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Did you ever get picked last in gym or some other class?
Have you used that in your writing?
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Picked last can be a devastating feeling, especially when it occurs more frequently than not. Bullying takes multiple forms in our lifetimes, but almost always centers around others enforcing a hierarchy of power. This is separate from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In fact, it is one of the things that directly breaks down meeting one’s needs.
In 3rd grade, I won the class spelling bee, earning myself a small sum at a bookstore. The majority of my school career was spent invisible and picked last. I remember sitting aside in kindergarten when the other girls would not allow me to play with them, and my teacher not believing me, insisting I was being lazy. This was despite me sitting there weeping. So it began.
Since those days, my cohort saw fit to let me be invisible or bring attention to me for amusement. I much preferred the invisible days. In them, I could at least meet everything on my own terms. No one was breaking down my self-esteem. The voices of ridicule did not pursue me home, at least.
Part of being chosen last was out of my control. Teachers would have us line up according to your last names, or first names, depending on their whim. The activity effectively ranked us. In neither case did I get very close to the front of the line.
One year for my birthday, I went to school with goodies to share with class. When I asked to select my own because it was my birthday, stiffly rebuffed by the teacher. She told me: you’ll take what you get and that is that. I choked back my outrage, because she had let the other children do this on multiple occasions. In addition, she gave me a 4 (failing grade) for self-control. When asked about the reason, she answered that I knew what I had done. I spoke to my mother about this, but she didn’t get any further. She told me to pay it no attention. Yet, I was still devastated by the treatment. An explanation wasn’t too much to ask.
The truth is that sometimes you’re not liked. The group will do what they can to ostracize you. A good many stories are written about this. Many say that they relate to these experiences. However, how many realize their often limited experience doesn’t equal a daily reinforcement of being chosen last? That minimizing someone’s experience is further reinforcement?
When dating entered the mix, it made things so much worse. And, there are matters of abuse that I will not get into. These experiences created an even deeper isolation. However, near the end of my primary school days, I found myself speaking up and speaking in ways others couldn’t rebut.
I rarely spoke about what happened to me at school, and I don’t think that friends or family really understand the extent of bullying I endured. PTSD, BDD, depression, and anxiety graduated along with me. That day back in June of 1993 was still difficult, even though I knew I would never see these people again (or so I had hoped). My true friends have stayed in touch.
The difficulty was in my realistic approach to the next stage of life. There was no way that bullying was going to just end. I saw my mother bullied in her place of work by a supervisor and coworker. Articles and other media covered it as well. Being aware that there would always be some person who would make you feel last was an important survival measure.
Being chosen last happens to this day on social media or in careers. Online, I find the same attitudes as I found in school: largely ignored, or people picking fights for the fun of it. Work life resulted in multiple instances of being passed over for leadership or promotion opportunities. I chalk it up to erroneous ideas around age and competency, based on preconceived notions not facts. This especially creates difficulties. Not only does it reinforce all of the actions taken to marginalize me since childhood, but it also has made it difficult to achieve the basics in life (costs of housing, etc).
This is why I ended up writing. Between the isolation felt and the desire to know my importance in this world, I began to tell stories of marginalized characters suffering in silence. Emotional abuse is a serious issue that our society doesn’t quite take seriously enough. If you’re familiar with Maslow (mentioned above), empathy and kindness is key to a healthy life. We are motivated through positive interaction and outcomes, but adverse experiences, like emotional abuse, creates nullification. When abuse is continuous and unaddressed, it leads to health issues and negative life outcomes.
I have written 6 novels that I plan to publish thus far. 4 of those are already out. Each book explores emotional suffering, being chosen last, feeling left out, and bullying (abuse). The trilogy explores these ideas the most, because the main character is based off my personal experiences. It made sense to give her the entire gamut. It may not seem obvious, as she’s a well-respected leader, mother, wife, and friend. However, as the tale unfolds, the reader will see how Maiel is refused autonomy, left last, bullied, and raked over the coals for the opportunity to be promoted. More over, one learns how her perception frames the ordeal, and how that is paramount in her development. This is a tough story. It takes a hard look at subtle but powerful adversities. Perceptions build over time from experiences. Changing them isn’t a matter of flipping a switch, especially when that information has been reinforced so strongly.
Yes, it is true that we can’t all be winners. That said, we should not be made to feel we are losers either. This isn’t healthy. Our society has increasingly become adversarial and a society cannot continue in such a vein. That’s not a beneficial formula for social success, which was the entire point of creating a complex society to begin with.
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P.J. MacLayne says
I was lucky. I had teachers who would start at the end of the alphabet and work their way back to the As, or line us up by size for a change.
Captain Maiel says
It was Alpha by first or last name. So it never got better. It was wild.
Stevie Turner says
Yes, many of us suffer in silence at school. I was often picked on because my hair was different to everybody else’s. The ones that are different have to learn to cope with bullying. I chose to ignore the girls who pulled my hair at every chance they had. In time they stopped doing it. I still ignored them.
Captain Maiel says
Ignoring them was so hard. I remember being called too loud. That their friend was funnier and then wanted me to perform for them. I had spit balls shot at me for an entire class. I was spit on. People asked invasive questions. Started fights…called me fat and ugly. it was something almost every day. My mom used to say things like: the boy likes you, or ignore them. That just didn’t work for me. And, teaching girls that boys being abusive is showing love is so very dangerous. 🙁
I think this is why I am so sharp and cutting in my comebacks now, and I take no prisoners. I refuse to be abused anymore.