Life is filled with wonder
The birthday present I most wanted at age 14 was bruise-free arms, because when I was in school, kids would punch your arms with their knuckles as you walked by.
Recent news about similar bullying these days haunts me now. I used to wish someone had just told me that life would get better.
Kids thought I wasn't athletic enough. Many of them now probably couldn't do the more than 200 sit-ups (split into four sets) that I do each time I work out. They couldn't have known that diabetes led me to decide against trying out for football.
Terror filled me on gym class days, because I knew ridicule waited. I would force myself down the hall to gym class despite near panic — which I now recognize was a demonstration of bravery.
Some adults still think it's OK to spew blame, ridicule and rudeness disguised as humor. But I learned to surround myself with people who are not bullies (which gets easier with age).
At 14, I was a good kid who loved the family dog, collected fossils, went snow skiing, coaxed aquarium fish to produce minnows and would grow to enjoy the Minnesota Ice Hawks and drive a Chevy pickup. But kids who relentlessly attacked me verbally and sometimes physically never knew that.
The junior high bullying became so unrelenting that I seriously contemplated suicide — at age 14.
Since that day, I got a college degree, my daughter was born and she has blossomed into a beautiful adult. Lifelong friends have appeared. My dad and I went to an accessible fishing camp in Ely several times before he died, my mom and I talk daily and I have a great career as a health reporter.
I have seen black bears in Minnesota with my dad, and I've seen millions of pink flamingos in Kenya and drank juice fresh from a coconut. Even the simplest thing, such as a warm, sunny day, makes me glad I'm still here.
Life is filled with wonder. I want kids and young adults to know what I didn't: If you're being picked on, it will get better eventually.