by Mike Rozen
At Richmond Toastmasters, we speak in front of our group of 43, working on manual speeches. Each year, we hold contests to send our best speakers off to compete against other clubs. The topic for the competition is up to the speaker; the idea is to choose one that people everywhere can relate to. Mike is sharing the speech he took to the district level. What makes this great is that he draws from deeply personal experience, and makes it universal.
Have you ever been bullied? Has someone you know been bullied? Growing up, I got bullied all the time. In school, on sports teams and in summer programs. In grades 5, 6 and 7 I was bullied to the point where I had to get my parents to talk to the teacher to put a stop to it. Fortunately, it didn’t last long. In grade 8, I was in hell.
In gym class, for the entire five month semester, I got bullied every day! Four guys bullied me consistently, and other classmates joined in other times when they pleased. They punched me in the arm all at once from all angles until my arms were black and blue, they shoved me, and called me names like Chunker, Fat Boy, Penguin and Turtle. I tried walking away however they kept following me. I got so fed up and said “Leave me alone! Get away from me! What is your problem? What did I do to you to deserve this?” They wouldn’t have an answer. All they would say is You’re fat! This would go on for 20 minutes at a time since my teacher Mr. Hunt would always walk out. After a while I got so used to the pain I just wouldn’t feel it.
One time, I was in the change room just before gym, I was eating a granola bar, and four guys ran up to me like a pack of wolves, started punching me in the arm from all sides and knocked the bar out of my hand. I was furious! I wanted to stab them to death with a knife! I couldn’t even eat in peace. Is this a reason to put someone in such physical and emotional suffering, because they are fat? I had no friends to back me up. I was alone. I was depressed. I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t even want to live. I recall saying to my mom one day when watching a movie, “I wouldn’t be sad if I died.” At that age you don’t have faith that things will get better.
The other bad part of being bullied was the humiliation. I started becoming interested in girls in grade 8, and you want to look popular and cool in front of them. Instead of them looking at the guys like scum bags for what they did, they looked at them as cool and me as a geek. That put a dagger in my heart emotionally and ruined my self-esteem.
After going through all this physical and emotional pain, why didn’t I fight back? Looking back, I should have. However there were always at least two kids on me at once and I was worried they would beat me up worse if I fought back. I would push back, however they would gang up on me. Too bad I couldn’t beat them all up at once like Batman. One particular guy was the worst. Thomas. He was built like a truck. I would try pushing him back, however he was just too strong. I should have socked him in the face unexpectedly. Maybe then they would stop. Or maybe all his friends would gang up on me to beat me up. Who knows?
Above all, I should have told the teacher, or at least my parents. I didn’t tell my parents until nearly the end of the semester. The reason: I was worried that if I told on the kids, they would beat me up after school. I also thought the teacher wouldn’t care since he was so laid back.
I was wrong! One Tuesday afternoon near the end of the semester, my mom told Mr. Hunt everything. How did he react? He was furious. The next gym class, he told everyone to sit down in a circle. I was thinking, sweet, I know what this is about! Mr. Hunt shouted, “There are some people in this class that have been bullying and tormenting a student every day, and it is completely unacceptable! There is no reason for it! How do you think this guy feels coming to school every day?”
I sat there with a big smile on my face, finally justice was served! However it was too late since the semester was over in two more days. Why didn’t I tell the teacher earlier? I was kicking myself.
At the time I was being bullied, I said I didn’t want to live. However, over time my life got better. I graduated from university, now have a full time job, and live on my own. Also, I am here at Toastmasters sharing this speech with you, something I didn’t have the courage to do in high school. I have been a member for five years and accomplished more than I ever thought I would. I never thought that I could make it to a district contest and speak in front of 300 people. Although life is not always rosy peachy and I do get down sometimes and wish things were better, things are a lot better for me now than for the 13-year-old boy who got bullied every day in gym class. That is what keeps me ticking every day.
Some of you might not be able to relate to my story since you were never bullied, however how would you feel if you found out that your child is being bullied? Wouldn’t you want to eliminate it right away? I urge your child to not make the same mistake that I did. Encourage your kid to tell you if he/she is ever bullied, and contact the school immediately to end it. Your kid deserves to go to school and learn in a peaceful environment. Bullying has gone on for too long and must stop!