(I love telling stories. It might be my favorite “style” of writing. It is, without a doubt, the stuff that most of my readers best respond to. This year, I want to tell you some stories about my past– about people who’ve made me who I am today. Some will be happy, some will be sad. Some you will find encouraging, some you will find maddening. But they all have one thing in common. They are all: People Who’ve Made Me Who I Am Today.)
I wrote a little bit about Jay before. Some of you might remember this story just a tad.
If you’ve not read that one, you really don’t need to bother. I’ll cover the key points again here. That was really an (expired) giveaway post, so I don’t want you to needlessly waste your time.
If you were to ask me, “JessieLeigh, would you go back in time, given the chance?”, the answer would be a vehement, “heck, no.” (Full disclosure– I may even use the other H-word. I really, REALLY wouldn’t want to go back.)
But here’s the thing. College? Was awesome. I truly had a blast there. I met my husband, formed friendships that last to this day, and got really good grades. Honestly, I really, really enjoyed those years. It’s just that they didn’t hold a candle to my current situation of husband and children.
High school, despite what anyone might say, was nowhere even CLOSE to “the best years of my life.” Goodness, I must confess I feel a little pity for anyone whose joy culminated at the tender age of 16. I really cannot imagine.
But– and hear me out– high school? Was PARADISE compared to junior high. Even though I had a good, solid group of friends (and was a stellar student), the junior high years were utter misery. I wouldn’t relive those for a large sum of money.
I credit a whole lot of that misery to Jay. That boy caused me to live in fear, shame, and timidity for a couple years of my life.
It started in sixth grade social studies class. Our teacher, Mr. Senecal, pointed out that U.S.Today had released an article that, apparently, confirmed that those who wore glasses really were more intelligent than those who did not. (I’m not here to debate the merits of this study– it’s just part of the story.) Anyway, I think he told us this to make those of us sportin’ the spectacles feel a little better.
I didn’t say anything, but I may have smiled. I glanced over at the boy to my left.
He sneered at me– me and my pink and blue (totally awesome) plastic-framed glasses.
“Ugly four eyes…” he muttered.
I dropped my gaze to my lap. Never mind that I had lived out my entire life hearing about how gorgeous my eyes were. Never mind that, were you to compare Jay and my grades as a basis, that study was unequivocally true.
In that moment, I was, simply, “Ugly Four Eyes.”
A mere year later, I waltzed into French class, happy as a lark. From day one, I took to foreign languages like a pig to mud. I loved them and they came to me ridiculously easily. I loved the feel of the words in my mouth, the musicality of the conversation, and the charm of having a “French name” to be called in class. “Gigi” had so much more flair than “Jess”!
Until the day I sat down and Jay asked me, “Hey Gigi– what’s with the moustache?”
My world came crashing down. I– this fair-skinned, blue-green-eyed, light-brown-haired girl– had just enough fine hairs on my upper lip to have caught the attention of my tormentor. And, make no mistake, he wasn’t going to let it go.
Eighth grade was more of the same.
I could largely avoid Jay in high school because, quite frankly, he couldn’t handle the classes I was in. Our school was large (about 1,200 students) and I didn’t have to see him if I didn’t want to. Slowly, I regained some confidence.
Still, after I had graduated from college, I was working in a local restaurant, tending bar. I was twenty-two years old, tall, blonde, and slim. I had no glasses and no “moustache” to speak of. A guy named Fred with whom I had gone to high school was waiting tables there that summer and, though we hadn’t been buddies “back in the day”, we were enjoying talking and laughing.
One day, a familiar face walked in the bar. Never mind that he was balding and his face was red and puffy. His belly was soft and had that beer-bloat look to it. Somehow, I didn’t see any of that at first– I just saw Jay.
And my stomach plummeted. I waited for the assault.
He looked me up and down and I braced for it. Yep, there was the leer…
“Hey, Fred– who’s the hottie at the bar?” I heard him ask.
Fred laughed, “Dude– that’s Jess. We went to school with her. She’s way out of your league…”
I was. But the thing is– I always had been. Not because I was slimmer or cuter or smarter or any of that– none of that would have mattered when all was said and done.
I was out of his league because I was, and always had been, kinder.
Jay taught how NOT to treat someone. Thanks, Jay.
Other people who’ve made me who I am: