Bullying, It's Not Okay

On Monday, I lay in bed, contemplating on what my next blog topic should be. I didn’t seem to be getting any ideas about travel and lately I’ve shared a few anecdotes. So what could I possibly write about in this week’s blog?

Earlier in the week whilst on a phone conversation with a friend, my story of being bullied came up. She said, this is a topic I should talk about, if I felt I was ready. I thought to myself that indeed I had made myself a promise that if I ever get a platform, I will talk about the things I’ve struggled with in life in the hopes that me overcoming these struggles might help someone out there. This is why I want to share my story.

But through this blog, more than helping anyone else, I am first and foremost helping myself. I consider myself to be a very private person. I don’t always share a lot about my personal life. Which can be a good and a bad thing. In this case it is bad because all these struggles have stayed bottled in and it has definitely contributed to the person that I am today. So today I finally open up and share my story.

I moved to New Zealand in 2003 at the tender age of 12. The move was very overwhelming; it was nothing that I had anticipated. It was a big culture shock for me. Within the first week of being here I went through the admission process at the closest Intermediate school. For those reading from outside of New Zealand, the schooling in New Zealand is primary, intermediate then high school. All the schools and people will remain anonymous. Shortly after I started school I made a group of friends whom I basically spent all day with whilst at school.

However everything isn’t sunshine and rainbows. There was a guy. He would pass obscene comments to everyone in my group. This had been something that had been going on for quite some time, prior to me starting at this school. However it seemed to have escalated once I started. He had even resorted to being physical i.e. pushing. We had complained to the teacher a number of times but after a point of time even that teacher wasn’t able to do much.

This wasn’t the only incident whilst I was at Intermediate. I was the new kid and Indian and therefore some students (a group of boys) thought it would be appropriate to push me around. It was lunchtime and as I went to get my lunch, they grabbed my lunchbox and thought I was eating Indian food and so they threw it on the ground and stamped on it. It was bread. One kid at that point, told me to eat it whilst the others calmed down. They wanted a reaction but I didn’t give them one but deep down inside I wanted to cry my eyes out. When this happened each time I ate after that, I would always feel like people were staring at me seeing what I eat and how much I eat. Needless to say, I wasn’t eating well and I started putting on weight. My eating habits deteriorated and even though I was always a healthy eater, I was a bad eater which contributed to my weight gain. To this day, I feel very conscious when I eat food.

Somehow 6 months passed. Any excuse I would get to take the day off school I would take it. You should know that I come from a strict family where I needed to have really good reasons to skip school. But I was desperate at this stage and would just make any excuse that would get me out of having to go to school.

I then got enrolled in high school. I went to two different high schools. This was the first one and it was an all girls school. As I was still new to New Zealand at the time, having been here only about 8 months, I still had an accent. I was still considered an outcast. Some people mocked me because of my accent whilst others mocked me because my school bag was big. I would hear the students laugh when I pronounced a word in a certain way or for that matter, even if I had just opened my mouth to speak, they would have already imagined how I would say things and laugh whilst I spoke. Luckily, I had made a new group of friends. Most of whom I’m still in touch with today, 10 years after we met.

Being at an age when any kid starts to experiment with their looks like trying a new hair style or different types of clothes, I started to feel peer pressured when some of the girls at school would ask me to also try different things with my hair, or comment on the kind of clothes I wore. There is a reason I dress the way I do or go with the same hairstyle every day. For now I just want to say that I feel comfortable in them, the reason can be the subject of another blog when I am ready to share that story. That is an even darker past which I don't know if I will ever be ready to share. 

At this point I started to feel like I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t have the products that these other girls had, or wear the kind of clothes they did, and neither did I go out and meet boys every weekend. Being from an Indian family, I was raised in a very conservative manner. So going out partying every weekend and getting drunk wasn’t part of the agenda. A big part of me didn't want to go out and party and get drunk any way, because of things from my past. But there was that little part in me that wanted to just so I would be accepted. Often people would say I’m lame because I never did all of that. By this time, I had become depressed; I wasn’t good enough, as I didn’t go out partying or wear the clothes from the latest trends and wasn’t mingling with boys whether it was in person or online. All of which were the criteria of being accepted in teen society. At the time I was just focussed on accepting that I was living in a new country.

