Were You Picked on in Grade School?


I was picked on as a kid.

I’m  not telling you this for you to get indignant about what happened to me.  Nor am I sharing so  you and I can commiserate about all the terrible things that have happened to us at the hands of others. I’m just putting it out there because I promised myself that I’d write a post every morning whether I felt like it or not.  I promised myself 60 days of showing up and writing, publicly and the fact is I actually cleaned the dishes before coming up here to write because I felt like I didn’t have anything to write about.

Yes.  The coach who works with dozens of writers and would-be writers each month was playing the same head-games her clients do.  The game is a neat combo of “I don’t have anything worthwhile to say,” + “I’ll just wait til I’m hit by inspiration” + “Why would anyone read what I write.”

Irony! You are my dance partner it seems.

Still, the sentence, “I was picked on a lot” kept dancing in my head. Sometime yesterday as I was thinking about what to write in a blog post and in my ezine today, that vision of me, being tied to a tree by Roberta and Angela and their gang in 4th grade kept popping up.

When I spilled my coffee all over my grandmother’s antique gate leg table that was generously gifted me from my sister, I was thinking about it. I was also probably chastising myself for being clumsy and congratulating myself on being stealthy enough to postpone the writing a little longer. And I played with the way the sentence was short and sweet and staccato, just the way I like my sentences to be.


The deeper questions are why was I picked on?  Why, out of a class of 20 girls was I the one that got drafted to be tied to the tree in the woods behind the school, only to be untied when the girls had to come clean as to why I hadn’t gotten back to the classroom after recess?  (For the record I was more concerned about being ‘tardy’ to the classroom than being tied up).

In the haze that’s descended over 40 years I don’t really remember that day well.  I can imagine it, as I still dream of that school, its halls, the deep and loamy scent of the pine trees surrounding the big back hill where we sledded in the winter, but a clear memory of being tied to that tree doesn’t exist.  Frankly, I’d completely forgotten about the incident altogether until Angela apologized at our 20th High School reunion. At that moment I sensed that picking on me had created a much heavier  burden for her than it had for me.  She’d carried it for about 30 years and I’d forgotten it before I reached 8th grade.

Was I bullied?

I’m not sure.  We talked about bullies but not bullying when I was growing up. My parents knew that I desperately wanted to belong and yet continued to feel left out, but I have a tendency to be a storyteller (exaggerate) and have always wanted my parents to feel good and happy and comfortable (oldest child syndrome) and I suspect I kept the more painful details of my school day from them.  I know that had I told my parents about the tree incident, there would have been a call to the school and to the other girls’ parents.  The parents were pretty cohesive in those days.  If I did something wrong or hurt a kid I went to school with I would have been reprimanded and likely punished. The same would have been true had I told on Angela and Roberta and their cohorts.  I don’t think they told me NOT to tell on them, nor would they have threatened me if I did.  I’m sure my 9 year old brain thought of the incident as a type of initiation ritual, that if I put up with the humiliation, then I would finally be accepted into the Clique.  As it was I spent the next three years floating in and out of the Clique until I left that school altogether and found a group of amazing friends to hang out with.  By the time the twins and their cohorts made it to the same school, I already was established in my own right.

I’m sure I thought about all this after Angela apologized 11 years ago. Today it takes on a bit of a different flavor as I reminisce about how all these moments are part of a larger journey.

These incidents weren’t just about “toughening me up” as I might have been told as a kid, but rather about opening me up to the work I do now. I have the opportunity to see where I chose to go along and where I desperately tried to fit in and how often I was shoved aside,  or put in a position to “learn” that people aren’t worth trusting.  I would try to get into a group or organization that I thought held the “key” to success and love only to find out that there was still an empty feeling. As I reflect I see how all this frames what is in my fingerprints.  I didn’t know that at the time – in fact Richard Unger was just getting started with his studies when I was in 4th grade! Still the need to fit in and the need to own and trust my own power and worth are on-going themes and I’m grateful to be able to see them for the gift they are now.

Reflecting on childhood can be bittersweet, I’m glad to put those memories in the context of my entire journey here on the planet.

What childhood memories or heartbreaks have stuck with you? Is there a way to reframe them from today’s vantage point?

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