What I Learned from Being Bullied in School
A personal reflection on my childhood events
All of my life, I had been the odd goose of the group. Like I got Star Wars reenactment banned on primary school because people took the Force Push to serious and injured themselves.
It did not help that I had a severe case of eczema. I remember children calling me a zombie when I got all packed up in bandages to school. My disease covered my entire body, including the whole face.
But my stubbornness or authenticity is what got me in trouble. For example, if I put clothes on, I would wear my favorite t-shirt and jeans. It did not matter to me that there signs of aging like holes. Until I got a letter from the teacher for my parents stating:
Could you please send your son to school with proper clothes without holes in them?
Nowadays it is ‘fashion,’ guess I was an early trendsetter.
Another struggle I had was taking things literally. For example, a teacher told us that by any means, you were not allowed to leave the stage during the singing of a song. I had to pie, and I tried to the best of my account to keep it in. But time was not on my side, so I peed my pants. We were still in the class after kindergarten, but it did not do wonders for my reputation.
Even in childhood, I always felt different compared to the other children. For example, I stopped seeing as a child when I was seven. Besides having parents who did not go with trends, like buying your child a Gameboy to play pokemon or a Playstation 1 to enjoy a game of Fifa with your friends, they were sole believers in free satellite tv.
Meaning I could only watch three dutch channels. So everybody would watch all the children cartoons, while my sibling and I were stuck watching government-approved children’s tv.
Back then I used to watch german tv just so I could keep up to the shows which all my friends were watching.
Another habit that made stood out on the schoolyard during breaks was that I considered the games of the other guys as boring. We were not allowed to play violent games like soccer. So we played a self-invented game called Head Ball. In the history of children games, it is until this day the most stupid game ever invented.
We had a goalkeeper, who defended the goal with his hands, while all the guys tried to score with a pink softball. Nobody was able to give a proper corner kick, so we usually relied on a throw-in. Problems were that the ball moved so slowly that was to easy for the goalkeeper to hinder goalscoring.
I have always been a stubborn guy. So I deemed that Head Ball as a child play. Instead, I diverted my energy into building fantasy worlds. I used to run across the schoolyard, jumping out of imagined airplanes because I was a secret agent or saying strange things to open the door to the dragon world.
I was caught up in my own fantasy world and sometimes friends joined in to play.
People in my field hockey team thought I was crazy. Then again, most people thought I was strange or a weird boy. It took me about eight years at this school to fully let people understand my different view of the world. And when it was time to pick a high school, I choose the most prestigious one of them all. My sister went there, and my mother worked there as a Chinese teacher.
So back to square one. My sister, who was on the lookout for me gave me tips to keep a low profile. It did not help that I got glasses and was not proud of my looks. Besides that, I had to wear my sister, luxurious child clothes.
My ‘fancy’ high school would start with an introduction camp where you could make your first buddies and get acquainted with your class members. That camp was so dull.
Like DJ parties for children, I bet it was invented to get money from parents.
Even though I did everything in my power to not stand out as an oddball, people noticed my risky slides in soccer, that I was a quick runner at did strange things on the dancefloor.
Have you ever heard of circling? During the dance night, I convinced people to walk or dance in circles.
So my high school class was the worst of the worst. We were called the F class. My class got all of the degenerates. In other words, the students who had to repeat the previous year. Even before the school year had started, my class was bulling this one kid. Because we taught his face was similar to a clown.
Like the bystander effect, I would go with it. Better that they picked on that guy than, for example, me.
In the second year, because I thought my friends were uninteresting, I befriended the popular children. Because I felt I had better things to do than waste my Friday’s playing the strategic board game Risk. I should have known that this was a recipe for disaster.
In the beginning, we climbed some buildings as freerunning was considered cool. But soon things would go south. As I thought everybody was continually thinking about me, another way called the spotlight effect. Until this day, I do not get why the school does not start with human biases.
It would also not help that I took everything literally. So people would ask this question:
How often do you masturbate during a day?
I, because I was shy, would answer that I did not do that. Then the questioner would shout out to the class: ‘’Jasper he does not masturbate, he is weird’’.
The second time someone asked me about masturbation, I choose to be honest. The conversation was much more mischievous. Instead of asking if I masturbated, the bully stated that he and others were masturbating at least thrice per day. When the questioner confined in me, I felt safe to tell my truth. This time though the questioner would tell everybody that I masturbated too much or at all. Making me feel stupid that both my answers were lured out.
Until this point, it was all small annoyance. Like high school was tough. We all were continually mindfucking with each other, pulling chairs away, tapping shoulders, etc. You know the shenanigans.
