I was bullied as a child.
It’s strange because as a child I didn’t consider it bullying; I considered it more the norm of childhood. There was this Queen B who, when things were good between us, was my best friend and made me feel like one of the coolest kids in school. She had this way about her that made everyone follow her. When I was on her good side I was invited to her house and to hang out with all the other cool kids. When things were bad, however, she would torment and torture me. As the Queen B, she got the other kids to like whom she liked and hate whom she hated. Whenever a Volkswagen Beetle drove by our bus stop in the morning (and there was one green one that drove by every morning) she would use it as an excuse to punch me as hard as she wanted in my stomach, because it was just a “game”. I would just silently blink back tears and stand off to the side at the bus stop yelling at myself internally not to cry so they wouldn’t all begin to laugh at me. One time she and a boy smashed a cupcake in my face right before I got on the bus ride home and I sat alone up front with pink frosting smeared all over my glasses and face while everyone on the bus laughed at me for what seemed like the longest bus ride of my life. When I walked through my front door, I finally felt free to burst out crying. I felt so alone. I felt so much like I didn’t belong.
But I didn’t consider it bullying because I wasn’t the only one. Like I said, there were times we were best friends. When we were, she would pick someone else for us all to laugh at and tease. My thought was, “as long as it’s not me, I’m safe”. Safe.
I wanted to feel safe. Because feeling like I “belonged” felt safe. As long as I “belonged” it didn’t matter if someone else didn’t feel like they belonged. I do me and you do you, right?
This weekend has been so heavy on my heart. The past two night as I put my son to bed, I let tears slip out as I considered the possibility that he may possibly feel the pain I once felt as a child. What if he gets bullied? What if kids mock him? What if someone one day decides he doesn’t “belong”? My heart gets so angry and I don’t want to think about that possibility. I want to believe he will always feel safe, always be safe, and always belong.
And yet these past few weeks I have felt a creeping mood that there is less and less a sense of belonging here. I think many of us think think “as long as it’s not me, I’m safe”. But my husband and I have discussed what would happen if our country got into a situation with North Korea? And then what if suddenly anyone of Korean descent – North or South -or anyone that looks Korean suddenly becomes someone who shouldn’t “belong”? It’s a rarity, sure, but the fact that it could possibly be possible scares me.
I understand, I really really have come to understand, why so many want to feel safe and look out for our best interest first. As a mother, my son is the most important thing and I will go to extremes to keep him safe first. And yet I wonder if what we are doing to ensure our safety is really doing just that. Because maybe the Queen B doesn’t think us a concern now, but what if next week she does?
Because that’s the thing with this particular feeling of belonging… if you only feel like you belong because someone else doesn’t, then true belonging doesn’t really exist. That’s not the belonging I want. And I want to belong. I want my son to belong. I want you to belong.