I found the old class photograph and I looked for you.
I can remember your words, most of them.
The words that stung, that ripped into me, then undermined me even when they made no sense: weird, strange, not normal, ugly, stupid, clumsy, useless, soft, cry-baby, weak: the jibes about my body, my face, my hair, my skin, my family, my past, my future.
I remember the separation, the isolation, the other-ness.
But guess what? Your face itself is blank.
Do I wish I learnt earlier to hide the pain? Maybe.
Perhaps I wish I had stopped looking at myself sooner and looked at everyone else instead to see that their vulnerabilities, their weaknesses, their weirdnesses, stupidities and so on were no less than mine. It was simply that theirs were not pointed out.
I certainly wish that it had not taken me so long to realise that you were the one with the problem, not me.
Someone who could uses fear to make companions is just as friendless as someone who sits alone. Maybe more so.
And if I was vulnerable and sensitive, in fact, if I am still vulnerable or sensitive then I am glad.
I have learnt that these are good things to be.
At least I can recognise pain and doubt and fear and try to comfort rather than exploit. I want to be kind and loyal. I bitterly regret every unkindness or disloyalty I have ever been guilty of.
And I do not fear failure. I know I can start again and again and again.
You thought that failure makes you weak. But you were wrong. It is not failure which makes you weak. Failure makes you strong. Failure makes you look at yourself and analyse what went wrong and move forward.
Being cruel makes you weak. Being a bully makes you smug on victory, building yourself up and up … but there is nothing but destruction waiting when you fall.
So I can look at the school photograph and find myself. I remember how alone I felt in that class of young faces. I can name most of those other children, including the ones who told me afterwards how afraid they were of you and the ones who tried to be kind even when you picked on them for trying to befriend me. But I can’t find you. If you’re who I think you are then you looked like everyone else. You don’t look so scary.
I am not ashamed to have been that shy, lonely little girl who didn’t know how to hide her feelings. I am proud that I have grown to want to be kind.
Are you proud to be the one who made me cry?
Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission