If you visited my high school website, the first thing you would probably notice is the picture displaying several buildings surrounded by a huge campus. The text below is supposed to be a summary of the school's philosophy and goals, in other words "helping students of different races and nationalities to understand and appreciate each other". Such a task becomes a "reality" thanks to the "highly qualified teachers" who have managed to create a "happy and challenging environment".

Everything, the website and the school itself, looks nice, modern, well kept and professional, but reality goes far beyond appearance. The whole website seems a poor marketing technique, designed to impress the reader: whoever wrote that text has either never visited the school or is totally blind to the facts.

I first entered the school just on time to start 11th grade. I didn't know anyone, since we had recently moved from another city; it wasn't the first time we had to move, so I was quite used to entering a new school and doing my best to blend in, however I couldn't help feeling alone, and lost. My classmates decided to ignore me right from the start. If I sat next to someone, they would pretend I wasn't there. Nobody sat next to me in class, unless no other seat was available. If I asked a question, they wouldn't answer. As soon as I got close, people just walked away. I started to feel like an outcast, and that hurt. It hurt a lot.

I have never believed the "ignore them and they will stop" attitude to be beneficial; I guess I was just searching for a reason. One of those rare days the class was crowded and one of my classmates was unlucky enough to have to sit next to me, I asked him why I was getting that treatment. He kind of waited until a group had circled us like a satanic cult, and replied "What treatment are you talking about? I think you are deeply paranoid". I told him "And I think you are a coward, because you don't have the guts to answer unless you are surrounded by a crowd willing to back you up". Rumors about that incident spread around at light speed, but the guy involved decided it would be better to say I had insulted him for no reason, and that's why he replied the way he did. My side of the story couldn't be told, since nobody would listen.

I had hoped my question to change my situation, and it did. Subtle, gradual changes turned my stay in that school into a slow descent into hell. Soon enough, I was no longer being ignored, I was being sneered at; at times I was even offered to join conversations just to be made fun of. My looks, my opinions, everything I liked or cared for was constantly belittled. Money was stolen out of my pocket as I was having lunch, my hair was burned "as a joke" on the school bus, my name was being carved on desks and associated to the most disgusting insults they could come up with. If I ever made a comment, or answered a question in class, everybody would laugh or roll their eyes. The favorite pastime became making up rumors about me, adding new details every time. Someone decided to write on my yearbook the real goal of the school: "Piss off" -- anonymous, of course.

I had already been bullied when I was in 5th grade (that's another story, anyway), but although I was no longer beaten up, this time the situation was even worse. When I was 10 I was being slapped, punched and kicked by a kid who was bigger and stronger than I was. This time, there wasn't a tormentor, there were five, or ten, or a dozen. I was ready to confront an individual but there was no way to confront a sneering crowd. There is no way to defend yourself when everybody is shouting, laughing or picking on you at the same time. Whatever was being done to me, was being done anonymously or collectively.

At this point, you must ask yourself where the teachers were. Well, our "highly qualified" staff was basically a bunch of useless individuals, who just didn't care, didn't mind or didn't give it a single thought. With very few exceptions, my teachers never tried to stop the bullying, and some even encouraged it.

I had to stay two years in that hellhole. I am sure that, had I arrived earlier, I would have lost my sanity.

To be honest, I can't say the whole school took part in my tormenting, but definitely no one did anything to stop it, or to get to know me. It was like a subliminal message, whoever befriended me would have probably got the same treatment. To this day, I still ask myself WHY.

After my graduation, I was being regularly mailed a load of hypocritical crap called Alumni Newsletter. One of the greatest features were the comics drew by the guy who had called me paranoid, and guess who he was making fun of! I suddenly discovered I could take no more, and I sent a letter to everyone who was in charge of the newsletter, as well as the headmaster, telling them in every painful detail what a horrible, torturous and dreadful experience I had thanks to the school "philosophy".

The ending is (almost) happy, since after that I was never mentioned again in the damned comics. I don't receive the newsletter anymore, since I've moved long ago, and I would have set myself on fire rather than giving them my new address.

When I left that school never to return again, I was left to pick up the pieces of my life and deal with the aftermath. I don't know why it has affected me so deeply. I was out of there, forever, I had been to hell and back, I was finally into the real world, starting a new life, making new, real friends, but I couldn't help feeling ugly, stupid, worthless and unlovable. It was like being programmed to think so.

Step by step, I learned to be happy again, and now I don't consider myself a loser anymore. I still have to struggle to sort out my feelings though. Honestly, I don't wish any harm to my former classmates, but if I found out any of them is having a bad time, I would think justice is being served. I am unlikely to be informed anyway, since I have had no contact with them for the last seven years. I still dream of unexpectedly joining a reunion within a number of years, to freeze the hypocritical smile they will glue on their faces to greet me, and to discovered how many of them have become losers in real life.

If you had similar experiences, you have probably been advised to "get over it" hundreds of time. I think it is possible to do it, but it takes an awfully long time to heal.

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