I was bullied in middle school and it made me a shell of the person I am today. I had recently moved from India to the United States and I was teased for being observant and having a lazy eye. It was traumatizing to move to a new place and try to adjust, just to feel different and lonely.
Although the teasing stopped after middle school, being bullied continued to impact me throughout high school. I was caught up in a vicious cycle of low self-esteem and the inability to express myself, so I became a lifeless person walking the halls.
I tried to assimilate by becoming quiet and detached from those around me, mostly because I didn’t have the strength to deal with being bullied anymore. It didn’t work. Being reclusive just made it worse because everyone else seemed to be adjusting well and I was still alone.
I saw people around me be happy and social whereas I was quiet and had no friends.
In the middle of the eleventh grade, I realized that something needed to change. I hated that everyone had friends and I didn’t have that many. I tried to figure out how it happened and I realized that it was a matter of choosing who I wanted to be, and I had to take charge. I felt a need to be defined as more than just a quiet, shy girl.
I needed to become someone I actually liked.
I had a personality, but it was hidden under the multiple blankets that needed to be unwrapped. Not many people actually made the effort to get to know me, and that bothered me because I knew that I was a great person.
I realized I needed to start making an effort.
I started doing the best I could to talk to people. I would take the time to join in random discussions which I thought were awkward, yet necessary. I didn’t solidly make ‘friends,’ and I didn’t become part of a clique or group of people, through this process, but at least I knew I was trying. And I made acquaintances who were interesting people.
I tried to make friends at home too.
Opening up and getting to know people was a very slow process and I knew that it would take time, but I was okay with that. I cringe at the thought of trying to make friends. I could barely muster the courage to introduce myself, but I did anyway.
By the time I left for college, I was still never satisfied with the progress that I’d made making friends, but college gave me the chance for a fresh start. I felt like I could leave most of my past behind. I made sure to choose a university where no one from my high school was going: a small suburban Penn State campus in Erie PA. I vowed to myself that I would not let the ghost of my past haunt me again.
I would make friends and not be afraid to express myself.
Penn State Erie had a warm and welcoming campus and I made a lot of friends during the welcome week. Since then, everything has been better.
Though it was, and still is, hard sometimes.
My heart still beats crazy fast if I need to talk to a person I don’t know. It beats super fast when I try to talk in class in front of too many people.
Until two years ago, I even hated ordering pizza or any take out over the phone because I feared my voice would be too quiet.
I still have time when my self-worth drops dramatically, but I notice it and am able to work on it. When it does, I remember where I came from and the progress I have made, and that I don’t let other people put me down anymore.
I can’t change what happened to me in the past or who I was, but I can make sure that I improve on the person that I am and change how to respond to the events that happened to me. Everyone has something they’re not proud of or feel the need to hide from, but I can’t hide from myself.
It takes time but it does happen. I still think about that time and wonder who would I be today without that experience of being bullied and having to struggle to make friends on my own.
I like to think that having that experience makes me stronger, so I have been able to make peace with it.