BULLYING THEN AND NOW
(A look back with N.W. Harris.)
If you met me, you’d probably never guess I was the type to get bullied in school. I’m five-feet-ten-inches tall, I take martial arts, I’m extremely fit, and just don’t generally look like the stereotypical person who’d get bullied. But, I was very small as a boy—second smallest in my grade for much of the time I was in school. My junior year of high school I weighed ninety-eight pounds soaking wet. So you see, back then, I was an ideal target for bullies.
I was raised in a small town in North Georgia—much like the fictional Leeville in my book, The Last Orphans. I grew up during a time when kids got the belt for being bad at home and got the wooden paddle for being bad at school. To put it simply, it was a more violent time for children back then. I got paddled at school a few times when I was growing up, once for selling stink bombs to other kids—little glass vials my friend ordered out of the back of a comic books that would clear the hallways when broken on the floor. They smelled like a cross between a skunk and a rotten egg. Good times those, even if I did get my hide tanned for them.
Bullying was commonplace in my school, and it wasn’t really labeled or regulated. I don’t ever remember being bullied by my own classmates—it was usually the older kids we had to worry about. For example, in the first grade, I remember three big girls, probably second or third graders, who would wait for me on the playground and beat the crap out of me on a daily basis. I don’t remember the teachers coming to the rescue, and, embarrassed at being beaten up by girls, I never told my dad. In my mind, it was just the way things were. I just had to endure it, living in fear of recess.
I’ll admit, some of the bullying I endured was because I was a bit too cocky for my own good. Each morning, I’d walk down our mile-long driveway to the bus stop. The school bus ride took over an hour and was on some fairly rough dirt roads that kept the driver’s attention off of us kids and on the windshield. I could’ve sat near the front of the bus and been bothered a lot less—but no, not me! Everyday, I would march my scrawny butt to the back of the bus, where two large boys, who were at least five years older than me and twice my size and strength, sat. They ruled the back of the bus, saying that no kids younger than them could sit there, and no one could sit in their seats. The two massive bullies chewed tobacco and sat on the last bench seats on either side, sprawling out so no one could join them.
Each day, I tried to erase any sign of fear or intimidation from my expression, took a deep breath, and climbed the steps onto the school bus. I’d walk straight toward the back with my tiny chest sticking out, determined to protest their rule of the back of the bus. As far as I was concerned, they had no right to those seats and they could share. What was I thinking? Not sure. I guess I’m just one of those people that is willing to bleed for what I believe in, and whose willing to be made a martyr if that’s what’s required to make my point. Anyways, I’d be walking to the back of the bus and they’d be looking at me, smiling wickedly. Their expressions always said the same thing, “Really, this kid is coming back for more!”
The routine was the same each day. I’d sit down, and they’d say, “These seats are for older kids.” I’d object and they’d tell me that I couldn’t sit there unless I busted knuckles with them. So I would. Busting knuckles meant I had to make a fist and they’d punch my fist as hard as they could for much of the bus ride to school. I endured this abuse, refusing to relinquish my seat. My fists were always swollen and purple, and I’d hide them from my father—though to this day I’m not sure why. I never sought out help and approached that daily ride with fear. My ego and my sense of what was right wouldn’t allow me to back down, and on more than one occasion, the abuse was much worse than just busted knuckles.
When my classmates and I made it to the ninth grade, we knew we’d be bullied by the upper classmen. It was just the way it was. I walked into Pickens High School for the first time with the horror stories my older brother had told me swirling in my head. No ninth grade boy survived the year without getting stuffed in a trashcan. I remember that horrible day when four big boys caught me in the gymnasium bathroom. I fought like a wolverine, scratching, punching and biting at them. They laughed and grappled me to the wet floor. They lifted me and shoved me headfirst into that dirty trashcan, though to my credit, they gave up after only getting me about halfway in.
I have two children now, a boy and a girl. My son is much like me, on the smaller side, and he looks a few years younger than he actually is. I’m so glad the world has changed! I would not stand for him being abused like I was, not for a second. It’s important that we keep the bullying issue in the forefront of our minds. Kids shouldn’t be afraid to ride the school bus or to go to school. It is also important for parents and teachers to be aware that some kids will endure bullying and never complain about it. It is our responsibility as adults to protect the children, and know what is going on in their lives. They are so precious, they are our future, and they deserve to grow up happy and not live in a constant state of fear.
ABOUT N.W. HARRIS:
Born at the end of the Vietnam war and raised on a horse farm near small town north Georgia, N.W. Harris’s imagination evolved under the swaying pines surrounding his family’s log home. On summer days that were too hot, winter days that were too cold, and every night into the wee morning hours, he read books.
N.W. Harris published his first novel—Joshua’s Tree—in 2013. It was no wonder that with his wild imagination and passion for all things word related, that N.W. Harris was named a quarterfinalist in Amazon’s Break Through Novel Award Contest. In early 2014, N.W. Harris joined the ranks with Clean Teen Publishing when they signed his new young adult apocalyptic adventure series—The Last Orphans.
In addition to writing, N.W. Harris has been a submarine sailor, nurse, and business owner. His studies have included biology, anthropology, and medicine at UCSB and SUNY Buffalo. He is an active member of SCBWI and lives in sunny southern California with his beautiful wife and two perfect children. He writes like he reads, constantly.
CHECK OUT THE LAST ORPHANS!
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