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I was bullied for years in grade school...

I was bullied for years in grade school. Absolutely tormented. I wore a mullet.... not by choice, it was the only cut my mom knew how to give. We were poor, until we weren't anymore. My parents grew their own generational wealth by truly embracing hard work and perseverance. However, in the meantime my upbringing was as a poor kid. I lived in my Italian immigrant grandparents' house. They had turned their basement into a living space. We didn't really have much, my parents had to work multiple jobs each. So the last thing they were willing to spend money on was haircuts when my mom believed she was perfectly capable of mastering the task. So mullet it was.

Boy, did the kids have all the jokes. Hell, the teachers even laughed. You know you're getting bullied bad when even the school teachers join in. I was chubby too. And back in the 1990s, that was unacceptable. We didn't have the Kardashians, we had Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford. I came home from school and cried a lot. I would complain to my mom about how I was made fun of for my weight, my absolutely insane hairstyle (a fookin mullet bro), and my uncool clothes. Oh yeah, I dressed bad too for a period of time, in my life. What did an Italian mother do when her kid came home upset? She didn't do what I would do, which is fix the problems. I'm a doer. I see an issue and I fix it immediately. So, I would have taken chubby little me to the hairdresser, eating healthier, and dressing better too. But, there was the whole being poor thing. So what my mom did was feed me. She would give me ice cream. Which started my (past) unhealthy relationship with food. That took me years to resolve and I only fully mastered it this past year.

After years of being bullied, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I'm not the type of person who particularly likes to allow life to happen at me. I like to take charge of it, especially when I'm not fond of the trajectory. So, at the age of around 12 years old, I began my glow up. I became best friends with the coolest girl in school. She just moved into town from the city and she was everything. It was her energy that really did it for me. Then, I taught myself to eat healthier, after a bit of trial and error, I began my resistance to mom's haircuts, dyed my hair even blacker (not my hair that you know now because this is my natural hair color, I used to dye it blue-black back in the day lol, like an Archie character), became good at applying makeup, and started dressing better. That wasn't enough, however. I was almost 14 years old, looked fantastic and my social life was improving, but I needed more. I wanted to take it up all the notches. Loud. Leo loud. I set my eyes on, not just the most popular boy in school, but in the entire town. He just happened to be a Leo too.

It wasn't hard to snag the hot, popular boyfriend. He didn't know me before my glow up, so no preconceived judgements. I was skinny, young, also hot like him; my confidence was at an all-time high and I had an inflated ego. Energy was up. If a Leo lady wants a particular suitor, she gets them. And if she doesn't get him, it's because she doesn't want him. There's not many who are brave enough to pursue a Leo. I don't get (honest to goodness, legitimately, on par to my standards) pursued often at all; no one is tough enough for it. In fact, when someone does pursue, us Leos get quite amused, and enamored even, by it. Leos are picky lovers. I have only had three (yes only 3) serious partners in my entire life. Someone has to be special for me to let them in - I don't go picking anyone and everyone. So I was in hot pursuit. Playing it cool of course. Leos don't chase, we attract. So I let him think the whole thing was his idea. He was hooked. Then since he was hooked on me, I became hooked on him. There's nothing more attractive to a Leo than when someone worships them; that energy was irresistible. We became obsessed with each other and it was intense, especially at such a young age.

We were so attractive alone, but together, wow. Everyone wanted us, but they quickly learned, that wasn't a smart idea. We fought for each other. No one could break it, no one could get in, no one could get our attention - we were in our own little world. We went out and people stared. It was big d energy... two Leos. Everything from our physiques to the way we dressed - it was a performance, we were putting on a show. But we didn't go out much, we became homebodies and just spent most of our time like two lions, laying around loving on each other. We became known for being this unbreakable couple - no one even dared flirt with either of us; everyone knew we were both crazy. We were ride or die for each other. Early on in the relationship, when we were tested, we passed. In very dramatic ways. People became too afraid to even approach.