However, I wasn’t always the victim. Under the influence of someone who I considered a friend, I did something that made me a bully. What we did was that we deliberately walked/ran away from two of our other friends who were headed towards us during lunchtime one day. I know that when I did this no one had forced me to do it, but I was desperate to be seen as cool that I went with the flow, but that is no excuse. A good friend of mine didn’t think that I would go through with it and was shocked that I did. I realised my mistake and called the girl we had walked away from to apologise. I am glad that I apologised, as we are still friends to this day. You know who you are and if you do happen to read this, I truly am very sorry for what I did.

In my second year of high school, things started to improve a lot. However at this time, my parents felt it would be better for me to change schools. Come year 11 or 5th form as New Zealanders call it, I started at a new high school. This time it was a mixed school i.e. girls and guys. Having been through those horrific experiences at Intermediate, I had developed anxiety and I struggled to talk to new people. Regardless of whether they were a guy or a girl, I just struggled to talk to anyone new. I didn’t know what would follow if I did. This was very unlike me. Prior to moving to New Zealand, I used to be that girl, who wouldn't stop talking. It didn't matter whether I knew you or not, I'd talk to you like I had known you for years. But in a short span of time that had all changed.

I was very anxious on my first day at my new school. Luckily, there was another new student in my class and she had figured that I was new too, so she started talking to me. She knew some of our peers from her old school, so I just followed her. One of her friends didn’t like me and pretty much made that obvious with her expressions and I knew I wasn’t welcome.

I managed to make another friend as she was in a couple of my classes. I never really hung out with her, out of class i.e. during lunchtime or so. This is not because we didn’t get along, but by this time I had actually made a really good group of friends and I was starting to settle in. However, this girl from my classes, her group of friends also weren’t a big fan of me. The sole reason for this was that I was the new kid at school. To my knowledge, they started a rumour throughout school that I was dating this guy, who was also in one of my classes. This was within the first few months of being at this school.

At first this was just a handful of murmurs down the hallway. But in a very short span of time, it escalated to nasty comments. This just made my anxiety worse. Now I struggled to talk to anyone, not knowing what they thought of me, what they will say to me if I spoke to them. I was a nervous wreck. It wasn’t just students at school whom I struggled I talk to, it was anyone and everyone.

So by this point, I still wasn't eating well and skipped a lot of meals where I could and I preferred being locked in my room so that I didn't have to talk to anyone. Having a conversation with anyone seemed to be a chore. I would have to think about it numerous times before I even said hi. Anytime we went to a store and I needed to find a product, I would shy away from asking the staff, who are being paid to help the customers. I'd either force my parents or whoever was with me to enquire or I'd just go to the next store that sold that particular product. This is something I still do to this day.

When I turned 16 I got my first ever customer facing job, in retail. It was a part time job. It was a really good confidence booster for me. I realised that not everyone wants to make fun of me or laugh at me or whatever. I started to settle in this job and enjoyed it. I was so comfortable in this job, that I didn't want to change my job. One of the reasons I didn't want to change jobs was because I'd be meeting and working with new people. That thought terrified me. At the time, meeting new people should have been something that was exciting. But no, it wasn't.

Over the years, there are a lot of other things that have happened in between that added to my situation. I don't want to go into detail about all of that as then this blog would just drag on. But this gives you the gist of what I went through. If there’s one thing I could tell each one of you, it is to be nice to other people, everyone is fighting their own battles. It has taken me a really long time, to be able to talk to other people ‘normally’ as one would. I still get very anxious, but I’m working on overcoming it. It is a daily struggle. Before I leave, a friend of mine has made a documentary featuring other New Zealand YouTubers and sharing their cyber bullying story. Cyber bullying is another topic that I could go on about. Being on a public platform such as YouTube I constantly am vulnerable to what some keyboard warriors have to say, like the one below. But cyber bullying doesn't have to come from people you don't know, it could be people you know who cyber bully you.

One last word, if you are being bullied in any form, please speak up. Whether you talk to your friend, family or a professional doesn’t matter as long as you speak up. Even if you want to send me an email and vent your feelings out, by all means do it. You can contact me via the contact page on my website. I am not a professional therapist or a counsellor, but I know how it feels when you are going through things. Knowing that someone else has either been through it or is going through it , as hard as it may seem, can sometimes be an outlet that you form because it gets you talking and sharing. I felt very singled out during the entire time that I was bullied, and yes sometimes things got way too difficult to handle. But I am in a much better place now, and I want each of you to know that you matter! There are various outlets available where you can talk and express yourself, and I suggest you do so. Do not bottle things in like I did. Speak up.

Until next time,