One of my co-workers turned 22 this week. So young! As we sat around eating birthday cake and chatting, someone said they wished they were 22 again.
I shuddered. There is NO WAY I want to return to my 20s. I might like being 32 again, but 22, nah.
I didn’t really come into my own until my 30s.
I started primary school as a shy, dorky kid with red hair, pale skin, heaps of freckles and a strange last name. I was so bookish I became the librarian’s pet.
I remember other kids making fun of me in primary school, calling me names like House on Fire, which I admit is pretty clever in hindsight, but not so great when you’re a self-conscious child.
I didn’t want to stand out, I wanted to fit in.
I was also hopelessly uncoordinated and always the last person to be chosen for sporting teams. Why on earth did schools allow that hideous practice of letting kids choose the cool kids for their teams first and the loser kids last?
A teacher even made fun of me once, mimicking my clumsy attempts to play basketball while the other kids laughed.
During high school I made my peace with my weirdness and wandered around the playground in tartan gym boots and a green plastic raincoat, with a red cap to protect my fair skin from the sun and a black armband when Split Enz broke up.
My quirkiness infuriated some of my fellow students. My appearance literally filled them with incandescent rage.
The mean girls had endless fun bullying me – nothing too serious, I was never scared to go to school – and the boys in my year wouldn’t go near me with a 10 foot barge pole.
I have a terrible memory, but I’ve never forgotten the names of the kids who persecuted me: Darren, Andrew and Bronwyn were three of the worst.
I steeled myself against their jibes and waited for the day I could leave high school and them behind.
I got a job, fought hard to overcome my shyness, made my peace with my looks and grew to see my unusual name as a plus rather than a minus.
I built a successful career for myself as a journalist and had two amazing kids.
Part of me was fiercely proud to have proven those bullies wrong about me being a loser. Not that their opinions should have mattered anyway.
Why am I telling you this?
Because something was triggered me this week and left me in tears.
I was reminded that high schools can be such Fight Clubs and it took me right back.
What happened in my past is why I always try to be kind now. I know how much it hurts to be excluded and picked on.
I probably worry about it a little too much.
For example, I was under stress last week and snapped at a co-worker. The guilt plagued me for days and I resolved to apologise. When I did, she stared at me blankly – she’d forgotten all about it, while I’d spent ages torturing myself.
I need to stop feeling everything so deeply.
At the same time, it’s good to feel again after years of building emotional walls. I hid behind them following a period of workplace bullying that left me with heart palpitations and anxiety issue.
Now they’re gone it’s sometimes hard to moderate the intensity of my feelings because I’m a little rusty.
I will take a few deep breaths this morning.
And then I can exhale for the weekend. Sadly not with DD’s hugs as he’s just touched down in Los Angeles on his way to Chicago for a week.
Luckily I have lots of walks planned with lovely friends. Thank you to everyone in advance for your patience.
Song of the day: Taylor Swift “Shake it off”