What would an 11 year old girl like to do? Go out and play, wear beautiful dresses, have fun with friends, go out for movies with parents, right? But not all 11 year olds are fortunate enough to do what they enjoy doing. It’s not just my story; it’s the story of thousands of girls who are struggling with bullies every single day. Being bullied is the most hurtful thing ever and not all have the mental strength to cope with it so what they do is, they take their own lives. You take all the pills at once and you never wake up, you cut your wrist, bleed out and you’re gone forever but do you even know, there are people who love and care about you. What about them? They have to live all their lives feeling helpless for not being able to save you and what about those who actually bullied you? You’re encouraging them to bully more. You were the target yesterday and it’s going to be someone else today and so on. Yes, I was a victim myself. I was bullied, I had hurtful things said to me, I always cried in the corner of my room, I never went out with my friends. I had the most horrible teenage life.
The other day, I was going through my Facebook and I saw all my school friends sharing a video. I ignored it at first and later that night; my newsfeed was flooded with my school friend’s sharing that video. I clicked on the video and saw that it was my school’s video where my friends captioned it as ‘I MISS MY SCHOOL’, ‘ I WANA GO BACK TO BACK’ etc but you know what? I did not get that feeling at all, neither did I feel like sharing that video on my wall despite of the fact that I spent 10 years of my life in that school. I was admitted to one of the top ranking schools of my country. All thanks to my parents. It was indeed the most expensive schools back then. It’s not that we’re rich or something, my dad was the only one working and raising two kids with one’s income is not a joke. My father still says. ‘I WILL COMPROMISE IN ANYTHING BUT NOT IN EDUCATION’. He always wanted to give me and my sister the best education.
At the age of 11, in grade 5, I realized that I was being bullied. I thought I was a normal kid, like any other 11 year old but I guess wasn’t. I was the tallest among all girls in my class and I was ‘FAT’ that’s what they called me. I used to walk 15 minutes to catch the bus to school and the moment I stepped out of my house, I used to get zillions of stares; people used to stare at me from top to bottom as if I was show piece in a museum and pass rude and hurtful comments as I passed by. I was so scared to fight back because I lacked confidence; I thought I had no right to say a word because I was not pretty enough to stand for myself. I thought someone ‘FAT’ like me should shut up and just listen. I WAS SO WRONG!!!
I never felt like going to school, I wanted to stay home to avoid those bullies. I still remember, one time when I was in grade 5, our teacher took all the 5th graders to see an educational movie at a theater and there was one girl in my class who literally hated me for being ‘FAT AND UGLY’, she was so manipulative that she got all of my classmates on her side and made them go against me. None of the class mates were willing to be my friends and on that movie day I sat all alone in a back row of the theatre. I cried that day when I got home. I never said anything to my parents because I did not want them to worry about me. I always acted as if everything was OK but nothing was OK. It has been more than 15 years now, I do not have hard feelings against her but whenever I think of that incident, I do feel hurt deep down inside. It’s not just that movie day, she hated me throughout my school life.
As I mentioned earlier, I could never fight back so I started to pour my feelings in my dairy and in no time my diary became my best friend. I could share anything to everything to my dairy. My pen became my pal, I started writing poem’s and stories to convey my message to people who disliked me based on my appearance.
One might think I am making this up but I never attended any of my relative’s wedding. You want to know why? Because I did not have nice clothes to wear. I never went out for shopping because in my mind, I thought no clothes would fit me. I never stepped out of my house except for school. My parents wanted me to go out, play with friends but I never did. My mom used to shop for me but there were very slim chances of finding the right clothes that would actually fit me. I then started wearing boy’s shirt and pants, not only that I even wore my dad’s shoes which surprisingly fit like Cinderella’s missing shoe.
Every passing year, I grew bigger and bigger. I stopped fitting into my school uniform from the past years. My dad had to get me a new uniform every single year. I felt bad, really bad because I did not want him to spend so much on me. We were not financially strong then but he always managed to get me new uniform without even complaining. I love you daddyJ. I did not know what to do, where to go. I hated myself. I never looked at myself in the mirror. I thought I was just a burden to my family. I felt helpless. I could not talk about it to my parents nor did I have friends that would understand what I was going through. I felt I had a rough life.
One time, my mom invited few of our relatives and her friends over for lunch. It was a Saturday and I was home and instead of helping my mom in the kitchen I locked myself in the room all day so that I would not have to face my relatives and my mom’s friends. I thought I brought shame to my family. If somebody said something inappropriate in front of my mom she would’ve felt terrible and I did not want that to happen to any of my parents or my sister for that matter. That day I did not even come out from my room to go to the bathroom. That’s how pathetic my life was.
As I entered my teenage years, things went from bad to worse. I was in grade 8 and we were having our DISTRICT LEVEL exam and that day was my English exam. There was one multiple answer question ‘WHAT DO ELEPHANT’S EAT?’ And the correct answer was b) FODDER. One guy came up to me after exam and asked me what the right answer was. He came and asked me what I eat and that I must know the answer to that question. That was terrible. He compared me with an elephant. When I think about that I find it funny now but back then I cried really badly after I got home.
