I was 8-years-old when my family moved to a small town in Pennsylvania. It was a very, very small town, the kind of town you think of when you think of Ozzie and Harriet, this ideal town where everyone knows each other. The flip side of that though, is if you’re not from that town, sometimes you can be considered an outsider and get targeted for that. I didn’t live there long before I was targeted.
“So many kids in my class would bully me, but there were two boys in my class who were just merciless. They would threaten to beat me up and pick on me every day on the playground and terrorized me. The teacher knew I was being bullied. When I would tell her what was happening, she would say to me, ‘Stop being a tattletale.’ Now this was in the 1970’s, which was a completely different era. Finally one day my father came to pick me up after school and I wouldn’t come out of the school because I was so afraid of those boys. When he saw the boys, he told them, ‘If you ever bother her again, you are done.’
“Those boys left me alone after that, but other kids would still bother me. One boy actually pushed me down on the floor in the classroom a week after that, and I have chipped teeth to this day because of it.
“There is a point that when you are bullied the way I was, you tend to live with a sense of unworthiness. I have had a moderate amount of success in life as a news reporter, and I think people respect me. I have my close friends, I have my husband and daughter, and I trust them unequivocally. But I can’t help but wonder if other people are being sincere when they are kind to me. When you get bullied and it was pretty much the whole class picking on you, you start to think everyone in life is laughing behind your back. It is very hard to let go of that.
“But one of the biggest eye openers for me was Facebook. I reconnected a number of people I went to high school with. The reason it was an eye-opener is when I started reconnecting with my former classmates, I realized more people liked me than I understood and that I realized in high school.”
~ Toms River