A Very Personal Post – Eleven years later

BelfastIn the weeks leading up to my final exam I became very nervous and anxious. Not because I didn’t know my stuff, but because I would have to stand up in front of people and perform. Not as in a play or concert, and not in the way I am most comfortable with, which is the written word. I’d very much like to write articles and books at an academic level. But now I was going to have to leave the safety of the well-thought out thrice-changed and amended sentences of the text and get on up in front of a committee that would rate my performance. And that idea had me scared out of my wits. I “knew” one of two things would happen – in the actual event both did, but thanks to the supportive people I had with me I pulled through – I’d freeze like a deer in headlights or I’d start talking both upon breathing in and out. A friend who had been present had been amazed, because she’d never experienced that in anyone.

Before giving the trial lecture I had a few decisions to make. Whether or not I wanted familiar faces in the possible crowd, the lecture was open to anyone, or just hope that it would only be myself and the committee. And also, which language I would do it in, as I’d written my thesis in English and received the theme for my trial lecture in English, but the likelihood of anyone non-Norwegian speaking in the audience was in my opinion very slim. The administration felt, however, that I should do it all in one language, though there wasn’t any particular rules dictating that. I decided to gather some friends that I wouldn’t feel nervous about performing in front of, and took this as an opportunity to show off my Ulster-twang. In the end it all went surprisingly well, and even friends who hadn’t encountered English in their own curricula, had understood it all. Mission accomplished.

But that’s not really why I’m writing this. In the days leading up to this I tried to  find the reason as to why I was so incredibly scared of failing. OK, so there is the obvious chance of actually failing, but that would not mean the end of the world. As a very supportive friend said, the worst thing that could happen was my having to do another paper and another trial lecture. I could live with that, and was prepared for that happening. So why this extreme anxiety for telling a small group of people about what I’d learned up until this point?

While dabbling in quasi-psychology is not to be recommended, I actually think I can trace a lot of this back to primary and secondary school.

Where I grew up I didn’t fit in. I didn’t have many real friends, and I was always on the side of things, trying to fit in, but never actually belonging. Those were the good times, when I was allowed to be with the group, instead of altogether excluded. But there was little support for me to be had there, one saying right out “You’re not like us.”

I don’t think I tried to be different, apparently that was just a natural talent, but I sure wasn’t given any slack either. It probably didn’t help that most of the other children knew each other beforehand. I know it must have been very fun for those teasing me, because I was very easy to tick off. But it didn’t stop there. I can’t remember everything, but what really stands out was that I could never catch a break.

When I did something well, I was teased about it. When someone else performed better, I was teased about that too. I didn’t want to show anyone my drawings before they were finished, because they might say something, and if I did show them afterwards, my stance was “it’s okay, but it’s not very good”

Thing is, it wasn’t everybody bullying me all the time. And it was by no means everybody who did at all. But to me, almost everybody was on the side of the bullies or kept out if it. There was little support for me to be had (though a few would try to comfort me after or get a teacher).

The only time I had something that could look like support from the “community” was when someone else who wasn’t quite accepted by the rest tried his hand at what a lot of other people had been doing for a long time, which essentially was putting me down and pushing me out.

It was lonely, and I ate my feelings, just as I’ve done over the past few weeks. I’m not bitter, or angry, but I am sad. And what is more, within this context there was the school projects and presentations. I worked hard on those, so that nobody would say I didn’t pull my part. Perhaps I instead pulled the part of others, instead.

I know there were some who hoped to be on my group so they could sit back and relax. And I was always terrified that I would be taunted when the day of the presentation came, that my performance wouldn’t equal the work I’d put into it, that I’d be the one pulling us down. Because that was the absolute worst. Not being taunted for being good at school, but being taunted for not even being good enough at that – Because obviously I was not good enough as a person. Would I fail as a student as well?

Experiencing this didn’t make me stronger, it didn’t help me grow tougher, and to this day I am terrified to fail.

And I was one of the lucky ones. I got a new chance when I started upper secondary with none of my former classmates attending the same school. There were people there who were willing to accept me, weirdness and all, and there were people who didn’t accept me putting myself down – That had been my only “defence” in the end – and who had the nerve to tell me so. Thank you.

