Star Trek has always been a huge part of my life, particularly during my childhood years. I started watching TNG, my favorite show, when I was seven, and at first it was just a show I loved and enjoyed watching with my family, but that changed when I started being bullied at school. It went from being a show I loved to a show that got me through some of the darkest years of my childhood, beginning with fourth grade and continuing into high school.
Fourth Grade was my first year at my district’s 4th-5th grade school. It was a horrible year when I didn’t fit in at all. Over the summer most of my classmates decided it was time to start acting grown-up and cool, but unfortunately I didn’t get the memo. I tried to fit in, but I was a nerdy kid who wore Winnie the Pooh overalls, still watched Sesame Street, and was a huge Star Trek fan. Classmates thought I was weird and many of them avoided me. They didn’t want to sit near me and avoided me at recess. Even close friends didn’t want to be around me. One of them walked to school with me, but when we got there she would run away before she was seen with me. By the end of the year I spent recess standing alone by the fence, because no one wanted to play with me.
My only good memory from this time was watching the third season of TNG. My favorite moment was Tasha Yar’s return in “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” I loved Tasha so much I pretended she was my mother, so seeing her again made me so happy. Worf’s dis-commendation in “Sins of The Father” was an unforgettable moment, and I now realize it’s because, like Worf, I was also rejected by my own community. And of course there’s “The Best of Both Worlds!” The ending freaked me out so much I spent the entire summer worrying about Captain Picard instead of worrying about school, which was a great relief after the terrible year I had.
My sixth grade year was equally dreadful. On the first day of school I wore a black and white outfit I was quite proud of, but when I got to the bus stop kids pointed and laughed at me. One person stuck his head out the bus window and yelled “You’re all grown up now!” in front of everyone. Eventually the bus-stop taunting got so bad that I stopped riding the bus and instead walked 4 miles (6 kilometers) to school, even during New England snowstorms. At school, classmates constantly made fun of my weight and my acne. I was called “ugly” and “disgusting” on a daily basis. The bullying became constant and inescapable. I wasn’t safe from the bullying anywhere and even dealt with it in my own neighborhood. I couldn’t even walk down my own street without being bullied.
I was completely miserable and felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, except for when I watched Star Trek. TNG’s fifth season was airing and the characters had started to feel like family to me. Tasha was still my favorite character and I was thrilled when her Romulan daughter Sela was revealed in “Redemption Part II.” I still sometimes imagined myself as Tasha’s daughter, and having Sela appear meant that my mother’s storyline was continuing! Seeing Spock in “Unification I & II” was also a highlight of the season. I loved TOS in my early childhood years and seeing Spock meeting Picard felt like a family reunion. I also loved Wesley’s return in “The Game.” I had always related to Wesley (I was also a brainy kid who got annoyed when adults didn’t listen) and I loved seeing him and Robin Lefler save the day. These characters and many others gave me a sense of belonging that I never felt with my peers, and it got me through another terrible year.
Things improved in my high school years, but they still weren’t great. I was made fun of for being smart and nerdy, I was made fun of for my weight, and I was especially made fun of for my lack of athletic ability. Tenth grade gym class was pure hell. I was constantly mocked and screamed at for making mistakes in whatever game we played. Classmates were furious when I was assigned to their team and begged gym teachers to reassign me. Volleyball games were the worst, teammates shoved me and called me a bitch while people on the opposite team jeered at me. I started dreading gym days. I went to school physically shaking and wanting to throw up. I felt terrified and wanted to run away and never come back. To this day I cannot play team sports without feeling sick to my stomach and sheer panic.
Watching Star Trek was one of the only things that calmed my nerves. This was during DS9’s fourth season and Voyager’s second season. I can’t pick a favorite DS9 episode from that time, because I loved them all. I loved characters and rich storylines. I looked up to Kira and Jadzia and I had a huge crushes on Jake Sisko and Dr. Bashir. On Voyager, I loved seeing the Starfleet and Marquis crews coming together and becoming a family. I also became a life-long J/C shipper that year after watching “Resolutions.” Writing fan fiction about Janeway and Chakotay helped take my mind off my lack of a love life and was my favorite escape on the especially bad days. Once again, Star Trek pulled me through another terrible year.
As I reflect back on the years I was bullied, I keep thinking about one of Captain Picard’s most famous lines, “The first duty of every Starfleet Officer is to the truth.” I want to share the full truth of my childhood bullying story, which is that there were times when I was a bully too. I was very angry about how I was treated by classmates, and at times I took it out on other people. This is the hardest part of my story to share, but to me it is the most important one.
I will always be grateful for the role Star Trek has played in my life, and as I have become a part of online Star Trek community, I have discovered that I am not alone in my experience and that many of us experienced childhood bullying. I invite others to share your stories on social media using the hashtag #HowTrekGotMeThrough.