An outsider. A wannabe. A poser. Me, ages 8-15. A tattletale. A teacher’s pet. A follower.
They called me “mosquito bites” for my budding breasts and wrote L.D. on my shoes before I even knew what “learning disabled” meant.
I befriended some of the bullies in later years and they asked why I always brought up the past- I didn’t have an answer then but now I know. While my past does not define me today, it shaped the person I have become: an includer.
It’s understandable why someone might rather forget the painful things that happened to them in the past; however, it is by working through these memories, we are better able to understand the lessons they have taught us. If we focus solely on our anger, regret, or sadness, we miss the phoenix that rose from the ashes- we fail to recognize ourselves as survivors with the ability to overcome and become better because of it.
But not all of us do- it is only by conscious choice. By remembering. By observing our behaviors since. How did those things affect the way we speak and act now, even subconsciously?
I didn’t have an answer for the person who teased me, then, but I have an answer now.
I bring up those painful memories because I realize that the loneliness I felt when I was in middle school is something I never want anyone else to ever feel. I relive the tears spilled in an effort to empathize with the blackest sheep in the room. I find some way to welcome them- some common ground. I want them to know they are not ignored, they are noticed and they matter. They are important to someone.
Five years out of teaching, I can now say I think that is why my students loved me. Because I loved them. I met them where they were and I celebrated them for who they were and wanted to become, regardless of how vastly it differed from me.
And I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it hadn’t been for my miserable formative years.
I am no longer an outsider.
I am an includer.