There has been a lot of talk of bullying lately. The heartbreaking suicide of one our own teens has brought the dialogue home. I don’t know if his tragic decision was caused by bullying. I do know one thing--it can happen anywhere.
We live in a beautiful township. The arts--from architecture to music--is actively encouraged and shared. As with any other area with a lively arts community, different points of view are more welcome than elsewhere.
East Hampton High School, in my experience, reflects these surroundings, presenting an openness to creativity and diversity. Even with all of that, we are still dealing with human beings, with all their flaws and fears. Bullying happens in East Hampton. It did to me.
I was a target for the frightened few who are mean to the different. I guess my flannel shirts and oversized jeans and lack of boyfriend made me easy to label. Lyme had given me a crooked smile and a wink. The verbal and physical violence came in brief bouts, difficult for a teacher to detect, difficult for me to get over.
For most bullied kids, I suspect it is like this. Lonely in their misery, with no adult able to see it, they struggle through a period of life that is already filled with growing pains. Being around their peers, so important to a teen, can be scary. Being accepted is a dream. Most suffer in silence, fearing reprisals.
Still, for most, it gets better. It certainly did for me. I took refuge in the art rooms, drawing, painting and sculpting. My work was hung in the hallway for years. I made friends with other girls who weren’t chasing boys and boys who weren’t jocks. We’d walk the halls together.
If only every teen being victimized could find refuge and a safe space. I was lucky in where I went to school. The teachers didn’t look away when they saw something. Most of my fellow students were very fine human beings. And now they have support groups at EHHS. Marginalized kids don’t seem to have any support at many other high schools.
That’s sad. It’s the ones who approach life differently, who think outside of the box, that often change the world in their own little ways. They are precious to our community. And the kids that bully damage themselves. They have a higher adulthood suicide rate. We can each do our own part to save all the kids. Keep our eyes open. Spread the word that “It gets better.” We need to do this, because bullying can happen anywhere.