Excerpt of Megan’s story from Fiona Scott-Norman’s Don’t Peak at High School.
"When I was younger I was always very changey, a chameleonic kind of person, but I couldn’t make it work at this school. All the kids were rough. Rough. And I’d never experienced physical danger before. One girl on the same softball team was really bad. I mean, I was sporty, I wasn’t a nerd. But she used to just throw the softball at me, aim it into me.
When I arrived at school in the morning people would throw their bags at me, and food at me, and call me bad names, and then we’d go into class. No one would sit with me because apparently I stank. And I wasn’t to answer any questions, because that was to draw attention to myself, you know, so I never put my hand up because then everyone would look at me and remember that they hated me. So I’d get through class somehow, usually by ignoring everything, and then there’d be morning tea. I’d take my morning tea and find places to just walk, usually to the primary school area where the others weren’t.
It made no sense, because a year before, in PNG, I’d been totally normal. Normal! At that school everybody liked me, I had friends, we hung out and did stuff, and now I stank, and had a fat pig mother, and … I couldn’t understand.
I thought once I went to a different school it would be okay, but when I got to Year 8 it was all f***ed again. The difference was the bullying was now no body, all brain.
I was short and chubby and awkward and had braces, but I was in the popular girl group. I can see now I was only there as the comic relief, they kept me in the group for sport. They all had names like Cheryl and Candace and Vanessa, and at the time I thought they were my friends.
Once, when we were in Grade 10, they said, ‘There’s a party on Friday, everybody’s going, you should come’, all welcoming and warm, and emailed or texted me the address. So, on Friday, they were like, ‘We’ll see you tonight, yeah, bye, yeah’ , and I came home from school, and had a shower, and got all dressed up, and I got my dad to drive me. I think he left work early so he could drive me. And the address was just a fish and chip shop, a gap between houses, something. Then it was just me and Dad driving back, in silence.
The dumb thing was I wanted to stay in that group. I don’t know why, but I did. I guess I thought it was better to be the worst house in the best street.
I used to dread Mondays. I remember thinking that I would prefer to die, actually physically die, than go back to school next week. I would rather have a life-threatening illness and be in hospital for a year, than go back there. I just hated it all. Every minute of it. I lived in the sick bay. It’s a wonder I passed half my classes. The nurses were the most compassionate people in the whole school. They knew. They’d say, ‘Have a Panadol and a lie down, darling’, and they might even slip you a Women’s Weekly under the pillows.
The only lucky thing was that I had an extracurricular life, my dancing. There was no one at ballet school from my real school, so I could be myself there.
I asked my parents a thousand times to take me out of that school. I tried so many things. My first plan was that if I did well academically, people would like me, and it became all about hiding in the library the whole time. That didn’t work, and besides, I’m an extrovert and I got bored.
So I became a terror. A really naughty kid. I was suspended a hundred times. One teacher used to pick fights with me in class. Every day. For like two terms. Then one day we got into an argument, it escalated, it got more and more heated, she threw a whiteboard eraser at my head, so I just picked up a chair and put a crack in the whiteboard.
That was the start of the fourth term in Year 10, and the school said, ‘Don’t come back for the rest of the term.’ And then I went to a new school and it was fine. It was full of nerds, every other reject from every other school. It had a performing arts bent, I had a complete shift, and my dancing became my focus.
But I’m grateful for my background now. I’m glad that I experienced the worst, worst, worst when I was 13, 14, 15, because nothing I encounter will ever be as bad. Being bullied has given me tools. Hard-won, amazing tools.
The advantage, when you’ve never been invited to be part of anything, is I don’t give a toss who likes me or who doesn’t. People who blog about me and say, ‘She’s this and she’s that and why is she wearing safety glasses?’, it doesn’t bother me at all.
I think being bullied gives you power, because it steels you. It forges you at a really early age, and it makes you strong and hard and ready.
The irony, the irony, is that the majority of people who are admired and respected in the world, probably came from this kind of background. All the cool kids go out and get drunk, and go to gigs, and parties, and music festivals, and have a great time. And the nerds, the people who were ostracised and unpopular, are at home listening to records, reading books, playing guitar, engorging themselves on culture, and then, bam, they’re Tame Impala, they’re massive, and all the cool kids are going to go see them. I never went to anything cool, I was always at home reading books and writing songs about my feelings. The first time I went to a Big Day Out, I was 23 and playing at it!
I’m so glad I didn’t peak at high school. I don’t want to peak. Not until I’m 65. I’ll be writing musicals for Broadway or other cool sh*t.
I’m going to make my music, make my art, write my pieces, be me. It can be difficult to be distinctive, to ownthat, but when it’s difficult then I think, well, it’s all I’vegot. Me.
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