Bullying and school cliques
Like most of us Aubrey has fought to keep her individuality in the school system. She knows how hard it is to be yourself when faced with the prospect of joining or avoiding a school clique. Like most of us, she also knows how easy it can be to lose sight of who you really are in the process…
It is natural for people tend to seek out people with the same interests, and personalities. Alternatively, they completely change themselves to fit into a category.
When I was younger, I was a very energetic child with crayons up her nose, doodling on anything I could get my hands on. For my mother I was a handful, for my teachers I was a troublemaker. I preferred to express myself on the worksheets rather than do them. This unfortunately resulted in many recesses against the wall, along with being labelled a strange/weird child. People thought I was an alien from another planet. In reality, I was just a normal child from Cleveland that had to move to a small town. They did not tend to like outsiders too much here.
When elementary school ended I was still ‘interesting’ (that was the new term)… but when middle school started, that is when the trouble escalated, and cliques started to form. That is when I started to truly realise how much I stuck out. That is when I truly started to hate school, and never wanted to go. I was constantly teased and ridiculed for everything and anything. From the clothes I wore to the way I did my hair, from my family to my faith, my culture and my interests. That is when I knew I had to fit in to get through school… I had to change.
My first social clique of choice was the Jocks. Oh boy, did that crash and burn so many times! I tried basketball, volleyball, softball, and many other sports with ball in the title. I even tried out for cheerleading, which just gave them one more thing to tease me about.
I was an average athlete – not bad, but not good or extraordinary, so I was brushed under the table. Softball only held my interest for a season. It wasn’t fun to start with considering the coach favoured his daughters and nieces on the team and the whole team was pretty much made up of his daughters and nieces. The small town I live in is very small. The majority of the area is related to one another, another flaw that had made me stick out. At least I didn’t have to check my family tree to date.
I also tried volleyball for a summer or two. It was not that great either – the school has an eight-time state champion team, and all they want you to do is eat, sleep, and breathe volleyball. Ummm… ain’t gonna happen! I was in basketball for about 2 years. By this time, I had a splinter in my ass the size of The English Channel from bench warming. I decided I had better things to do with my time than to sit.
Which brings us all up to speed and into my ‘Prep’ phase. I noticed some of these kids were not in sports but were somehow popular. I mean, people worshipped the ground they walked on and wanted to be them so bad. I admit, I wanted to be them too. I bought the clothes, dressed the part, then tried to walk the walk and talk the talk. Again, another failed attempt – and high school was just around the corner and I still did not fit in. The pressure was on and the teasing only got worse. I closed up completely and got angry at the world. This fitted the profile for my next social disaster.
I picked up the guitar, and started listening to the Ramones and getting heavily into punk. The music was so exhilarating and had a message that spoke to me. It was powerful and loud and made me want to rebel even more. I was in my fair share of mosh pits those years. These people were my people, these punks with an edge who did not care what others thought.
Truthfully, though? They did care what others thought, and no-one seemed to notice but me. If you were not punk enough you were a wannabe, if you were too punk you were an ass, and if you tried too hard you were a poser. The labels where still there, the judgment was still there. It was the exact same thing I was trying to get away from.
I do admit they help me grow into the person I am today. I came to realize anarchy in the UK was a bad idea. I am also grateful I never got that Mohawk… very grateful. Punk was a scene where I felt I did fit in for a while, but things soon spiralled down the tubes with that group of people. I was pulled out of my school because I missed 40 days in my freshman year, and was enrolled in a computer school. It was schooling over the internet, which was great for a while – it was nice to disappear and mellow out for a year. It seemed to be the answer but I soon starting feeling detached from the world and even unhappy. And then…
The summer of my junior year was a more mellower scene, the scenester scene. Wow, a lot of scene in one sentence!
It was a short-lived summer of drinking coffee and listening to Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service. Needless to say it was not for me and with my junior year approaching I had better things to think about, like college for instance. By the end of the summer, I made the best decision of my life. I enrolled at the local vocational (trade) school. My trade of choice was graphic arts, and boy, I would not change a thing.
This was my answer, my salvation, my paradise for the last two years of high school… my fresh start. I fitted in well, everyone was there for the same reasons, and there was not a single clique in sight. It was all intermixed and jumbled with kids from all over, also looking for salvation. The kids in my vocation were a blast and as quirky and weird as I was. I made the best of it and took every opportunity I could. My grades skyrocketed and I made national honor society, and served as a student ambassador for the school. I received most outstanding graphic art student two years running, and was even queen’s runner up at prom. I also received numerous scholarships from the school because of my achievements.
The No-clique Clique
I gained confidence and determination; I was a very different kid. I was happy, and I even got the guts to run for class president and actually win. Every time I walked down the hallway, people would say hi and wave, and my name was well known across the school. I was liked for me and only me, not who they wanted me to be. If you asked me 3 years ago if I even thought I was even going to go to prom, I would have said no. If you had asked me 3 years ago if I would have run for class president and won, I would have said no. If you asked me 3 years ago if I was happy, I would have said no.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to just give up and move on. It took me several years to realize this, but everyone is unique. Some choose to express it while others choose to hide it. Why try to fit in when we were clearly born to stand out? Why go looking for happiness, when sometimes happiness has to find you first? Why should I become someone I am not, just to seem happy? I did take some time to realize this, maybe because I was trying so hard to be someone else I forgot who I was.
I am still that kid with crayons up her nose and doodles on her papers. It’s just that now it’s not crayons, it is a nose ring, and I do my work along with the drawings. I am still that kid with the imagination that has always seemed to wander. I am that guitar-playing, comic book-reading individual who likes to watch indie movies. That girl who does not fear her peers anymore, or fear to roll up her sleeves and get dirt under her nails. That girl who would stand on any soapbox and preach her thoughts.
So next time you find yourself pondering on all that you’re not, you’re clearly missing everything you are. Therefore, I was not that jock, that prep, or punk rocker, I was me.
At times I do find myself wearing my old basketball sweatshirt, or listening to the Clash or the Postal Service. All these phases helped get me to wear I am now, and help me grow as a person. I still have a little jock in me with my competitive streak. There’s still a bit of prep with my new-found confidence, and, yes, a bit of a rebel-punk as well.
I’ll still jump in a mosh pit any day, I still play guitar because it’s fun, and I will draw until the day I die. I am still me.