Have you ever been judged? Have you ever heard the words: “You are so fat! What happened?” Have you ever felt ashamed of who you are because of someone’s actions or words? Well I have.

I am only twenty years old and I feel as if I have lived for a hundred. I have dealt with and thought of things that have shaped me into the person I am today and I must say I am glad of the mistakes and choices I have made. These choices have helped me see this world in a different light.

But it was never like this before. It all started on the first day of High School. I remember it as if it happened a couple of hours ago. I was what we call a “legend”. By legend, I mean the second generation of the Mabasa’s daughters to go to Shangri-La Academy in Kempton Park.

It was January 18th 2010. The school office was small and under construction. Matric prefects surrounded the gate, waiting to greet new and existing students of the Academy. These girls were dressed in knee-length grey pencil skirts, white shirts, black court heels, a gold and blue tie and to finish the look, a blue blazer with gold braid around it. The look screamed importance and elegance. I loved it and being a prefect for the uniform was one of the items I made a mental note of on my list of High School achievements that I had to accomplish.

I walked down the corridor that was painted cream with pin up boards showing pictures of the Grade R-3’s fun and exciting creativity skills, but one board caught my attention: NO BULLY ZONE was written all over the board in a bright red colour. I took a moment to absorb and process the words and pictures. I knew I would feel safe and protected in this school.

Being the only one from my primary school who moved to Shangri-La, I had no friends, but I had intended on making them and honestly speaking, it was the hardest thing I had to do. Everyone knew each other because they were all in Shangri-la’s primary phase, so for them it was just a new year in a higher grade and to walk around with the “big kids”. For me it was a new experience. A new and frightening experience.

Time went by and I made ‘friends’ that I adored, but didn’t understand, but that didn’t stop me from trying to understand their colloquial language. By putting all my attention on my friends and my reputation of being sweet but not too revealing, I neglected my studies and failed the first year of High School and I had to repeat Grade 8.

I was devastated and angry and needed mental, spiritual, emotional strength and support from my friends and family. I got the vaguest version of support from my friends. They would send text messages one day and gossip about me the next. When I found out that I was the joke of the Grade, I felt ashamed of myself. I felt so small that even if I could make a wish to shrink to the size of an ant, I would still be seen and judged for failing what people considered the easiest grade of High School.

I felt lost and alone, but meanwhile I was surrounded by twenty-five people. I pretended to ignore the comments but it only made it worse. I wanted to change schools but it didn’t make sense for me to do that because I wouldn’t be facing and learning how to conquer the obstacles that life had thrown in front of me. So, I stayed but promised myself that I would change and that I would not judge those around me because I knew just how it felt. I would never want anyone to feel the pain and torture I felt in high school.

Due to the changes I made in High School, I became a prefect, not only for the uniform but so that people who felt small would never have to face the situation all by themselves. I made sure that they knew they could depend on me for whatever it was they needed.

Therefore, in conclusion, I want to say that judging others might seem insignificant to the one judging, but to the one being judged, it becomes a small hill that builds up to a huge portal of insecurities, depression, anger and later bullying. So, I’m glad I figured this out in my school career and I’m glad that I was bold enough to decide that I wanted a change, not only for me but also for those around me.