or give me fabric or yarn and I’ll turn it into something good. And I love to cook…I especially like to create new dishes, just for fun.

I have many gifts. Some I don’t even know about yet. Some I may never discover.

Life is a journey. It has ups and downs; good times and bad. It might not seem like it at times, but it is always, always worth the effort. Even when people are cruel.

They are not judges. They are just people, like me. And they have opinions. Just like me. They don’t have to like me.

It’s not a perfect world…in fact, it’s quite broken. I recently spent some time talking with a friend about this very topic…why horrible things happened to me when I was a kid. And he helped me to see. ‘We live in a broken world,‘ he said. And those simple words got through. They made sense. I could put that struggle to rest. I could feel at peace with that part of my past. Finally.

I don’t think my friend knows how much he helped me. I’d cry tears of gratitude if I tried to tell him…to put my feelings into words. And what man wants to be around a weeping woman? But I will be forever grateful.

Life is a gift. We need to make the best of it. Be kind to others, be honest and do our best. Help those in need. Accept help if it’s needed. Laugh. Have fun.

Accept ourselves. Embrace ourselves, treasure the gifts we were born with and use them.

And especially, try not to judge others.

One Comment
  1. Helen Abramson permalink

    FANTASTIC! Great message here Ma’am. I had a cousin who bullied me but I didn’t know all those years ago that’s what it was. Now in adulthood I finally realized it was jealousy. You have ended this post with excellent advice. Always do your best and don’t worry about what others think. Don’t judge them for their opinions. It’s something we tried to teach our kids. If you accept a job/position, always do your best. If you know that you won’t be able to give it your best, don’t accept it.

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