I was no longer getting bullied. I was a part of the "in crowd" now. Not only did I have a huge friend group which evolved from having a cool and popular best friend for a while now, I also had my boyfriend's crew. So after years of this, I secured my energy and status. The relationship between me and my Leo boyfriend intensified. We had a pregnancy scare. He became insanely jealous. I was young and I didn't necessarily want to be so tied down. He was a little older than me. He started telling me how to dress. The vibe was like, "dress slutty but just for me", which is an impossible task. I had to keep changing out of my clothes throughout the day or sneaking to wear cute clothes to school. The vibe started to get weird. I was meeting a lot of new friends in high school, and because he was so popular, he found out right away. His friends were snitches. "Guess who I saw Katie talking to in the hall?", stuff like that. Ask me nicely, and I'll do anything you want. Tell me what to do... not so much.

He started putting his hands on me, and that began the end of this whole thing. I could deal with the jealousy, because it was kinda hot, but don't hit me. Now we were known to be that couple. The ones who argue in public. How cringy. August Leos are calm, we wait for the storm and are ready for when it comes, but chill vibes when we don't need to be on guard. I'm an August Leo; real laid back. He just happened to be a July Leo. Big beautiful lion heart but no chill whatsoever. The last straw was one day when we were walking, and arguing, and we stopped in the middle of the street to yell at each other. He pushed me. I pushed him back. He was shocked. I never defended myself. He stood there dumbfounded. Then he pushed me again and I pushed him back again. He was so pissed. We stood there in the street and just glared at each other. All this fiery, Leo energy. Then we both turned around and walked away from each other. He actually turned around first; he knew he was no match for an angry lioness. I didn't look back. Guarantee he didn't either. After years of dating, being best friends, wearing the promise ring, physical intimacy every single day, we both walked away and never spoke to each other ever again. Like it never even happened.

The entire town was shocked. We were definitely on track to be married right out of high school. Dunzo. At least now I never had to worry about being bullied ever again. In high school and college I was friends with everyone. In every group. People would joke around and call me, The Mayor. At lunch I sat with a different group everyday. Some days for lunch I'd go off for a drive with the "stoners" for a hotbox sesh (if I went to school wearing my Limp Bizkit t-shirt with a long sleeve underneath, a pair of cargo pants and my vans, you knew exactly where I was spending my lunchtime that day - I liked to dress in a different "genre" each day, still do now). I was in theater, so sometimes I hung with the theater kids; but I spent so much time with them after school, working on the town's public access show, on weekends, and for performances, so usually I spent school lunch making other friends. One day I would sit with the "jocks and cheerleaders"... and I sat with the "geeks" a lot because that's where I fit in the best. I stuck up for anyone getting bullied and a lot of bullying actually stopped happening because me and my core friend group did this whole befriending thing. Not only was I in drama club, but I joined Students Against Drunk Driving, Student Government, Chess Club, Choir, various sports, you name it. I was so busy all the time, and always double or triple booked. But I needed it for the yearbook and to get into my dream college. I forgot, I was on the yearbook committee too.

In college, I joined a sorority and focused on philanthropy and helping people. I have, and always will, stand up for the underdog. I know how it feels to be the loser, and never want anyone to feel unwanted or unloved. Everyone is special and important. Every single person matters, in this world. You matter so very much. I hope that you know that, and just in case you don't realize it, or don't hear it often enough, you are so incredibly loved. Your existence is for a purpose - it almost always has to do with being of service; leaving this place better than you found it. Take your pain and use it as a tool, to help someone else. Did someone hurt you? How did it feel? Make sure not to do it to anyone else, and take it one step further by acting as a protector for anyone that has less of a voice than you do. Use what you have - your talents and gifts, to spread a positive message in this society. Trust me, the world needs it. Now more than ever.

Like the famous words of Steve Rogers in the MCU: "I Don't Like Bullies. I Don't Care Where They're From." The Cap' is my favorite comic book character of all time, by the way.

And for now, the Dirty Vegan is signing off - be a cool kid and go sit with a nerd today.


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