Note: You may want to have a coffee ready. Or chardonnay. Depending on the time of day of course…
I picked up the pieces of my sixth grade broken heart and moved on. I “went with” other boys – mostly a year or two older. Thankfully, “going together” back then really just meant passing notes to each other and wearing a sweatshirt with the boy’s last name on the back to show you were “his”.
At the same time, I soon found myself to be a popular target for the eighth grade girls and began being bullied – not in the horrific ways kids are bullied now; however, I’m certain if Facebook, texting, and e-mail existed, it might have come to that. I was bullied in ways that included accidentally-on-purpose bumps and nudges in the halls between classes and extremely unkind words written on my locker and a few times, in my mailbox at home. I remember girls telling me that they “hated me” – and I had never seen them before.
My mother remarried and we moved to a much larger midwestern city. I was not a fan of the move but it turned out to be the best thing that could have ever happened to me for so many reasons.
In a larger city, the diversity is huge. I was no longer a target – there were plenty of other girls like me and I no longer stood out. At least at that time.
I met my dearest friend, Jennifer, who continues to be my best friend to this day.
I learned a lot about the “ways of the world” that I was sheltered from in the smaller town I had left behind and became active in tennis, writing, and friends. And more friends.
And lastly, though my father continued to fall on and off the alcohol wagon and pop in and out of my life, my new stepfather stepped into the role of dad and was a stable presence.
My seventh and eighth grade years were uneventful at Craig Middle School and we all joyfully looked at the high school years on the horizon and envisioned how cool we would be when they were finally here.
Lo and behold, the first day of my freshman year in a big, urban school arrived and I was beyond thrilled. I was finally in high school!
On that memorable first day, a popular senior asked me out on a date. I wasn’t allowed to date yet but we managed to spend time together at football games, school, and at my home (Yes, mom…with the door open…)
Immediately, the notes started being left on my locker. I had become a target for bullying yet again except this time, it was a far more serious game.
This time, I had groups of older girls following me around the halls with scissors ready to cut off my long hair. This time around I was told that I was the target on “Freshman Friday” and would get a bucket of “slop” poured over my head before school started (I didn’t but I did have severe anxiety over the possibility). This time around I was told that if I dated anyone older than my class, my life would be made miserable.
It was a much more intense level of bullying and I was scared.
Luckily, God placed a group of very loyal and loving friends in my life that served as angels and protectors of me during that very scary time. I will never forget my dear friend Holly hurrying me along in the halls as yet another pack of girls were hot on my tail with a pair of scissors or Jennifer steering me down other halls when she saw an inferno waiting to explode. My other friends Jennifer and Christy were also targets and as crazy as it sounds, it made me feel better that I was not the only one being singled-out this time around. We could commiserate about our big bullies together.
When my mother had had enough, she met with my guidance counselors and looked at the possibility of sending me to private school. However, after my freshman year, the bullying subsided and the focus shifted to the new population. I was glad to become old news.
My high school years became a positive experience and I soon found myself to be a senior brimming with excitement at the idea of going off to Indiana University – I dreamed of the friends I would make, the sorority I would join, the major I would choose. The anticipation was more than I could handle.
When I moved into my dorm room the following fall, I immediately started to enjoy myself – I quickly adapted to college life and I flourished with the flexibility of being responsible for my own schedule. I loved that there were no “requirements” of me other than to go to class, study, and make new friends. I finally felt like an adult in the making.
On a Saturday in early September, my roommate and I were relaxing in our room after a Big Ten football game when the phone rang.
After muttering a casual “hello”, my friend handed me the phone and when I asked who it was, she simply shrugged her shoulders.
I knew the voice on the other end of the line immediately. It was unmistakable. My heart rate shot through the roof at the sound of my name rolling off his tongue.
I hadn’t forgotten his birthday. I hadn’t forgotten the day he asked me to “go” with him in sixth grade. I hadn’t forgotten his high school football star number though I lived in another city. He had remained a piece of my heart for six years and yet I had no idea he was also attending IU as well.