Certain upperclassmen came off as severely intimidating. Whether through their reputation or actual actions, there were those select few I avoided making eye contact with while passing. However, despite my size and hesitance, I never got beaten up or bullied. I am now a junior and rarely feel unsafe in school. This could be because one of my best friends, Sara, is someone others may classify as a "bully." Most people in my school think twice before messing with me when they hear she "has my back."
I first met Sara the summer after my freshman year when I went to camp with my youth group. I was so excited to go tubing, wakeboarding, hang out with my friends, and be free from my daily routine for a week. With almost a hundred kids boarding the bus, I only recognized a few faces and was slightly put off by the older kids sitting in the back few rows. It is so easy to judge someone as soon as you meet them; to automatically assume things that aren't true and to decide instantaneously if they are worth your time.
As a straight-edge freshmen, I shied away from the outspoken, tattooed senior named Sara who clearly didn't take words from anyone. However, as the week progressed I found myself not only hanging out with her more and more, but actually liking her. In the controlled environment of camp, with no social cliques or high school dramas, I was given the opportunity to get to know the person behind the reputation. Not only was this so-called "bully" caring and loving, but she was giving me great advice and taking care of me as a big sister would. The piercing, tattoo, and sarcastic wit were all masking a caring spirit.
I often see girls' eyes bulge when Sara picks me up from school. These same girls seem to think twice about walking into youth group when they see her sitting there. It's funny because I no longer see Sara in that light. Her outer appearance of an edgy, intimidating, bully has faded away as I have gotten to know the person inside--a person who developed a tough edge to protect herself from being hurt by a pretty rough upbringing. Once you get past the façade, people are surprised to find that this is a girl who is concerned with my happiness, worries about my well-being, and calls just to check in on me. She is the one who will drop everything and take me out for ice cream when I have had a bad day or will listen to me vent about any issue that may be on my mind.
What I've learned from my friendship with Sara is to look below the surface and keep an open mind. I know there are real bullies in schools who try to intimidate you and crush your spirit, but I also know that beneath a tough exterior there often lurks a real person who is looking for a friend.