“I know that I am not supposed to be perfect; I am just supposed to be myself and be happy with who I am”
I had a very difficult time starting this project, but I guess the best way is to just be who I am. I am a storyteller, and here is my story.
Although I was born in St. Louis, MO., my family and I moved to Costa Rica in Central America when I was just 5 days old. My younger years were wonderful because we lived on a farm and my best friends were my brothers and sisters. As the youngest kid in my family, I was often teased and picked on. But it was okay, because at the end of the day, my older brother, John, would always play with me and make sure I was included in everything.
When I started school, things began to change. My brothers and sisters were very popular and no longer played with me, so I was forced to find friends of my own. I had a hard time because I looked and sounded different than the other Costa Rican kids. I was light-skinned with an accent, and to make things worse, I struggled with a speech impediment. Looking back, I was made fun of a lot, but bullying wasn’t a word we used. Kids could tease you and no adults would come to your rescue.
One time, when I was 10 years old, I recall a group of girls pulling me into the bathroom and calling me names like “fat, ugly, and dumb.” Then they told everyone that I had head lice and no one would play with me, not even my sister.
If I complained about being teased, teachers, parents and other children would tell me to just stand up for myself; bullying was not a concept we spoke about. Also, being teased really only happened at school, so I could go home and get away from it all since social media didn’t exist. Eventually, I learned to make friends, and, at times, stand up for myself.
Then, when I was 16, we moved back to St. Louis, and again I was different. Because I didn’t speak English, I found it difficult to make friends. Although my school taught English as a second language, I had a hard time learning it. It took me a long time, but finally I was able to find someone who was just like me, Sandra. Sandra and I became the best of friends throughout all four years of high school; even today we still have each other’s back.
My life has not been easy, but I do my best to make it. By this, I mean that I have always had a hard time adjusting to new places and making friends. I still have a strong accent, but that, and my speech impediment, has not stopped me. I made my dream of becoming a police officer come true, but only after a lot of hard work.
When I started training, I was out of shape so I had a difficult time running. I stayed late every night and ran through my lunch time to make sure I qualified in the time limit. I also worked on my English because you need to write well and speak well as a police officer. I achieved my goal and became a Deputy Sheriff 15 years ago because I wanted to help people. I also wanted to fight crime and put bad guys in jail.
Today, bullying is a well-known concept. But I worry that the younger generation cannot escape it anymore because bullying doesn’t stop once you leave school. Social media carries cyber bullying everywhere and it’s hard for kids to unplug. The best advice I can give is to simply turn it off; walk away from your devices and talk to someone. You can tell your parents, a teacher, or anyone that will listen if you are being bullied. Today, everyone takes it much more seriously.
As I grew up, I realized that I am not perfect. I am overweight, short, and I still have a strong accent. But I know that I am not supposed to be perfect; I am just supposed to be myself and be happy with who I am. Look for the best in people, especially yourself, and don’t let bullies get you down.
Cpl. Jessica J. Hammond
Officer Friendly Pasco County Sheriff’s Office