Before I go on to Part 2, just thought I’d say: this is where the trauma actually began. I in no way am sharing this story to say “Woe is me” or to throw a pity party. The reason I started the blog in the first place is to help other people through things. Because I myself have been ‘through’, and came out on the other side, with a few hard-learned lessons in the bag. My main aim is to pass them on, and part of doing that is sharing exactly what it is I came through; the good and the bad.
Missed part 1? Read it here: Happy…Lucky…Go!
Excited about new people, new places, new experiences.
I was a bit nervous that I would be starting a new school with none of my primary school friends, but like I said, I took it in stride. Shoving that nervousness in my back pocket, I took on the first few months with as much positivity as I could. It’s never been hard for me to make new friends, as long as we had ‘things’ in common. A common love for boy bands, platform flip flops a la Spice Girls, Lisa Frank Stationery and colored gel pens usually carried me well into some friendships that I still reminisce on today with a smile. But I digress.
My Peace, Please
Getting good grades was always my main focus at school, but let’s face it, no one feels 100% comfortable standing alone, walking alone, being alone in a new place surrounded by new faces. People really, truly, do need people. And so I started talking to a few girls in my class bit by bit. The one thing that has come with me throughout my adolescent years then well into adulthood is my absolute peace with not being ‘popular’ or having a ton of friends. It’s the introvert in me. While it is important, at least in my books, to be at peace with everyone, I don’t necessarily feel a need to be liked by every Tina, Dana and Harriet.
Added to that, I don’t do fights, I’ve never had to fight a person and arguments just aren’t my thing. I think that’s why small, tight-knight friend-groups are my go-to. Less room for lashings-out and the like. When arguments arise, I get flustered and frustrated. When frustration hits, the tears fall. And after the snotty-nosed, crying mess of myself is cleared up, there’s usually a terrible headache to contend with.
Peace? The Day That Life Had Other Plans
So, we’ve established that I’m a lover, not a fighter. Don’t like ’em, don’t know why anyone would choose them. So this particular moment took me by surprise both literally and figuratively. Does it matter exactly which class was going on? Doubt it. We had been broken up into small groups for an assignment. This was no ‘on-the-playground’ type of thing; we were huddled together in our groups, working like diligent students. Or at least we were supposed to be. I stood just outside of the classroom listening on the rest of my group, my back to the large school yard, the ‘courtyard’ I think we called it.
Then, out of literally nowhere, I felt a blow to my neck from behind. Lightening might as well had striked, it was that quick, that sudden and that jolting. I turned around in shock, fright to see who had planted their balled-up fist into my neck, and why. It was a girl in my class I had never spoken to before. Remember now, this was in the first few months of my first year of school, and I hadn’t even established any closeness to even half of my class, let alone everyone.
Be that as it may, this girl (we’ll call her Freida) decided that she wanted to surprise me with a punch to my neck. Never mind that she could have severely injured my spine.
To this day, fifteen odd years later, I’m no closer to knowing why she did that. But that day, the why isn’t what hurt as much as everything that happened immediately after….
Not A Fighter? Forget It
Remember our little quip about me not being a fighter, well I fought back that day, but I was not very good at it. I remember pushing Freida away from me when I turned to realise it was her fist that met my neck. It all happened so fast. As I shoved her away from me, anger and hurt quickly set in and I decided to return her punch to my neck with a kick to her leg, as feeble as it may have been. She laughed as I returned her attack with a counter-attack. I was confused, in pain and embarrassed.
What also stayed etched in my mind for years to come was the fact that while all this went on, no one came to my defense. No one stopped any of it. No one asked Freida why she did it (well, myself being the only exception, in my dreams, for years to follow).
Instead of stepping in, my classmates, these good Catholic-schoolgirls (and the teachers, thank you very much) seemed entertained by the entire thing. Literally sitting there laughing, it was only when I stopped fighting back did things die down.
Out With The Old
It was the day that set a lot of things in motion while stopping a lot of things dead in their tracks. It was the day my social anxiety had kicked in, whether I knew it then or not.
It was the day that shifted my mindset from one where every new day, every new person, was met with excitement and hope, to one where I looked over my shoulder everywhere I went, unable to trust what was visible in front of me, let alone what wasn’t behind me. I didn’t know who held malice in their mind for me, from who may have meant me well.
I became this person who instinctively thought I could be in some form of danger no matter where I went. A punch to my neck today? Who knows, a knife could be waiting to meet my back tomorrow, or next week.
My childhood trust in the ‘goodness’ of people, of ‘my people’ (aka my peers) left me that day. My childhood trust in adults around me also dried up, as no teachers put a stop to what went on, nor did they hold Freida accountable. There’s more to that part, but another story for another day.
It was my day to learn a valuable lesson, that in more ways than one, I was on my own. If that wasn’t what was on the class timetable before, life surely had other plans. I learnt the lesson though, and took it with me everywhere I went. Everywhere. Probably to some places I shouldn’t have. We’ll take a trip to a few of them in Part 3. Until then…