Someplace Else

Geography is a wonderful thing. You never really know until you land if your experience in the new location will be on ice or coals.

I have been thinking about this all day, maybe because the local Youngstown news reported on a potential hate crime (two gay men shot in a driveway) which turned my thoughts to an old report about a gay youth attempting suicide after being bullied at school and, round about down the back forty as my thoughts tend to go wandering about other kids being bullied for nonsense reasons and schools trying to figure out ways to deal with it and then, cross the river of thought into another field, the realm of my own experience with bullies.

Six weeks into my Eight Grade year, my family relocated from Ohio to Illinois. I was used to being the new kid at school as we moved so often that my “normal” was starting at a new school every year. Although I tended to be shy by nature, I was outgoing enough to smile and say “hi” and within a week or two, I had new friends. I was used to being accepted everywhere we went. So when I transferred from Grand Valley to the Junior High School in Virden, Illinois, I was not prepared for a bad experience.

On my first day of school, I arrived early, took my assigned seat and waited for the other students to arrive and class to begin. Not long after the teacher stepped out, four girls walked in, spotted the new kid and came over to talk to me. Or so I thought. They only asked one question: what’s your name? I said, “Nancy” and they looked at each other and giggled. One said, “Fairy Nancy” and from that moment on, for the remainder of the entire school year, I was taunted and teased, tormented to no end, as Fairy Nancy. What made it worse was that no one else in the entire school would talk to me, except the Marlboro Girl when no one else was around, lest they themself become a target for the mayor’s daughter and her three friends. The Marlboro Girl, so named by them, was already a target. Oh, there was a girl at church who was in my grade who would talk to me at church functions, but not at school.

You know that song that goes, “what a difference a day makes”? I could re-sing that as “what a difference a mile makes.” Geography is a wonderful thing.

I did not know how to deal with that, so I withdrew into myself and waited. I not only withdrew at school, I withdrew at home, pulled away from my family. First, I moved into the closet as I couldn’t stand sharing a large bedroom with two sisters, then I moved into the basement and isolated myself even more. I used to come and go by the basement door, took to the alley instead of walking down the street, avoiding human contact as much as possible because I was tormented everywhere I went. If I saw anyone from school, they would yell, “fairy Nancy” at me.

On the last day of school that year, I told the Marlboro Girl that we were moving to Girard and shock of shocks, other students in the class FINALLY spoke kind words to me. Some kids said I’d like it there… one boy smiled and said, “you can’t be red in Girard.”

Girard was the next town four miles down the road, just a stone’s throw into another world. My mother will tell you that Girard is the worst place that she ever moved her children, but she does not understand. Girard was exactly what we needed to recover from living in Virden. My older sister, come to find out, was also tormented at the High School in Virden.

It wasn’t an instantaneous recovery. Virden had zapped something out of me. I wasn’t so open and friendly as I used to be, did not make as many friends, still kept to myself at times, and in some ways, the experience in Virden may have helped form the person I am today. I am very comfortable being with my own self, whereas I’ve met some people who seem to can’t stand to be alone for more than a few minutes. I became an observor… started seeing life from an outsider perspective instead of an active participant. Artistically, I suppose it may have been beneficial.

No. It was not beneficial. I cannot imagine surviving years of such torment. It messed me up enough to seek therapy as part of my recovery and I cannot fathom myself hunting those women down to say “thank you” so beneficial is not the right word. The recovery process was beneficial.

The thing is… I found a Someplace Else inside my head until I could physically land Someplace Else. I found Someplace Else with pencil and pen, fabric and threads, crochet cotton and anything else that would allow me to explore creativity during my year of silence and torment.

School crap is temporary. Being bullied is temporary. Just temporary… just until you land Someplace Else. That’s all. I just want to tell kids who are going through shit that the saying is true: suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And if you are a parent with a kid who is being bullied at a school, get them the hell out of there!

Okay, that’s my soapbox for today. Thank you for viewing my art!

PS: yes, the new gallery and the award thingy will post soon. I’m slowly getting it together.

6 Responses

  1. Ye gods Nancy your post evoked so many dark memories of my bullying experiences at school in England, and also seeing it too often during my teaching career. My experience of being bullied still comes into my dreams. It is an aspect of evil that continues to haunt the lives of too many children. Here in British Columbia, Canada the local government and the educational authorities are just beginning to instigate practical ideas to combat bullying. I believe that bullying has to do with ‘power’. Bullies, in school or in the work place, are people who lack self esteem and seek power by picking on others. It all begins in the family and with the way parents raise their kids. Teachers and schools can alleviate the problem to some extent but it is the parents who are essentially responsible. Geographical relocation is one solution but not always possible. The problem needs to be solved at the source…

    • Yes, it needs addressed on all aspects and hit by all angles, and you are so right, self esteem issues are at the core.

  2. This is a terrible crisis, our young children committing suicide in record numbers. Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your story in an honest, straightforward way. If only one person gets your message, it will have been worth it.

    • I don’t know why, I just felt like I had to write it. It rips my heart out when I hear of young lives lost when life can spin on a dime, totally change from one week to the next, if not from geography then time.

  3. Amen to that! Nancy, I know the thing about being in new schools year after year, it is a hard thing for kids to go through, and then to have the experience of torment on top of that….well, my heart broke just a little for the younger you. Your recovery from that place, those girls, and the time of isolation is remarkable. I hope some tormented child somewhere gets to read your accounting of your journey.

    • A lot of my recovery began at the next school because they had a really good school psychologist that kids could go talk to… kind of funny because I never talked about the bullying or anything of real importance, other than the symbolism in my art. (I got caught skipping class, ignored the bell because I was stoned, and was given the choice of regular visits to the shrink or call my parents.) Okay, so my early recovery phase included some bad choices. Art was a good way to express things that I was unable to put into words.

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