By Barbara Burgett
My friends are like a beautiful garden. They are the flowers that fill my life with color and beauty. I recently received three text messages from three different friends within an hour of each other. One friend wanted to go to a play with me, the other wanted to go out to dinner, and the other friend wanted to go for a walk. As I looked at these messages, I thought, how lucky I am and how things have changed since I was younger.
When I was little, I did not have many friends. I was bullied unmercifully all the way up to high school. My worst year was fifth grade. Every morning, as I sat at my desk waiting for class to begin, four girls would surround me and criticize me. They would taunt me, saying they hated my pants, socks, name and face. You name it, and it was spewed at me on a daily basis.
The hatred thrown at me at school still resonates with me to this very day. No matter how much I accomplish, I still have that little voice that tells me I’m no good and I don’t deserve anything. I have buried this voice, but in some situations it still haunts me.
One time in fifth grade, a popular girl asked me to play on the playground after school. I was so excited. I thought that maybe someone will be my friend, but she just kept me on the playground until her older friend came out so the girl could beat me up. Apparently someone said something mean about this older girl’s mother and she thought it was me. I had never even heard the word before, much less said it.
Middle school brought the same angst. By the time I got to high school, I had two good friends. Then in my sophomore year, the one friend didn’t want me in the group and kicked me out of our friendship circle. I was crushed.
As I left high school, I knew it was time to start over. I needed to clear my garden and pull the weeds. The dirt was plowed and I needed to start gathering flowers to make my garden beautiful. Because of my shyness, I had to learn to come out of my shell and meet new people. In the beginning, some of the conversations were very awkward. I would get tongue-tied and stumble over what I should say. Other times, I would blurt out something that had nothing to do with whatever we were talking about.
I eventually got better. I left the corner of a room to socialize with people. I used to hide behind other people when I entered a building or a room. Having been bullied, I didn’t want to bring attention to myself when I entered an area. Now I enter a room or a building on my own. I sometimes hesitate, but I realize that nothing bad will happen to me.
As I started meeting more people, my garden grew and so did I. I found I liked everyone. I am always able to find the good in each and every person I meet. This is why my garden is so colorful. I have friends in all walks of life and I love them all equally.
As my garden grew, I found that there were some friends who were annuals and others who were perennials. There were a few I had to prune because they were making my garden unhealthy. I now have a full, beautiful garden and one I treasure. My friends bring color, laughter and joy to my life. I hope I give them as much happiness as they bring me.
Barbara Burgett, of Buffalo, overcame shyness and childhood taunting.