Sunday, April 8, 2012


Recently at work I was sitting with some colleagues. Milo and Otis (names have been changed) were laughing amongst themselves about a funny email they had received. Herbie asked to be let in on the joke. Milo and Otis continued ignoring the requests until they finally said, "Sorry, this is just between us." Herbie left, feeling frustrated and like an outsider I am sure. They turned to me, let me in on the joke, and told me,"It's not a secret but we knew that would make Herbie mad (not to include him)." I gave a polite, awkward laugh, nodding knowingly. I guess I am an agreeable person.

I relayed this experience to a wise friend who said something like, "Good,  so you stuck up for Herbie." I was embarassed to say that no, I hadn't. In fact, I hadn't even thought of it. I felt ashamed. With all of this talk of bullying in the media, I would have thought I would have realized it when it was staring me straight in the face.

As a kid I was bullied. I don't think I thought of it in that way at the time but looking back, that is what it was. My twin sister and I were well liked in elementary school. We were quite the novelty, identical twins. Older kids would ask us in the bathroom, "Are you Erin or Amber?" People knew us as the "Jackson twins" and I felt we always had a notoriety about us. We switched schools in 5th grade to go to a special program. There were a few girls who were very unkind to us, the popular girls who were also the teacher's pets. I remember crying many days over (now seemingly) silly things like being excluded from kickball or being uninvited to a birthday party the whole class was going to. My sister and I often found solace in playing soccer with the boys or basketball with girls from other classes. Although there were only a few girls that were blatantly mean to us, I don't remember any one ever sticking up to them. No one ever left the kickball game to come play with us. No one ever said, no that mean thing isn't true, and in fact, they laughed or said mean things themselves. No one even left their sides. Everyone was too afraid that they would be unliked or that the wrath of these girls would be turned on them. They wanted to be liked by the popular girls (and I guess I did, too). Even into my adult life the feelings these girls inflicted upon me would come back, like when I would see one of the girls on campus, or when it turned out that she was marrying the one cute boy in my sister's ward in NC. Even when I moved to Iowa I had a sick feeling in my stomach when I saw one of the ring leader's friends here as an adult (which turns out she was super nice and wasn't maybe a great friend to that person, anyway).

So, I am sad to say, I didn't learn much from being bullied. As an adult there was a very small and simple act of bullying going on right in front of me. And just like all of the girls in my 5th grade class, when I had the opportunity to stick up for someone else, I shied away. Not only did I not say anything, but I even laughed (although timidly). It would have been so easy to say something even jokingly like, "What are we, in 5th grade again?" Or, "Wow, that was kind of rude, don't you think?"

One of my biggest frustrations about residency is feeling like a little kid again. Being constantly watched over, questioned about my motives or whether or not I am fulfilling my responsibilities. I have often said to myself, "Man, if I am not treated like an adult as a DOCTOR then when will I ever be treated like one?"

Looks like I still have a way to go.


Amber said...

It's always hard to know how to react to things as they happen. I know I often lack the wisdom (or courage) to know what to say as things happen. Most of the time I am caught off guard and don't process what's going on correctly until it's too late. I guess we just have to learn from it and teach ourselves what to do when it happens again. Odds are, you'll never let something like that go again.

Camber said...

Well put. It's amazing how even as adults high school and even elementary school stay with us. We still want to be liked, and included, and popular. And people still put each other down to make themselves feel better. And it's still hard for us to get the guts to do anything about it. I'm glad I didn't know this as a kid. I thought grown-ups just acted grown-up.

Tawnya said...

That is so frustrating. Being bullied as a kid is the worst. And not knowing what to do as an adult is almost as bad. But I bet now you are a little more aware for the next time.