I am 10 years old. I think my best friend is a bully.
We do everything together, and we’re the most popular people at school. But she bullies me, and I let her. I’m not sure why. Me and my other close friends talk about her- we all agree, she is rude to all of us at times. No one will stand up to her.
Today, we were in the library and I told her how I felt. When I told her that she hurts our feelings sometimes, she looked confused, turned angry, and smiled. She said, “you guys are so sensitive. You can’t take some jokes?” This was the first time that I had stood up for myself. It was also the last, up until 3 years later.
I’m 11 years old. I come home from school, walk in the door, and see my dad sipping beer out of a coffee cup. I know what this means. My parents are fighting. Immediately I feel tense. Although I haven’t heard yelling yet, I feel my entire body contract. I feel my shoulders drop. My eyes meet the floor. I just want to curl up in a ball and plug my ears, in preparation for an evening of fighting.
I either stay out in the living room and try to solve the argument, which never works- or I hide in my room and plug my ears. I keep quiet until I hear my mom cry. And then I meet her in her room and hug her.
I already know my dad is gone. I hear his car door close every day sometime between 5-7 pm. I wish I was exaggerating. Not sure where he goes. Ten years later I still don’t have a clue. But I’ve sure learned one way to deal with disagreement: run.
I’m 13 years old. I’m still best friends with the same girl. We’re the most popular people in school. We’re the best at sports, we’re on the school counsel. Friends with the teachers. I say this because I was comfortable. I was not desperate to have friends, and at the same time I needed everyone to be my friend. Including those who took advantage of me.
I had nice friends with the exception of the one who bullied me. Everyone was hurt by what she said. One morning, when I told her she hurt my feelings, she smiled and asked what’s wrong with me. Even though I was speaking the mind of the entire school, she made me doubt the impression she had on me. I kept quiet for 8 years.
I’m 13 years old. I do think my parents will divorce. On a side note, my sister comes home late almost every night, turns on the light, makes noise, wakes me up, and doesn’t care. Even when I ask her nicely. Even when I cry.
She doesn’t care to change how she treats me. I keep quiet, and bottle anger. At home with my sister, if I say she’s hurting me, apparently I’m in a “bad mood” because she doesn’t want look at herself.
I go to school, and there, too, I feel I can’t stand up for myself when my best friend degrades me. I feel trapped, in every sense of the word. Trapped by my parents arguing, trapped by my emotions. All I really want to do is tell them exactly how I feel. But I can’t- because I’m trapped by one more thing: my need to please others.
I’m 15 years old. My mom- her hearing is almost completely gone. This exacerbates my parents’ fights- not because they’ve become louder, but because they’ve become quieter. My dad doesn’t care to fight anymore. He won’t waste his breath when she can’t hear him. He won’t repeat himself. He walks away.
When this happens I want to scream and I want to grab him, make him stand still, make him repeat himself, make him care. I want to control him. But I keep quiet. And I repeat what he said to my mom. My unofficial job when I get home from school: repeat what dad says. This is the job I gave myself. I feel bad for my mom- she can’t help being deaf. I feel it is my job to moderate the arguments. And I am bitter about it. I victimized myself for 5 years.
I kept quiet. I never held anyone else responsible for their behavior. I thought they were doing their best. But now I know: they can’t do their best if I’m enabling them to do their worst.
I’m 17 years old. I come home. But it’s not a home. It’s a kind of hell- the less obvious kind. One that releases a poisonous gas that you can’t see the presence of. The gas expands throughout the entire “home,” and pollutes breathable, healthy air. What’s left is poison. From the moment I walk through the door, it paralyzes me. Although I should be used to it by now, the aroma engulfs me with as much force as it did the first time I heard them arguing. If anything, the force has become more powerful over time. It has accumulated bad memories, negative energy, and has built up strength.
My home is not here…
It’s at the end of the driveway, with ears plugged.
It’s in my car, with the music up loud.
It’s at my friends’ homes, when I hear their parents talking in the early morning. Just talking. That’s it- a normal conversation about what to make for dinner.
I keep quiet. I comfort my mom. I speak slowly for her. I don’t like my dad because he doesn’t try his best. He is halfway here and halfway somewhere else. Always leaving. He never tries to even talk to my mom slowly. He just leaves. He could have a second family and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Come to think of it, he probably does. But I don’t say anything, and I don’t ask him questions. Because he lies to my face. And I can’t withstand any more tension. I keep quiet.
I’m 17 years old. My mom kicked my dad out of the house today. I want him gone, but I tell her to bring him back. I want him gone though. I’m afraid of more conflict.
Somehow, all I care about is putting band-aids on an arm that needs to be amputated. I know the operation needs to happen, but I’m too overwhelmed by the immediate pain- I can’t bring myself to endure any more. I am too inundated by the tension in this home; I can’t see the big picture. I can’t endure any more conflict. I will run away from a serious procedure on my family, even if it is necessary. I keep quiet.
I’m 22 years old. My parents have been divorced for about 2 years. I haven’t seen my “best friend” in 4 years. I tell my sister when she is hurting my feelings, and if her behavior doesn’t change I tell her I need space until she treats me with respect.
My goal is to, some day, wake up and be clear minded, loving, gentle, thankful, and helpful. And on that same day, be ready to pounce: to, on instinct, be self-respecting enough to confront those who wrong me.
My goal is to let my personality run free, to no longer be intimidated by the tension of everyday conflict.
My goal is to preserve kindness, and simultaneously harbor a fierce, passionate, pursuit of life- one that does not need the approval of others.
My goal is to be a lioness. A lioness does not wonder what others are thinking or saying about her. When a lioness hunts, she does so with a calculated plan. She sees something she wants and she confidently pursues it. She may injure other animals but she’s only doing what’s necessary for her survival and that of her family’s.
The lion appears friendly, fluffy, and cute. But it’s not for this reason that I love the lion so much. One is deceivingly adorable on the outside; on the inside, one is always ready to become fierce if it is demanded of him or her. My goal is to feel at peace with with the animal inside me.