Don’t peak at high school

For kids who are bullied, high school can be seriously awful. No longer contained to the hours of 9 to 3, the attacks – or ostracism – can continue into the evening via social media. But as various, successful Australians – like Megan Washington – have proven, these difficult experiences can propel you to great things.

In her book Don’t Peak at High School, writer and comedian Fiona Scott-Norman, herself bullied in high school, haDon't Peak at High Schools collected the stories of people like writer and ex-Triple J host Marieke Hardy, actor/director/playwright Brendan Cowell and writer/performer Charlie Pickering. These and others were, for a time, the outcasts at school. They all say they would not be where they are today without those difficult, often frightening, early experiences. That’s not to say that anyone wishes they were the victim of bullying. But this book is a serious shot of inspiration for the teenager who has found themselves at the bottom of the social barrel.

One of the most poignant stories comes from musician and songwriter Megan Washington. She has won awards for her songwriting and was ARIA’s 2010 best Female Artist and Breakthrough Artist. Her 2010 album, with band Washington, went platinum, and she has performed at the Big Day Out. Despite those very cool credentials, Megan will tell you her high school years were hell.

Following is an excerpt of Megan’s story from Fiona Scott-Norman’s Don’t Peak at High School.

By Megan Washington:

When I was younger I was always very changey, a chameleonic kind of person, but I couldn’t make it work at this school. All the kids were rough. Rough. And I’d never experienced physical danger before. One girl on the same softball team was really bad. I mean, I was sporty, I wasn’t a nerd. But she used to just throw the softball at me, aim it into me.

“It made no sense, because a year before I’d been totally normal. And now I stank, and had a fat pig mother, and … I couldn’t understand.”

When I arrived at school in the morning people would throw their bags at me, and food at me, and call me bad names, and then we’d go into class. No one would sit with me because apparently I stank. And I wasn’t to answer any questions, because that was to draw attention to myself, you know, so I never put my hand up because then everyone would look at me and remember that they hated me. So I’d get through class somehow, usually by ignoring everything, and then there’d be morning tea. I’d take my morning tea and find places to just walk, usually to the primary school area where the others weren’t.

It made no sense, because a year before, in PNG, I’d been totally normal. Normal! At that school everybody liked me, I had friends, we hung out and did stuff, and now I stank, and had a fat pig mother, and … I couldn’t understand.

I thought once I went to a different school it would be okay, but when I got to Year 8 it was all f***ed again. The difference was the bullying was now no body, all brain.

I was short and chubby and awkward and had braces, but I was in the popular girl group. I can see now I was only there as the comic relief, they kept me in the group for sport. They all had names like Cheryl and Candace and Vanessa, and at the time I thought they were my friends.

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