Swimming Against the Tide


An Important Memory

As you can probably imagine, being geeky and likely neurodivergent, I was bullied a lot in school. In some cases people treated me very badly, and I have some anxiety issues and PTSD around that to this day. I don’t tell you that because I want sympathy; I tell you that so that you can appreciate the weight of making the choices that I did.

My best friends in early elementary school were people who didn’t quite fit in like me. By the time that intermediate grades rolled around, one had moved and the other was avoiding me because, with the onset of adolescence, she had become the pretty friend and I was an early-blooming ugly duckling, with full-fledged pizza face at ten and eleven, so it was easier for her to not be associated with me, since she had a chance to make it with the popular people and I did not.

I spent a lot of time lonely. This is when I discovered writing, so I suppose I should thank them all, really. But imagine my excitement when the popular group decided they wanted me to be a part of them! I wouldn’t be alone anymore!

However, I quickly discovered that what they wanted me for was to mastermind pranks a la the MacDonald Hall books. I had a reputation for being smart, and they decided they wanted to capitalize on that.

I was traditionally a “good girl” until my late teens when I finally blew up into full rebellion, but that was still years away. I didn’t mind playing harmless pranks though. We got caught once with something that turned out to be embarrassing for another student, however, and I was filled with remorse. I had often enough been the recipient of humiliating “pranks” and I was mortified that I might have done this to someone else. (I can’t watch embarrassment comedies to this day.) I confessed and apologized immediately.

In the meantime, I was also learning that to be part of the “popular” group, you had to do what the leaders of the group thought was cool to do. They directed everything from what clothes we wore to what we ate for recess.

They were angry that I’d confessed, and they wanted me to make some big changes to the way I dressed and spoke. I went along with it for a while, but one day they went too far. They tried to tell me what to *think*. They tried to tell me that I should like a movie because they thought it was good, and I shouldn’t like a movie because they didn’t.

I was done. I told them I didn’t want any part of their army of robots (that’s a quote). They said that if I wasn’t going to do it, I couldn’t be part of their group anymore. I said, “See ya.”

I didn’t have another close friend until a new girl moved to town two grades later. I guess it gave me a lot of time to perfect my writing!

I used to wish, and hard, that I could just be whatever everyone else seemed to want me to be. I wished that I was “normal” — whatever that is. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that as much as you do still get shit in your life when you swim against the current — especially from people who have some kind of authority over you, especially if that authority is limited — you also beat a path for others who are different to follow you. Your courage gives others courage.

Many years later, most of my childhood bullies have since made a point of offering me a personal apology. It doesn’t undo what they did, nor how it made me feel. To this day I have difficulty making and trusting close friends. But it also made me strong. And I have also had people since come up to thank me for standing up to the bullies because it gave them the courage to do so.

If there’s one good thing about the internet, it teaches you that whatever your weirdness, there are millions of others who share it! Today, for example, I’m at The Penti-Con, which is a nerdtacular comic-con.  A whole event just for geeks like me!

No matter how alone you think you are in your life, you never are.

2 thoughts on “Swimming Against the Tide

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