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.