Confessions of a former bully turned school compassion advocate
I was a bully. Before you judge me, please listen to my story!
I wasn't your average bully. I didn't bully a small handful of people or even one person. I bullied everyone, boys, girls, teachers, my mom and pretty much anyone in my path when I was angry.
I wasn't always angry; in fact, I was a very happy child and had an amazing childhood. My mom was a single mom for many years and gave me all the love and attention a little girl could ever want.
The year I turned 7 she met a great man whom she married a year later. My new step-dad was very important to me, I was so excited to have a dad and to finally do all the rough and tumble boy stuff that I had missed out on. My mom was always amazing and there for me but to have a father figure to look up to was a very big deal to me.
I was a very happy young girl who played softball and go-kart raced. I learned how to shoot guns and ride BMX bikes. I started racing and loved working on cars. I did all the normal, fun kid stuff and was an excellent student. I won penmanship awards; I took a lot of pride in my handwriting and assignments. I even won a few awards that allowed me to meet the Trail Blazers for a day! I was into sports, I played softball and basketball. This was my life from 7-13 years old. I loved every minute of it.
Then I turned 13 and everything changed. My body, my mind, my life was all changing at the same time, and it was scary and overwhelming. It got even worse at the end of that 13th year of my life; my parents were getting a divorce. My world crashed, my life completely changed overnight and I was in shock. I didn't understand how all this could happen to me at the same time.
I blamed my mom for everything without knowing what the reasons were for the divorce. I didn't care what the reason was. I had to go with her, so it was her fault. This is when all the meanness started to pour out of me. I bullied girls, boys and teachers. No one was safe. Like I said, I wasn't your typical bully. I would just take things from people's hands and then look at them like, "What are you going to do about it." I would slam kids into lockers and laugh. I would start fights with girls just for looking in my direction.
It was a lot like wanting to fight everyone for no reason at all. Except in my mind, I did have a reason. I was angry. In the 1990s being a bully was a lot different then it is these days. It wasn't that it was accepted, but it wasn't really noticed unless you were picking on the same person over and over. Most people laughed it off as I pushed them out of my way, sometimes they would just look back at me and look confused.
I was hurting, so I wanted to hurt others. This is usually how bullying starts: Someone is in pain so they focus on hurting others to distract them from their own stress, pain and problems. I was not a nice person at this point and everyone steered clear of me. I did have my core group of friends who loved me no matter what, and of course they thought it was cool that I was aggressive and confrontational. They didn't know the real pain or reason why I was that way; they just thought having a tough girl around was great as long as it wasn't directed towards them.
Maybe if someone knew what I was going through, or maybe if someone could have talked to me about it, I would have had the love and guidance I needed to get through it. I held everything in and exploded on people.
I was a bully for all of my high school years; I was expelled from three schools; I have over 200 referrals or write-ups. I spent more time in Saturday detention then anywhere else for my entire eighth-grade year. I look back and realize how much I missed out on by my actions over those years. I missed tons of class trips; I missed dances and proms; I missed out on teachers being proud of me. Most of all, I missed out on being happy!
I have run into people over the years at the grocery store that I was not very nice to. Some have smiled and said, "Hello." Some would not even make eye contact with me.
The one that bothers me the most is when I ran into a boy (man now) and he said, "Oh my God, that girl beat me up in junior high." I looked up and he was pointing to me. He was smiling and saying this to his wife and daughter, and I was dying inside, because this is what I was remembered for.
I want to be known for who I am today! I want to be known for standing up for those who are being bullied. I want to be known for helping the bullies who may not have anyone to talk to and need love and guidance!
My initiative is to provide kids and teens of all ages a safeguarded program that allows either the bullied or the bully to reach out to me personally for support, guidance and resources.
My vision is to use compassion with both the bullied and the bully to break down the barriers society has built over the years. I want both sides to have a voice and to be heard.
There will be a fun interactive booth set up at the Gladstone Community Festival Aug. 4-6 where you can get more information on the full program.
Crystal Cherie Perrier is a Milwaukie resident.