I was born with a cleft palate and lip. Due to the scars and constant surgeries, school was very difficult. Children seemed to really enjoy hurting me. Whether it was verbal, physical or emotional didn't seem to matter as long as they each got a turn at picking on the "flat nose."
Cruelty in Middle School
I remember middle school was the worst. I guess it is because this seems to be the time in children's lives when they choose what groups they "belong" in. And by that thinking, "insiders" often define their groups by rejecting "outsiders."
There was one incident when I was working on a project in a technology class. The class was broken up into sections, and we were each paired with a partner. We were assigned to counters facing the classroom walls, which meant that we were facing away from the middle of the room. The hour was pure torture. Every time I turned around, someone else would throw something at the back of my head. Kids in the class would laugh every time I was hit with a book, pencil, pen, etc. I approached the teacher and explained what was happening, but he just said, "Don't tattle."
I was really hurt, scared and confused every day. What had I done to make these people hate me? Why didn't I fit in? When would I be happy? Who could I blame for being born this way? For some reason, the hardest thing to do was simply talk to someone about the constant abuse I was receiving at school. My parents were very good people, and I should have been able to talk with them about it, but I couldn't. I guess I was just too ashamed to bring up the subject.
Finally, when I was 12 years old, it all came to a head during gym class. Some kids started to tease me as usual, and I started to verbally defend myself. This led to them telling me they were going to beat me up after class. They followed through with the threat and promptly jumped me after class. I lay on the ground being kicked in the face, punched and hit with various items. I remember looking up through the violence to see a teacher simply watching -- not breaking it up. The bell sounded for the next class and they scattered, leaving me beaten and bleeding on the ground.
As I lay there throbbing with pain and humiliation, I saw a pair of feet coming toward me. I figured it was someone else coming back to hurt me again and braced for more punching and kicking. But no blows landed on me. It turned out to be one of my only friends in school. He picked me up and helped me clean off. Then he handed me a card for the martial arts classes that he attended regularly.
This moment changed my life. Since then, I have been training in the martial arts. For the 15 years since that attack, I have never been in a fight that wasn't in the ring or at a tournament.
You Are Not Helpless
I share this story in hopes that others will know how it feels to be helpless under all those punches and kicks. I share this story in hopes that it will spread and that people will be more aware of the unchecked cruelty exhibited by some children. I share this story so that parents will really pay attention to their children and any signs of bullying. Most of all, I have dedicated my life to the martial arts in order to stop another child from having to share a story like I am sharing right now. I sincerely hope I can prevent other kids from going through what I went through as a child.