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Childhood through High School

When You’re Smart and Attend 17 Different Schools: by Phyllis P

Phyllis P shares a childhood filled with being the outsider – until someone changed it all.

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My family moved around a lot because of my father’s job.  Between kindergarten and 12th grade, I attended 17 different schools.

I was always the outsider. Always “the new kid.”  I was good at school; I was always “the smart kid” – and not said in a nice way.  I was overweight and wore glasses.  I was always “the fat kid, the one with glasses.”

When I was 7, we had moved to a new neighborhood and I was walking my dog.  A group of 5 girls on roller skates, who I’d never seen before, attacked me, pounding on my back and chasing me all the way home.  They lived on my street and all ended up being my classmates.  I’ll never know exactly what made them do it.

When I was 9, the kids would poke me in the stomach and call me “Pillsbury Dough Boy.”  They called me “pink elephant” because my nose and cheeks would get so red when it was cold out.

When I was 10, I won top academic honors in my class.  The day after the ceremony, the girls all pretended that someone else – the girl who was at the top of the class before I moved there – got the honors.  They pretended it was her whose name was called, who walked up to receive the award.

I can’t tell you how many times I got tricked into playing “hide and seek,” where I’d count to whatever number and they didn’t just hide – they ran away, abandoning me, thinking it was a good joke.  Every time it happened in a new place, I kept thinking, “This will be the time they’ll really play with me.”  But it wasn’t.

When I was 16, the kids on the school bus called me Frankenstein because I was so big.  They wouldn’t let me sit with them, even if there was only one person sitting in the seat.

There are so many stories I could tell.  I remember being about seven or eight and thinking, “Why do they not like me?  I’m a nice person! I can be a good friend! Why do they hate me for the way I look, for being new, for being smart?”  I wondered that year after year.

But then, that year I was 16, something happened.  I met another girl who was an outsider.  Her name was Jill.  Oh, she’d lived there all her life, but she was short, and smart, and had a quirky sense of humor people didn’t understand.  We became friends, standing together on the fringes, watching all the popular people.  And then we met another outsider and invited him in. And then another.  Soon we were a small group of friends, standing together, helping each other, appreciating each other.

And then, something really magic happened.  I went to college, and suddenly, I was surrounded by other people who were JUST LIKE ME.  We were all new.  We all cared about learning.  We were all smart, maybe not in every subject, but smart enough to know we wanted to learn.  Suddenly, appearance didn’t seem to matter so much.  Suddenly, for the first time in my life – except for my small group in high school – people saw ME.  ME, Phyllis, Phyllis on the INSIDE, Phyllis the good person, the good friend, the one who liked to laugh and be silly and cry over love stories and wonder about the universe and God and a million different things.

So I graduated college, got married, worked, had two incredible children of my own who are now adults living happy lives.  Oh, they had their share of mean kids to survive, but they also had me, telling them every day how wonderful and special they were.  And my friend, Jill?  Well, we’re both 55 now and we are still best friends.  Best friends forever.

So, stand tall.  If the mean kids hurt you, just remember that you are a good person and that THEY are the ones who are messed up.  Sometimes I think the mean kids must have very unhappy lives, and the only way they can make themselves feel better is to hurt someone else.  Just remember that there is a big, beautiful world waiting for you, full of people just like you.  Sometimes it just takes awhile to find them, that’s all.  Just remember that it does get better.

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About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.

Discussion

6 thoughts on “When You’re Smart and Attend 17 Different Schools: by Phyllis P

  1. Oh, Phyllis on the inside, how sad and then happy your story has made me! Jill is wise – to have chosen you, just as you are wise to have recognized your own worth, before allowing the world to take it from you.

    Great post!

    Posted by Liz McLennan (Bellymonster) | June 14, 2011, 10:57 AM
    • I feel like the lucky one, to have stumbled into Jill. That was a funny story in itself. It was on the school bus; there were seats available after we dropped off the grade school kids, so I was sitting alone, and Jill got on the bus and just randomly sat with me. She noticed my chemistry book; she was also taking chemistry, but a different section. Darn near talked my ear off :-D I kept thinking, “Who IS this girl??” The she got to complaining about her locker, and how she got assigned a “half” locker, and the guy whose locker was above hers was always there making out with his girlfriend. I absently said, “Well, if it gets bad, you can always share mine.” I never dreamed she’d take me up on it, but she was so excited! She said, “Good, when we get to school, wait for me and I’ll run get my stuff!” We shared that locker for the next 2 years.

      It taught me two important lessons: 1) Never offer something if you’re not ready to follow through, and 2) Sometimes it’s worth taking a chance on a stranger. You never know how wonderful it might turn out.

      Posted by Phyllis | June 14, 2011, 3:20 PM
  2. Wonderful post Phyllis. It sounds like your childhood was pretty terrible, all in all. I’m so glad Jill wandered into your life. I remember the outsiders in my grade school. I did play with one of them, Mary, and I was nice to both of them, but I remember wondering “Why doesn’t anyone like them? What’s so wrong with them?” But wondering that was not enough to get me to do anything about it, and for that I feel bad. In Arianna’s school there was an outsider, a little girl, and Arianna was part of a group of girls that met with a special aid once a week to talk about the little girl and what they could do to improve things for her. I’m happy to say that they had some success and Anna was a part of it. I wish all school would do things like this, and perhaps what happened to you needn’t ever happen again. Kids can be so cruel.

    Posted by Stephanie | June 14, 2011, 3:20 PM
    • You know, really, it wasn’t all that terrible, when I look back. Not like what some kids go through. It was lonely, and there were plenty of mean kids and hurtful moments, but there was a lot of time between, and crafts to do, books to read, woods to explore. And I did have friends along the way, more than it might sound like in this brief account. All outsiders like me, of course :-) But with all the moving around, they floated in and out of my life … or maybe I just floated through their lives, I don’t know. But Jill was the beginning of a much larger world for me. I think it was when I really started to grow from a teenager to a young woman.

      I’m so happy Anna’s school has programs like you described. I’m actually trying to see if I can get involved in some school outreach programs to try to end bullying. So many kids have it so much worse than I did.

      Posted by Phyllis | June 14, 2011, 6:06 PM
  3. Phyllis, this is wonderful!!
    your story brought tears to my eyes because in grade 6 i was the fat kid, I was the one everyone was making fun of and I didn’t know why.
    They made up a song about me and called me names.
    Looking back I wasn’t even that fat.
    they were just cruel.
    But I survived.
    You survived.
    Thank God for friends who see us for who we really are!

    Posted by multitaskingmumma | June 19, 2011, 3:12 PM
    • It’s funny. I look back at my grade school pictures, and I really do not look that fat to myself, either. I wasn’t all elbows and knees like a lot of the girls were, but I certainly was not the elephant they made me feel to be. Yes, thank God for the people with the eyes to see the Us Inside. :-)

      Posted by Phyllis | June 20, 2011, 2:53 PM

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