Bullies could only pick on people in classes where teachers were not able to be present all the time, like in gym classes or to craft.
My grades were dropping, so teachers decided to put me in front seats of the class, making me an easy target for bullies. The idea was that the back seats would keep you safe of most of the annoying people because nobody could attempt something from the back.
To keep my family life short, I am one of those guys who did never learn from my parents to stand up for myself. My parents would explode back in the days when my brother and I were sloppy. We would time to time break glasses, plates, etc. So I learned to adjust my behavior accordingly, and I would zoom out when I did do something wrong. Hoping the anger would eventually fade away over time.
But as bullies usually do, they are masters at inventing newer ways to annoy people. So with the back open for an attack, they would start to throw little paper balls in my hair. I even got send out once by the teacher because they thought I had lice. When I then got asked to report who did what. I told it was ‘just making fun’ because I knew the repercussions if I would rat classmates out.
Do get me wrong, it was not that these bullies were terrible, my entire class including me were monsters.
Every year some students would give in the survival race and leave my school. My class struggled with basic tasks, like doing homework or getting on time. As a class effort, we would bully teachers into depression. We collectively angered so many teachers. When the teacher lost control and would cry, we laughed it off, saying this person had no guts to teach children. If any teacher of mine is reading this, excuse me for our behavior, we were not able to see you guys as anything else as oppressors.
All this negativity lead to deterioration of my soul. I did not like people or the school system anymore. At the same time, I was actively lying to my parents, grandparents, siblings, and family that I was a happy student. Until this day, I mostly lie about my mental state to others as to not want to bother them. Like when I am honest people tend to assume I am depressed, while it is just a bad day.
In my darkest high school days, I would go to the forest contemplating suicide. Or a counteraction against my bullies. I once thought of throwing a chair to my bully, like Chiron in the Oscar winner moving Moonlight. I did not pull through because of the consequences, like being kicked out of school. Crossing over to the undeath would be accepting my defeat. That was never going to happen.
A small miracle came from those Risq playing friends I made in the first year. They stood up for me, even though I felt I had abandoned them. They gave me the necessary strength to face the truth. Until then, I could not accept that this bullying was happening.
I am forever grateful for these actions, and it showed that people can forgive.
Because at that point in my life, It felt to me the world rejected me for who I was. I had to reinvent myself completely. For the first time in my life, I choose to conform to what others deemed ‘necessary.’ Like having fun in destroying the teacher’s confidence. Like skipping school because there are better things to do.
I remember having a conversation at the 4th grade, me being 16 or 17 years old. And a friend said this to me: ‘’ You have changed so much for the better, back in the day I considered you to be a nerd.’’ Back then, that hurt like hell.
He reconfirmed by ideas about life, that everybody in the world rejected me for who is was and only accepted me because I changed myself.
Instead of being honest, I agreed at that moment told him he was right.
So my high school continued, I experienced some intimacy but no love.
Since I never felt myself in high school, I was unable to love the shell I had become.
My first sense of identity came with the pothead culture. My friend group adopted that anti-establishment thinking. The result was that the entire school thought we were smoking weed al day and night. While we were thinking about sticking it to the man. In reality, we were only smoking once or twice per week. We were probably more helpful to society to all those people who went out on the weekends. We only felt that we were not giving any fucks.
Last time I visited a friend he agreed upon me that we were doing nothing more as escapism.
Like me, he has trouble sitting still, only with heavy use of drugs, we could find temporary inner peace.
I learned my lessons of the bullies and carefully selected who entered my group of friends, and I did not allow any stranger to get close. Because of the past, I would only share my life with those who deemed to fit suitable to understand my complex and paradoxical thinking.
I used to give this ‘hippy’ parties at my home, where teenagers could explore drugs use like a weed, laughing gas, and alcohol. At all of my parties, I felt alone like a stranger, even though I was the host, I remember feeling so anxious at my parties. Only when I had drunk so much alcohol in combination with a lot of weed smoking, I would be able to chill out and enjoy the setting.
I remember being 18 and writing a poem that was about how much I have been lying. It went something like this,
Why do I lie like my parents who ended up in a divorce?
Why with all the friends and good education am I still unable, to be honest with my feelings towards others?
Have I been lying so long that I do not remember how it was before?
My life will probably end as a joke, someone who has tried so hard to be ‘alright ‘ that he started believing in his bullshit.
My drugs habit was an excuse to not interact with the girls I liked. I would do so many drugs that, It would be able to blame my intoxication for sexual passivity or lack of flirtation skills.
Like any addict, I used drugs to escape reality.
Furthermore, I used the pothead mask to question and ridicule people. I would judge people for their lack in the exploration of the mind or incentive to climb on buildings. In hindsight, I was mostly jealous that everyone I seemed to know seemed to be alright. Having relationships, doing good at sport, music, or excel in clubs.
I used to consider myself a loser throughout highschool. I was unable to talk to the people I wanted to talk to, and I was average in most classes. When people complimented me, I would always shun it away. A friend of mine came to me in my graduation year. Telling me: ‘’ Jasper you seem to have all these fantastic ideas, but you never act out on them. Why is that?’’ If I had an answer, I would have given it.
When I was called to the stage to receive my high school diploma. They said something like:
Jasper Ruijs, will tell you sevens solutions to any problem, the first four will be crazy and useless, the following two will be all right, the last idea will be of genius level.
This phrase has haunted me until this day. Like if everybody is telling you, you have great ideas your entire life. But you feel unable to execute them. Eventually, you will begin to doubt your thinking.
If I am so ‘genius,’ ‘intelligent,’ ‘creative’ and kind, I should be able to manifest love and happiness into my life. There should then have been alignments with either my grades, my sports activities, my friendships, or the ability to express myself, or any work ethic. This image everybody kept repeating to me was distorted by my reality.
In my life, I have been fired multiple times on several side jobs. I was never smart enough to join the intelligent children on highschool or primary school. Never excelled at music of illustration. According to me, there was absolutely nothing special, unique, or right about me besides people telling me that I had original ideas and was able to talk with any stranger.
One thing I have learned in professional life that companies always say they want out-of-the-box thinkers. But in the solicitation interview, it becomes evident to me they do not want something to experiment. But rather have someone who does things according to industries standard.
Back in the days, my so-called gifts, like creativity and people mastery, seemed wasted on a person like me, who was never able in the past to sustain attention over long periods.
Take my musical ‘career,’ for example. I have played the flute, trumpet, french horn, bass guitar, ukelele, and guitar. But I always envied my family members who were all able to play the piano and were the better musicians. My family exists out of multi-instrumentalist.
Also, I had this little brother, who was better at any sport or game than me. Imagine if your self-confidence is already low and you little brother and sister beat you in games like chess or table soccer. Even in e-sport like shooters, my little brother always outranks me.
If you have siblings for yourself, you will understand the rivalry with my older sister. Who excelled at music, drawing, and education and had such entertaining friends.
How could I differentiate myself from of my siblings?
Combine all this self-imposed family drama, and you get why I never felt myself at highschool.
I am a late bloomer, but when I became twenty. I made one promise to myself no longer will I be limited by my beliefs or any society. At my funeral, I want people to say the following:
‘Jasper did not have an easy life, he struggled at many occasions but he pulled through and liberated himself to go beyond all he wanted to achieve in his lifetime.’
So when it was time to pick a university. I choose Amsterdam as it was the most faraway city, where I could start a new life anonymously. I planned on never returning to my childhood place, Breda. Here I was finally able to make my friends and explore who I wanted to be. I learned how to cope with failure, how to be vulnerable, how to trust people and build up a routine.
In the past, I would keep in my mind an Arya Stark, of Games of Thrones, list of everybody who had ever wronged me. Hoping they would die a horrible death or I would hire an assassin in a later stage of life to give them an early end. I changed tactics when I entered university; I planned to become so successful, as to stick to them in there facing what they ever tried to destroy. The rationale was
Success is the biggest payback you can give to all the naysayers.
Instead of letting my life to be fueled by anger and remorse. I choose to walk towards the light. Present-day I try to humanize everything which I perceive as ‘done wring to me.’ My parents, bullies, and others were not there to torture me.
They all did what they could do to the best of their abilities in those circumstances.
My parents did not have the best parenting, and my bullies felt so unloved or ungrounded that they probably went to bullying to gain some grip on their life.
So I have forgiven my bullies, and I would like to thank them for making me into the person I am today. You guys and girls have taught me some vital life lessons:
- Be conscious with who you would like to spend your time.
- Naivety leads to suffering.
- You have to be willing to reshape the darker sides of your personality.
Like at the beginning of high school, I believed that adults had figured life out and that governments had the best out for their civilians. These lessons helped me become a skeptic and fuelled an indefinite passion for personal growth.
If I were to meet one of my bullies right now, I would like to hug them and tell them that I no longer hold them accountable for all the mental wreckages in my thinking. I am proud of who I am today. There is no other way I wanted my life to have happened.
This post is #7 of the 30 days daily blog challenge.