We all characterize ‘one of the worst days of our life’ in different ways. For a lot of us, we have many of those days during our lifetime. They become moments that end up defining something in us, even if we don’t realize what that is until years later.
I had two of those moments in fifth grade. Even though my memories from childhood are mostly missing, I still remember a few moments here and there – specifically those which ended up hurting me emotionally.
We had moved to this town after the death of my grandma in the third grade, into her and grandpa’s house. Grandpa was pretty glad to have us there but I didn’t want to move. I loved the school I had gone to. They even threw me a ‘surprise’ party on my last day, a kindness that had me crying because I always felt as if other kids didn’t like me.
Mainly, switching schools had never been easy and I dreaded being the ‘new girl’ in town. I was quiet and shy – an absolute introvert. The vast majority of these kids had grown up together and I was an outsider.
I did end up making friends but it was just two by the time fifth grade rolled around. K had been a good friend and because I was friends with her, M had also become my friend. I always thought things were going so well but soon, I found out otherwise.
One morning at school, K came up to me and told me she didn’t want me as her friend any longer. I didn’t understand – how could I? I was just being myself and up to this day, have no idea why she stopped being my friend. All she said at the time was that I was ‘too needy’ and I suppose for a child who spent most of her time alone, perhaps I was a tad too needy. The thing is, her ending our friendship wasn’t the worst part.
K told M…that she had to choose between us. If she chose me, K wouldn’t be her friend anymore. You could tell M was upset. She had looked at me with such sad eyes, as if she couldn’t stand that she had been put into this position. But having been friends with K for so long, M chose K and I was left friendless.
To a girl who really just wanted to have other kids accept her…I was devastated. I knew I didn’t fit in – I never have – but I longed to. And from other people I’ve talked to through the years, I know that other kids often felt the same way. The second incident happened later in that same year and was way worse.
Like any fifth grade girl, I had a crush on a boy in school. S had been considered as ‘popular’ and I knew he would never, ever look my way. I still couldn’t help how I felt. I always thought he was kind and funny. He was also pretty friendly and I don’t recall him ever being mean to me. Of course, many of the girls in my class liked S…and N was one of them.
I didn’t like N. I’m not one to dislike people based on stereotypes but I do get a ‘feeling’ about someone. It is a feeling that has served me well over the years and I was not wrong about her. She was pretty – blonde and tall – and popular. To everyone else, she was cheerful and bubbly; to me, she was cruel.
One day at school, I went looking for a piece of paper I had in my backpack – a piece of paper that had girlhood scribbles all over it with dreams of S looking my way and realizing how much he liked me, etc. It was missing.
I was frantic and hoped nobody found it.
Of course, N did. As I entered the fifth grade room, everyone stared as N approached me, saying something like, ‘Look what I found!’
I knew and I froze. I hoped she would just give me the paper but she didn’t. She proceeded to read the paper out loud…in front of our whole fifth grade class.
I cried, as the other kids started laughing at the words I had written – my whole heart bared to these children who probably had no idea how much damage they were doing to me in that moment. It wasn’t their fault N read it out loud but nobody stuck up for me. I don’t believe they meant to hurt me by laughing, but they did anyway.
The whole class ended up getting detention during recess, except me. I had run to hide in the bathroom and ended up requiring some convincing to come back out.
N’s cruelty didn’t end there. In middle school, she had one of my classmates tell me that this other boy liked me. I didn’t know N was behind it. As I’ve said before, I am a literal person. Perhaps it was naive to believe it, but I took this girl at her word. She said he was going to ask me to the dance and I actually became excited, waiting for him to talk to me.
Three days had passed where I had tried to smile at the boy – unusual for me, as I hardly ever smile – and while he was nice, he had no idea of the joke they had played on me. I walked past N and her two friends at a locker, where they were giggling. Then I heard it.
“I can’t believe she actually thinks he likes her and is going to ask her to the dance.” More giggling, but I kept walking, never knowing I heard them. I know they intended for me to hear them…to humiliate me, which they did.
I never said a word. I knew by then that she did it to get a reaction out of me. I was her entertainment. And even though her trick hurt, I never let her see me cry again. A reaction I carried to being hurt for many years afterward.
What was your experience of school like? Were you a person with a lot of friends or a loner? Were you bullied or cruelly tricked? Do you think it affected the way you related to people afterward? I’d love to hear your story!