When I was in middle school I was bullied for being nerdy and for not letting people cheat off me. I was in band, a library aide, and did Algebra 2 independent study in the Algebra 1 class. I had great teachers who supported me and pushed me to keep at it, but many of the kids at my small town Oklahoma school thought I was weird. I didn’t fit in; I only had a few friends. My friends back then have been some of the most loyal, in fact we just went and dominated trivia the other day. I wasn’t popular. I was always a year late on the fashion trends. I had terrible, I mean parent-disowning terrible, hair. The kind of haircut that when I look back at old school photos, I ask my mom “WHY?!?!!?!” I was incredibly tall compared to everyone else, and I’m still working on that “how to not look like this: while dancing.”
Middle school is an awkward time for everyone, but being smart and unpopular in a small Oklahoma town is a curse. The bullying was never physical, but the name calling and rejection from my peers was rough. It got so bad that I transferred schools after middle school; instead of going to the local high school where I would be subject to more ridicule by even more people and in a not so great academic environment, I drove 25 miles to the city to attend an International Baccalaureate program.
The high school I attended allowed me to flourish and I wasn’t nerdy anymore. I fit in, because I was just like everyone else. The academic standards were incredibly high, so much so that my first year in college was a cakewalk. The people I graduated high school with have gone on to pursue great things. The people I went to middle school with, well most of them are still wearing leggings as pants and haven’t moved more than 20 miles. Most people I went to middle school with are already married with kids – high school, maybe one person is married. And you know what, good for them. If they are happy and content with their lives, more power to them. But, that wasn’t in the cards for me.
No, the bullying, the name calling, the rejection, the years of being unpopular, they just lit a fire under me. I wanted to prove that where you live doesn’t dictate where you will end up. I wanted to prove that being a nerd wasn’t an insult, but a complement. I wanted to prove that being a bully and popular doesn’t mean squat when you leave school. I wanted to prove that karma has a funny way of letting things work out. But you know what, I don’t have to prove anything to those people. The only person I have to prove anything to is myself. And through the years I’ve proven that I have the will and the drive to go after my dreams. I’ve proven to myself that nerd is a beautiful word. I’ve proven to myself that I can withstand pain, heartbreak, and developing world conditions. I survived Peace Corps. I graduated Magna cum Laude. I took on every challenge as an opportunity. I passed the Foreign Service Oral Assessment.
I was invited to be a Foreign Service Officer.
I’ve been bestowed the highest honor a little girl growing up in a small town in Oklahoma can dream about. I’ve proven time and time again that no matter what is hurled at me, whether it is a nasty name, a bout of tropical disease, a less than stellar job, or bullying, I come out better than before. So take that world! Keep trying to knock me down, you’ll find that it only makes me stronger.
This post was inspired by this Sunday’s PostSecret: http://postsecret.com/2014/06/21/classic-secrets-31/