I’m going to end this post before I start crying for real, because it is still painful to me. I think it’s been 11 years since I graduated from that school. I’m not angry or bitter, and I’m not resentful either. But if you were at school with me at that time and you read this, the pain I felt back then, that still wells up some times, that stuck with me. So if I’m acting weird when you meet me, if I’m acting aloof or distant it is because meeting you reminds me of that. I’m sorry, I’ve tried to put it all behind me, but I can’t see you without feeling some of those things I felt back then.

I’m not writing this to make anyone feel bad, but I would like for the world to know, what being bullied can do to a person. It’s been more than a decade, but it still haunts me. I know that some of those I went to school with are parents now, and I hope you are teaching your children to do better. I hope we all can teach the next generations to do better.



12 Comments Add yours

  1. Liv Elin says:

    First and foremost…you are fantastic and lovely and clever and so strong! *squisshyhugsyou* I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there to hear your lecture.

    I’ve turned this issue over in my head and debated it with friends and my mum a number of times…not you obviously but the matter of bullying, fitting in or not, and the handling of it all…by teachers, bullies, followers, bystanders, victims and the parents of every kid who goes to school…cus there will be bullying, to some degree, everywhere. And I can’t help but wonder why the schools don’t have proper classes about self worth and bullying in school, and urge the kids to debate the whys and woes? This should be done on a weekly basis! Why don’t the parent meetings have classes about it…with and without the kids? And why don’t the schools have programmes on self esteem, and teach the kids that it’s normal to be or feel different, that it’s ok and that NOTHING, however odd, gives grounds for bullying? Everybody feels at odds in some way or other, at some point…some are so very good at hiding it and some can’t manage to bear the mask of group identity. And there are many reasons why kids bully others…some are unconsiously taught discrimination at home, some feel compelled to trash someone else in order to feel better themselves, some lack emotional intelligence or maturity and can’t recognize the harm they’re afflicting. So why aren’t the bullies given the aid to recognize and understand their own behaviour? And why aren’t the bystanders taught that it’s not such a good idea to mindlessly follow the lead of the loudest voice or even to do nothing when they see someone being bullied? I know being the one who tells the tale isn’t an easy part, but my point is that this really needs repeating, over and over again! After all…a great many bullies and bystanders never grow out of that frame of mind…and that too is rather horrid. *end of rant*

    I know I’m not the first to say this…it’s so important to get to grips with the concept of being yourself even when you’re at odds with the crowd…cus everybody just wants to be what and who they are. When someone young realize this it builds integrity. This should be a crucial part of the teaching, cus integrity means a great deal when you’re an adult. In everything. It will take you places. And it will help you maintain that self worth no matter what.

  2. Florence says:

    First of all, I’m Florence and I come from France.Congratulation for your master ( and your blog), for both it’s a great job! In France, Norway has a good reputation , especially for the human rights, the care of its population and I see with your testimony, it’s everywhere the same pain at school and every generation know that.But, you, you won,it’s just necessary to be kind with the child whom you were. And never forget to be pride of you because you can! Have a nice day and can you give a big, big kiss to Teyla from Chelsea a female german pointer.P.S: congratulation for your photos, there are so beautiful.

    1. sirilovise says:

      Thank you so much for visiting and your kind words, Florence.

      To tell you the truth, there’s a lot about Norway that isn’t quite the way it should be. Norway is a country where, in most cases, you should be careful not to be too different in any way – it’s been so ingrained in our upbringing that Aksel Sandemose’s Jantelov from the book A fugitive crosses his tracks is almost proverbial. That said, we also like to be “the best” at everything, and sometimes the individuals inhabiting the country get lost in the struggle to be that, as acknowledging, for instance that we seem unable to stop bullying in schools and workplaces, means admitting to the rest of the world that we’re not so good as we’d like to be.

      Bullying is actually a big problem here, because it is often ignored or not taken seriously to the degree it should be. It is only a few months ago that the death of a child as a result of bullying were all the media talked about, but now it seems forgotten. I’m going to have a sit-down with a friend within my field of study, Pedagogy, as well as Liv and then maybe a follow-up post pondering how we seem to excel at sports, but fail at empathy, kindness and understanding 😉

      Teyla says hi, and she wishes Chelsea lived nearby so they could go play together.

