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I was rather small and skinny, and because of this, I had been dumped into toilets, locked into lockers, pushed around, called names, and I was finished with it. No one was going to bully me anymore. That is how I felt in the fifth grade, when for years I had been subjected to torment by my larger peers.

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Madrona Elementary was a non-graded school, which meant that we never received a grade, but only a “pass” or “fail.” It is a progressive approach to education, but the playground and the halls were not as modern as one might expect. The issue of bullying still abounded. Perhaps even more so, with troubled children coming to the school to find an easier footing in the Washington state educational system. Though I had been bullied for as long I could remember, it never stopped. Pacifism had not done its purported job.

On my birthday in the fifth grade, I got a basketball from my mother. Basketball was my favorite sport, though I was short. I loved watching the theatrics and the intense pace of the game. Sometimes there was nothing better than going to a hoop and shooting baskets and dribbling around. It was a type of therapy for me.

The day after my birthday, I brought my basketball to school. I wanted to shoot some hoops during recess. After only a few shots, a big kid came up to me and snatched the ball away from me with strong force. At that moment, something surged within me. It was a rage I had never known. It must have been cultivating within me through the years of bullying and mocking. Without a thought, I punched the kid in the face as hard as I could. It seemed like an uncontrolled force made me do it—purely out of instinct. All the pain and shame I felt powered my punch, and knocked the kid down into a crying fit.

The principal called my mother in a calm voice and informed her of my actions. My mother seemed indifferent about it, and thought it was best that I fought back. I think she was right, because after this fight, no one bothered to bully me again, until middle school. But that is another story.

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