My school was big with more than five thousand students and sometimes my dad used to pick me up from school and when the last bell for the day goes off, we’re supposed to make a long line and were to walk out of the class room. My dad used to stand on his bike at the main entrance, waiting for me. He used to wave at me and I used to go running towards him. He always said that I was the most beautiful girl in the entire school. I knew he was lying but just to make him happy, I used to smile back.
I was in my early teenage years when puberty hit me. I wanted to lose weight and look pretty like any other girl in school. The girls from my class started to do their hair and nails, they started to put on makeup for their crush and tried every possible way to make themselves look pretty. Some of them succeeded and some turned out to be a total disaster. On the other hand, I was still ‘an ugly duckling’ with curly hair and thick eyebrows. I had to wear long socks to hide my hairy legs but girls from my class wore ankle-length socks to show off their waxed and shiny legs. I never had a lot of friends; I just had few who genuinely cared about me. During the lunch time , I never went out with my friends instead I stayed in the class room alone and had my packed lunch that my mom would prepare for me.
I used to have a crush on a guy from another class. He was very good looking. I liked him a lot. I still remember his birthday. I only liked him secretly as I never had the courage to confess my feelings. I never wanted him to like me back but I just wanted to let him know that there was someone who liked me. After almost 10 years, I found him on Facebook and told him that I used to have a crush on him a long time back. I wanted to get that off my chest and I did. I felt so good after letting him know that I used to have a huge crush on him. His reaction was – ‘WHY DIDNT YOU TELL ME WHILE WE’RE IN SCHOOL’ and I was like ‘WOULD YOU EVEN BOTHER CONSIDERING ME, IF I HAD TOLD YOU THEN?’ and there was an awkward silence on my Facebook messenger.
The spoiled kids used to link my name with the coolest dude of my class not because I was beautiful or attractive but linking me with those dudes would be a matter of shame for them. Gosh! Silly kids, I don’t know what they‘re thinking. I struggled every single day and hoped things would get better but it never did. Somehow I managed to focus on my studies and I passed out from my school. It was not an easy journey for me. It was hard as hell. I was mentally tired and hated myself for not being socially acceptable for who I am and what I am. It was a rough ride.
My dad always wanted us to be wise and disciplined like any other father and yes, we were well disciplined. He used to pile up books and novels for us. He always encouraged us to read, write and speak in English because he has travelled all around the world for work and he has always emphasized on communicating in English language since it’s a universal language. My inclination towards learning English started to get deeper so I started to write articles in English, watched good and informational English movies. I started to make friends via internet from the United States and started to show keen interest in American life. My friends in the US shared their stories about how they would wake up in their sweatpants and head to 6 am class, without even changing, how people would not judge you based on your appearance and how people would not pass comments on what size you are. I used be like ‘WOW’ that’s the life I wanted where people don’t judge you for what you are. My inclination towards living an American life started to grow and I decided to go to the US for my undergrad program. I was tired of hoping for things to get better. I wanted a change in my life. The only good thing happening to me at that time was the immense support from my family. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful family.
While reading this, most of you might judge me as well. You might think that I wanted to get out of my county to live ‘the American dream’ and what not but I wanted to get out from my own depressing life, I needed a change so bad. After I was done with my high school, I applied for the US, my father did not want me to go abroad as he did not want me to go out of his sight. He is so loving and caring. He was not convinced at first as he was worried how I’d be able to manage everything on my own in a foreign land. At that point of time, I wanted to be on my own. I wanted to see how it feels like to go out with friends, hang out in a coffee shop, go to the library and study because I never did that because I was afraid that people would stare at me, tease me and bully me while walking around. I wanted to breathe in the fresh air.
In 2008, I landed in the US at this big airport waiting for my connecting flight and I realized nobody even noticed me. No stares at all. I felt I was a normal human being like others. Everyone was busy in their own world. A guy sitting next to me started to talk to me and asked where I was heading. He made me so comfortable and he talked for so long, it felt so different in the US. The US journey is not easy either but the struggle I faced when I was a teenager and the struggle I have been facing in the US are totally different. In the US, I struggled to do things on my own without having my lovely family around, back home was the struggle with myself and the society I was trying to fit into. Despite of the entire struggle I have been going through in the US, I am happier than ever.
With every passing year, I started to love myself for who I am, I started looking in the mirror, I started wearing makeup, I never thought I would be able to wear dresses and today here I am, my closet is full of dresses only. I did lose some weight but not a whole lot. I try to eat healthy, exercise and most importantly I do what makes me happy. I don’t care about what people think of my appearance anymore. I used to have awkward moment while discussing about my weight but now I am open and I discuss my weight without any hesitation. In this journey of life, I have been through lots of ups and downs and I am sure I have made mistakes and what I have learnt from my mistakes is that whatever happens, we should always believe in ourselves and move forward. I never experienced the feeling of having ‘confidence’ in me but now I do. It’s the greatest feeling ever; it gives you strength to overcome all the difficult times in your life.
So my message to all the girls or boys for that matter who have been struggling with bullying is – stay strong and don’t let anybody come in your way. I WAITED FOR PEOPLE TO CHANGE BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED SO I CHANGED MYSELF. Size is just a number so forget about what size you are, just remember that YOU are beautiful.
Eliza Pokharel, Wisconsin (USA)