Today I have the honor of sharing what Jessica Spotswood has dealt with on bullying. Nobody should have to deal with these issues, yet I think we all have in some way or another. Here is Jessica's story.
I wasn't a cheerful child. I was a worrier, and I didn't yet know how to hide it. I was shy and bookish. I had glasses and braces and a deeply unfortunate curly mullet.
The bullying started in fifth grade. I remember a group of pretty, popular girls who barked at me and called me a dog. Who targeted me in dodgeball and made fun of me in gym. In seventh grade, I was in some sort of life skills class during 5th period, which was weirdly assigned A lunch, populated mostly by juniors and seniors. Our lone table of twelve year olds banded together - except they banded against me, teasing me about my high voice and calling me Care Bear. I don't even remember WHY Care Bear - only sitting there feeling humiliated and hated, not wanting to eat or speak or do anything to draw attention to myself. I remember feeling ugly and very small. I remember how much I dreaded those days.
I found my tribe the next year, when I was thirteen. Some friends convinced me to try out for the spring musical, and even though I loathed the idea of singing in front of people, even though I was only in the chorus, I found my place. In theatre the kids were loud and quirky and unapologetic. It didn't matter if I was shy, because someone was always performing and in need of an audience. The kids who were addicted to drama off-stage as well as on needed someone to listen and give them advice. And somehow, in between putting together shows and painting sets and memorizing lines and singing inappropriate renditions of "The Farmer and the Cowhand," something miraculous happened - we became a big crazy family. Those were my best friends until graduation.
As a teen, I was revoltingly cheery. Sweet, optimistic, understanding - I signed all my notes "love and sunshine." I never went through a rebellious phase; I was too busy trying to please everyone to slam doors or raise my voice. I was the peacemaker, the matchmaker. But sometimes it felt like I was playing Jessie, frenetically happy-happy-happy. What would happen if I stopped? Would anyone still like me?
I was happy - but I don't think I was really content, at home in my own skin, until after grad school, when I gave up on theatre as a career. Until I reclaimed the idea that it was ok to be quiet and bookish and me. Until I started chasing the dream in my heart of hearts - to be a writer.
It's important to find your tribe - but it's even more important to find yourself.