      1. Florence says:

        You’re right, it’s not taken seriously. This year, in France,we had a debate,following several cases about the school harassment which drives children and teenagers to the suicide. The harassment is made via the social network ( twitter, facebook…..),with a real problem, the refusal to accept the act on behalf of the relatives of the harasser. The awareness of the gravity of the act,is the most difficult problem which the specialists have to face, because there is a non acceptance, a total denial on behalf of the school persons in charge and the families. It’s thus difficult to prevent the act. For Teyla and Chelsea, perhaps, they could play together in Norway,but not in France. Now, we have 40 degrees and often storms. For the animals (and the humans too), it’s a nightmare and it’s totally exhausting! I think Teyla would be unhappy. But Chelsea send her a big big kiss and hope she has a great walk with you. Have a nice day..

  3. Sunny says:

    Hey Siri, thank you so much for sharing. Congrats again on getting your degree. You did well!

    I am so sorry to hear you had a tough time growing up. That was kind of me as well, but not to the same extent. Elementary school was fine, junior high school was OK. I think my toughest time was high school, but I just kept my head down and worked. I never belonged, but I was respected for my intelligence and that was fine by me. I always knew I’d leave tho. Being a part of any community isn’t really my instinct at all. I need to live in different worlds and NOT belong to be happy. I guess that’s also why I knew from a very early age I’d marry someone from a different culture.

    Everyone is different tho. Kids can be cruel. I’m glad you have grown up to be the beautiful and intelligent person that you are, and there are for sure a lot of people who appreciate you and love you for that!

    1. sirilovise says:

      Thank you, Sunny.

      There are indeed a lot of people, and because of what I’ve been through I probably appreciate friendship all the more, because I know the difference between being in a group and being included in a group.

      But, then I suppose not being included in the school community makes it easier to pack your bags and leave? I come from a very small, rural place, but I quite like cities that are just large enough so that I can become a familiar face to some, but I can also disappear in the crowd when I feel like it.

      As I’ve grown older I see the world differently than I did back then, and I no longer feel the need to be part of that community. Because of a miscalculation, apparently my class will be having a reunion this year, but I pretty much knew since graduating that I wouldn’t attend it. I don’t feel I was much part of that anyway, and I haven’t had a need to be for years. Even so, writing this and putting it out there has been surprisingly therapeutic, and though I still won’t attend, I feel a lot better about it all.

      Not being part of that community though gave me a chance to hone other skills, such as musical skills and drawing, and plenty of time for reading. I by no means regret the friends I have now, but there is a very old proverb that translates to “There is no better burden to carry uphill than loads of knowledge”, and I sometimes find it difficult to make time for the acquisition of that burden these days :p

      1. Sunny says:

        Hmm well I don’t know. I really wasn’t encouraged to form attachment the way I was raised (both of my parents are introverts so I guess attachment is a bit of a burden for them), so I really can only be attached to everything/everyone to a certain degree. It’s never too hard for me to leave. I love big cities. I grew up in one and I like how anonymous you can remain. That just feels easier for me.

      2. sirilovise says:

        Call me crazy, but I actually think that sounds terrific!

  4. Kids unfortunately can be ass holes but you’re a great woman now and that’s all that matters, I really wish I had the confidence in myself as a person then as I did now but it’s so hard when you’re at that vulnerable stage of your life. You’re really brave for writing this post and thanks for sharing it with us

    1. sirilovise says:

      Thank you, and I can relate. I don’t feel brave, but it’s been really good putting this out there, even if none of those involved ever hear of it. I think I’ll have to do a follow-up on this pondering the measures taken and the measures not taken to counteract bullying from a young age. Somehow we seem to think numbers and literacy to be more important than kindness, confidence and empathy, even though these are essential skills if we are to educate the young to become responsible and tolerant individuals.

  5. Anne says:

    Thanks for sharing, sorry you had to go through that! ❤ Always remember how great you are, I feel blessed to know ya! 🙂

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