Picture this. 5th grade classroom... it's the last period in school for the day and you're stuck in math. ugh... math! Everyone is energetically waiting for the bell to ring including your friend who sits next to you sporting a pair of new eye glasses. He'd never worn eye glasses before so of course all day people have been making comments to him about it. Some out of malice and others for "fun". The teacher says something that we happened to miss because we simply weren't paying attention and this young man who for the moment didn't have his glasses on asks the children around him "what'd he say?". Without thinking I said "maybe you should put your glasses on so you can hear him".
Now I need to point something out. In my defense, this is something that my dad would say to my mom in order to pick on her. Though there is no excuse for my words to him, I should say that she never seemed very upset by it... so I think I figured that it wouldn't hurt his feelings. I was very wrong. The look on his face and the way his entire body just seemed to deplete of any positive energy he had was heartbreaking and it's a moment in my life I wish I could take back.
You may think that I should just get over it. But in all honesty, this is not something I can just get over. The truth is that from grade 4 and all through high school I was the victim of bullying. To know that I may have hurt someone in the same way I was hurt, even if it was one comment... one moment... it's enough to break my heart and wish it hadn't happened.
My bullying was... rough. That's probably an understatement. It got to the point where I would fake being sick in order to not go to school. I actually learned how to manipulate the thermometer to where it would show that I was just under the normal 98.6 degrees. This would make my mom feel that whatever I had was viral and she would allow me to stay home (sorry, Mom). Anything I could do to avoid being called ugly, stupid, a monster... or to have things thrown at me, to be spit at, to be called every name... basically to have ever action I did get judged in such a harsh manner by kids who were the same age as me... the same level of education... from the same areas of town and who knew the same people. All of these "sames" and we were so different. No matter how hard I tried I could never fit in. As a result, I learned to live alone... with in myself. This meant that all during high school when most of the really bad bullying had ceased... I was misunderstood because I was so quiet... and because I was so quiet I was picked on once again. Popularity definitely wasn't my thing in school and it wasn't until college that I was able to slowly come out of my shell. Even now though... retreating to that place I lived for so long alone is my defense mechanism and in times of stress, anger, sadness or loneliness... it's what provides me comfort simply because it's where I lived for so long.
It should come as no surprise that I write this on the brink of our 5th teen suicide since September over bullying, the last one being Tyler Clementi from Rutgers University. It might surprise some to learn that suicide was an option that I critically considered. I'm very glad I didn't. I would've missed out on so much! I would've missed out on falling in love, seeing my brothers get married and make beautiful babies, going to grad-school (twice), having amazing friends... and being there for my mom when she's needed me most. What every one is saying is all true. People change. It won't always be bad and you're life will absolutely get better as has mine and one day you'll even learn to love yourself which as someone whose been bullied can tell you... it's an uphill battle.
Words are significant. Take the time to think before you speak, plan before you act, and live every moment in love. It's with love that we overcome hardships and love can save those children who are being bullied and prevent these all too soon deaths. It only takes one person to care to make a difference.
Please watch these if you haven't seen them yet. The first is Ellen's message and the second is Kathy Griffin's message. Both are important.
Class dismissed. Be nice to each other.