Trust, definition: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
My ability to trust was shattered early in life. Sure, my family of origin had a lot to do with that, but outside sources solidified it. Unless you’re homeschooled, which I was not, you will inevitably have to socialize with your peers. It’s easy enough in preschool and kindergarten, at least I presume so; I don’t remember that far back in my childhood. No, the memories started to take root for me in elementary school, around third or fourth grade. They get worse as they progress.
I was never a popular kid. Sure, I did my best to fit in, but all my efforts were often in vain. Due to my home life, I found it easier to keep to myself for the most part. Unfortunately, though, there were times when I was desperate for attention and would do things that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Either way, I was an easy target, and goodness, was I a target often. Bullies loved me. Again, this goes back to my family of origin; being abused at home made me the perfect victim. I never learned how to stand up for myself because I wasn’t allowed. Fighting back, whether with words or fists, was not something I knew how to do. Unfortunately, I would learn that words were worse than a punch.
Stage left, enter middle school—specifically seventh and eighth grade. I went to a completely different school for sixth, but I refuse to think about that awful, awful year. This school was supposed to be a fresh start for me: a new city, new teachers, new students, and none of the trauma from my previous school. For a while, it was. I made a few friends, joined concert band, and for the most part, felt safe. No one was cornering me in the bathroom or shoving me against lockers; it was all I wanted.
Finally, feeling some peace away from home, I did my best to be myself. I stayed out of trouble and had a couple of friends with whom I thought I was decently close. At least, I thought they were my friends. With my newfound peace, I started to think about boys and young love. I wanted what I saw in all those teen movies and TV shows; something beautiful and fun. Being a black girl at a PWI (predominately white institution), this was a lot harder than you would think. I’m not going to get into the specifics, as that would be another long story. I was interested in boys, those cute little emo ones, but they were not interested in me. So, I resolved to be a hopeless romantic without a chance at romance.
Then, one day, something odd happened. On what I assumed would be a typical day at school, I went to put my extra stuff in my locker. Out fell an intricately folded note. This was before texting, so note passing was always our primary mode of private communication. I found it odd only because my friends would give the notes directly to me; none of them would shove them through the slot in my locker. I picked it up quickly and opened it as fast as possible, reading it behind my locker door. At first, I couldn’t make sense of it; at the top, it said, “Hey babe,” but it wasn’t from my ‘boyfriend’ at the time. I had been dating this one guy, and we were the typical middle school boyfriend, girlfriend situation. You know, walking to class together and awkwardly hugging when we parted ways. He was friendly, and I’ll never forget that. However, he didn’t write notes, so I had no idea who this note was from.
The note was from a secret admirer who did not want to tell me his name and had zero ideas for spelling mine correctly. It was like the movies. Someone had been admiring me from a distance, and it excited me. I shared it with a couple of my friends, but they had no clue who it was from either. I agonized for days over who it could be but couldn’t pinpoint anyone. The note itself had a phone number; I don’t remember if I ever called it.
Over a few weeks, I got more notes from this ‘secret admirer,’ and at first, it was cute. Then it started to get weird. As I read the notes continually being placed into my locker, they began to make me uncomfortable. Now, whoever this person was, he was starting to talk about my body. I developed early, and unfortunately, I was a skinny girl with big boobs, which sucks in middle school. He kept talking about wanting to touch them, saying that my boyfriend had penis breath and ultimately was creepy. At that point, I wanted it to stop. So, I brought the notes to my parents, a bold move as they usually didn’t help me out when it came to bullying. I was surprised to find out they were genuinely concerned. My parents got the school involved since this had become stalking. They showed the notes I received, and the school went over the hallway security camera footage to find out who had been doing this to me.
When they called us back in for a meeting, it was the moment I learned that I couldn’t trust anyone. As it turns out, there was no ‘secret admirer,’ and I was stupid to believe that there was. Two girls, who I thought were my friends, had crafted this joke. Girls I had shared these notes with and trusted were the ones that wrote them. I was beyond hurt and confused. The only reason they ever gave was that they thought it was funny. That it was just a joke, and they didn’t intend to harm me. However, we all know it is not about the intent. It is about the effect. It ruined me. After it all, I avoided those girls as much as possible. I kept to myself and didn’t trust a single note passed my way. I was the butt of a joke and felt like I always would be. Weirdly, it made me miss the bullying at my old school. Taking a punch was much easier than this psychological warfare.
Eventually, I moved on to high school and forgot about the whole thing for a while. Now that I’ve started working on my trauma, I vividly remember this situation. All I can say is be careful what you do and how you treat people. You never know how it will affect them later in life. I still have trust issues, and I don’t make friends easily. It’s a process for me to know that someone who wants to be in my life doesn’t have ulterior motives. I wish it didn’t happen, but I have learned and grown from it. I’m not sure I can say the same about those girls.