Unfortunately, that was not the case in other areas of my life or when I eventually went to public school. I was bullied and I want to share my story so that others who are being bullied do not feel alone. October is national anti-bullying month and I challenge everyone reading this to take a stand to stop bullying everywhere.
Starting my junior year, the bullying popped up on another front, my track team (girls). Up until then, I had been on the boys' track team because there was no pole vault event for girls. My junior year, the state added pole vault for girls and I began to travel and compete with the girls' team. Unfortunately, a group of girls decided that they did not want me on the team. Again, I will never know the real "reasons" for it, but there really is never a "good" reason for bullying. These girls always hung out together and they followed me around at school, blocking me from going in the locker room to change, purposely bumping into me in the hallway so I would slam into the wall or trip, spreading rumors about me and using hand motions indicating that they were "shooting" me. The worst was when they took a key and scratched the paint on my car up and down both sides and all over the hood. They were caught on camera doing it but the dean thought that if he punished them, they would do something worse to me in retaliation for me "snitching" on them.
Near the end of that year, Indianapolis Monthly magazine did an interview with me and as part of that, I spoke up about the bullying that was happening to me at school. Instead of gaining support from people and rallying people to stand up to bullying, people from my school wrote letters to the magazine telling them I was lying about it all or that I actually "deserved" to be bullied. From that moment on, I numbly went through the motions at school each day just so that I could continue to pole vault. In the end, I didn't even attend my own graduation because I had so many terrible memories of my time at that school. All I wanted was to move far away and never see any of those people again.
Thankfully, that experience helped me reflect on how to handle bullies I might encounter the rest of my life. I have become better at being honest with people who are acting in an aggressive manner and at setting boundaries so that people don't feel so free to take advantage of me or to treat me poorly. Also, I have learned that bullies are everywhere and have no age limit. I have encountered people who tried to bully me....in youth and adult climbing competitions, in climbing gyms, in social settings, in my professional life, on online climbing forums... but, I no longer give them the power to make me afraid or sad or lonely. The song, Brave, by Sara Bareilles perfectly sums up how I feel.
Please, during the month of October and every month of the year, stand up against bullying. Support someone who is being bullied; don't fall into rank with the bullies just because they are the "cool kids"; be kind to others--always; and if you are the one being bullied, remember, you are not alone. One day, you will be the "rock star" and they will just be people that others don't want to be around, because they are mean.