I always say that I am not athletic but I don’t know for sure. The fact is that I just never try. I avoid physical activity like the plague and as a result am completely out of shape. Actually that implies I was once in shape to get out of so let me rephrase that; I am NOT fit at all. I don’t think I am a natural athlete for a couple reasons. First of all I am really blind so my depth perception is not great. Secondly I have mild asthma so I get really puffed quite quickly. Thirdly I am just not that competitive. Don’t have that killer instinct. I know I have always been a really slow runner but over the years I, frankly, have avoided anything to do with sports or exercise. I am unable to objectively judge myself. This is because of my past.
When I went to a new school in fourth grade I had up until that time always had a fairly fun time in PE class. My new school had a PE teacher who was your typical guy jock. He was loud, obnoxious and very competitive. And he took one look at me and pegged me for a looser. Unfortunately he didn’t keep his opinions to himself and I was renamed ‘Useless’ for the next 3 ½ years of his PE classes.
When a person of authority, especially a bully, openly mocks somebody it creates an atmosphere where bullying this person is totally acceptable. Even encouraged. This is what happened to me. Where this teacher stopped my classmates took over. Group mentality and all. Better me than them. It was so bad that it trickled down to my younger brother who was eventually identified as ‘Useless’s Brother” by this same teacher. My brother avoided any contact with me at school and even went to a different high school to avoid the association.
The bullying continued on in high school as many of my classmates graduated to the same school location. Finally in about in the middle of tenth grade I confessed these issues to my sympathetic doctor and he kindly wrote me a permanent medical excuse. I never had to take PE again. All those years of taunts and teasing were over. No more beatings in the locker room. No more crude sexual innuendo from the boys. No more being picked last for a team or even argued over as to who would have to take me. “No! You take her.” “ NO! YOU take her!” I thought things would get better but they really didn’t because by that time the bullying was well ensconced in the classroom. My normal A average slipped into Ds. Finally in the middle of eleventh grade I quit school and transferred to a less athletic and more artistic curriculum in a different district. I had to commute almost 3 hours a day to get there but things were definitely better.
By this time I was a snotty little punk rocker who found great solace in making people hate me through my looks and attitude rather than being hated for being myself.
What is the result of this? I didn’t go to university, as I would have liked to, as I couldn’t face any more school after graduation. I still think I am useless athletically and fear trying any sport. I did try a soft ball team in grade school but overheard the coach say to his assistant that he thought we were ahead enough to put me up to bat. I knew then that adults were lying when they said it wasn’t whether you won or lost but how you played the game. Unfortunately this has stayed with me. It was all about winning after all and I didn’t contribute to this. It was a good lesson to learn. Now, even though I know intellectually it isn’t true, when I walk into a room full of people I still think for a minute that they are going to all hate me. I avoid large social gatherings because of this. I am really shy in groups.
The funny thing is that if you met me you would probably think I was pretty self-assured, as I have been told that I come off this way. Generally speaking I am. I have worked hard on my self-esteem over the years. But often I still revert back to the kid who was called ‘useless’ and over compensate. Like many people who were bullied as kids and many who even were not I tend to be perfectionistic and hard on myself. I am getting better but I have my ups and downs.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s people didn’t really think about bullying in school. It is a big buzzword now and that is great. No kid should go through what I went through. But many still do and I know many did back in the day. It is amazing how these things stay with you and even when you think you have the old tapes that played in your head beat something will trigger them and you are back at square one.
Nothing has triggered me lately but recently I have been thinking a lot about those days. I think because I have a lot of time on my hands. I am also listening to positive visualization tapes specifically for people who are dealing with cancer. These tapes state that people who get cancer often have long time festering resentments that over the long term suppress their immune system. Part of these tapes is accepting responsibility for your own cancer and dealing with past wrongs. Forgiving those who wronged you and moving on. I am all for that and while I have a hard time with the word forgiveness I certainly believe those past shitheads should not hold any power over you as an adult. But the question remains, can you ever fully get over a painful past? I mean totally? I am going to try.
While I am also not sure about all this taking responsibility for my cancer thing I think moving on is always for the best. Beating yourself up over the past it never good and positive reinforcement is always better. So I continue to listen to my tapes and put things into perspective and fight my cancer.