I still flinch when Somebody calls me a Witch.
The power of speech.
When I was in school, I never had problems with getting good grades.
In elementary school, that made me the baddest bitch, everybody liked me and wanted to be like me. There was no need for other traits, my intelligence made me popular and likable.
Then, fifth grade arrived and so did secondary school. I got out of my village into a grammar school in the city, with new people. People that slowly started going through puberty. That was when intelligence wasn’t enough for finding friends.
I had never actually learned how to socialise before. On the one hand, I was used to everyone telling me how amazing I was because of my amazing grades, and on the other hand I was used to my parents telling me „what would the others think of this and that“ whenever I did something unusual. Apart from the grades, of course.
Long story short: I was arrogant. And as soon as I learned that my academic knowledge wasn’t everything that defined me as a person, I became submissive to my classmates. I wanted to please them and I didn’t know how.
And kids are mean to other kids, which made me the „nerd“, the „freak“.
Bullying started. At first, it was a bit funny. I was okay with that. If they made jokes but still liked me, it would be okay. I didn’t complain, I didn’t tell my parents.
The bullying peaked in seventh grade. Suddenly, it was not-so-subtle anymore as it had been before. I forgot most of it by now, but this one thing is stuck deeply in my consciousness and does not seem to leave me, no matter how hard I try. No matter how much time passes.
It’s been seven years now. So much has happened. I finished school, I started studying. My father died. My cousins started getting children. I learned how to make friends and I’ve made the most supportive and uplifting friends I could ever imagine.
It’s been seven years now and I still flinch when somebody calls me a witch, directly or indirectly. Of course never knowingly or on purpose.
We were on lunch break, my group of friends and I. Yes, there were friends, most of them still are friends to me. We had fun, we joked, we laughed.
One of my friends pointed out that when I smiled broadly, my nose looked crooked, like the nose of a witch. It was a joke, she was feeling herself, we laughed it off but I started covering my face with my hands whenever somebody told a joke and I was afraid I would laugh.
I don’t know how he had found out, maybe he had simply had the same thoughts as her, maybe she told him in order to be the funny girl. When the right moment came, of course in front of his friends, of course in front of the boy I liked and wanted to please most, it happened.
He, the boy who had always picked on me, who had made fun of me since fifth grade, took the chance.
We were arguing already. I was angry and he was too. That’s when he told me:
„You are such a witch. An ugly, antisocial witch.“
Since then, that’s what I was.
It’s been seven years and writing this down makes my eyes wet and my stomach ache.
It’s been seven years and I am grown up, I have grown out of this. I am a different person.
It’s been seven years and when I talk to somebody, to a friend, and they say something along the lines of „burn the witch!“ when I speak my mind or know something unusual, I flinch.
I go numb, my stomach aches, my brain pauses for a moment.
It’s been seven years, I tell myself.
It’s not supposed to hurt anymore, I can’t help but think to myself.
And even seven years have not healed the wounds that these words left inside of me. The wounds my grief over my dead father left didn’t swallow the wounds that were cut when I was thirteen years old.
And I know there are worse kinds of bullying and suffering in this world and I try to talk myself out of this and still I remain shocked about what words can do.
They always say that words can cut deeper than any knife and by now, I believe them.
And you should, too.
I don’t want you to pity me. These experiences somehow still define me and make me the self-aware and social person I am now. There’s something else I want.
I want you to take care of your speech.
Please, choose your words carefully.
Don’t make people flinch after all these years.