Well, today something really weird happened: I went back to high school. Now this is not the first time I’ve visited my alma mater, but it always feels strange walking the halls without obsessing over a future homework assignment. I feel a bit like a lurker half the time as I linger around classrooms, waiting for beloved teachers to have a free moment.
But today I ran into a not-so beloved teacher.
In fact, I can confidently say that this specific person made my life a living hell. For those of you familiar with my autobiography, you’ll recognize her as “Ms. T” . . . for those of you who haven’t read it, I believe I described her as a cross between Cruella De Vil and the devil.
I still stand behind that statement.
This woman told me that nobody liked me. That I had no friends. That I was immature. That even my other teachers didn’t enjoy having me in class.
This woman glared at me every single day. To the point that another student turned it into a game. He would say, “Hey Marni!” just to see how long it would take her to rebuke me.
This woman booted me out of a team photograph because I was the only person who hadn’t won an award. She made me stand awkwardly (fighting back tears) while everybody else smiled for the camera.
This woman even left me behind in a Fred Meyers in Forest Grove, Oregon. At night. And she didn’t realize I was missing until I called her from the store. She also didn’t bother getting on the bus to pick me up. She left the task of retrieving one thoroughly petrified high school freshman to the team co-captains.
So, yeah, you could say I’m not her biggest fan.
Something I made pretty clear when I wrote my autobiography. But even though Ashland is a small town, I hadn’t crossed paths with “Ms. T” since Marni was released.
I was waiting outside my AP U.S. teacher’s room when she appeared from her lair . . . I mean, classroom. Maybe I looked suspicious, since I was just listening to my music and walking in circles to pass the time.
Regardless, she asked if I needed something and I explained that I was waiting for Mr. H and I think that’s when recognition kicked in.
She asked if she could have a minute to speak with me. The last time we had a private chat it began with the aforementioned string of insults and ended with me sobbing hysterically into the phone as I begged my mom to pick me up from school (I was too emotionally devastated to walk up my hill. That may sound overdramatic, but it’s the truth).
So I wasn’t exactly bubbling over with enthusiasm at the thought of another heart-to-heart, even eight years later.
But I couldn’t help wondering what she was going to say. I knew that she had heard about my autobiography and I braced myself for a lecture. For the showdown of the century.
But instead she said that she heard about the book and that other people told her it was all lies . . . so she hadn’t bothered to read it. And then she said: I truly hope, from the bottom of my heart, that someday you realize none of it happened.
Which is laughable really. I mean, for starters: somebody told her that what I wrote about a private conversation between the two of us was a lie?
Um, how would anybody know that?
Then there’s that one other pesky little detail, what was it again? Oh right.
I told the truth. The whole truth. And nothing but the truth.
Then there was that other funny part. You know, where she says none of it actually happened. Really? Because I’m pretty sure it did. I know I’ve got a good imagination but I tend to have a very accurate memory. Just like I remember talking with other kids “Ms. T” has singled out to destroy over the years.
They all had similar experiences to mine, actually.
So . . . no. I don’t think there is anything wrong with my memory.
But that didn’t stop her from yammering on about how she wished me nothing but the best and how she really hoped, for my sake, that someday I would realize how wrong I was.
Here’s the cool part: I didn’t care.
All that power she had over me in high school was gone. It was as if she had snared me with an Imperious curse and it wasn’t until now that I could see beyond it. She went from being, quite literally, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (or less formally, You-Know-Who) to being just a woman.
Do I still think she’s probably a horrible person who continues to emotionally abuse some of her students?
Do I wish the school administration had taken action when I told them exactly what I had experienced?
I know what you’re thinking:
But the funny part is that if it hadn’t been for her, I never would have become an author. The whole reason I started writing in high school was because I needed a way to process all the toxic things she had said/done to me. I needed an outlet, a way to transform real life into something more bearable.
And here I am.
She no longer has power over me. She doesn’t grade my work and she certainly can’t get away with telling me that nobody likes me. I mean, theoretically, she could . . . but I would laugh in her face. I’m not that petrified young girl now. I don’t have to answer to her. Frankly, the only person I still have to answer to is my own conscience, which does a pretty god job of steering me in the right direction.
So hopefully my inner demons will be as easy to vanquish as this particular outer demon.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with bullying, high school bloodsuckers, or power struggles. Actually, I’d love to hear whatever you want to share! So I hope you’ll leave a comment below. I think hearing other people’s struggles can really help people (especially those whom are currently struggling with a nasty hellbeast) feel less alone.