Spearheaded by Mandy Roth and Yasmine Galenorn, today is a unified effort on the part of all the authors listed below to highlight the importance of the issue of bullying.
I was going to talk about being bullied as a kid. And I’m sure that in the list of links below, you’ll read those stories. So I decided to do something a little different. It goes without saying that what kids have to endure at the hands of other kids, of schools, of teachers and other adults who are as insensitive as their kids – sucks. It’s horrific and I read through story after story of young people being driven to self harm and death because of this behavior and it breaks my heart. It’s stupid and unnecessary. And as adults, we need to do a much better job of raising our kids, of teaching them and of structuring our schools to be places of safety.
Earlier this school year, my eight year old daughter was bullied. The sort of deeply emotional bruising that it seems girls engage in at earlier and earlier stages. Her heart was broken. I’m her mother – she’s beautiful and intelligent and strong. But she’s got such a heart. And the taunts were difficult for her to bear. What can I say? I can tell her I love her. I can watchdog the school (and I will say the school counselor did bring the chief instigator in to meet with my daughter and gave my daughter a way to address the things that had been said in a way that ended up empowering her).
But I made her a playlist. One we listen to in the mornings as she gets ready for school. Even her brothers like it. Music has gotten me through so many rough times. A lot like reading and writing have. Every time I hear this one I think of my sweet, strong girl.
Nothing much I can say can really do justice to the heartbreak bullying causes. It sucks and it’s horrible and we need to take it seriously. This isn’t kids being kids. This is mental and physical cruelty. We need to do a better job of addressing it. But you are a firework. You are special. You are worth something. As a human being you matter.
It does get better.
Being different still matters when you’re an adult. That’s a fact. There will always be people who are threatened by anyone and anything that is different.
But it matters less to you. It matters less to you because there comes a time when being different changes from a millstone to simply something about you that you learn to love and accept. It becomes something that will connect you to other people who are just as different as you are (in their own way). Your difference, which made you feel like an outsider is part of you. It’s part of who you are and that makes you beautiful.
I can tell you this now and hope you believe it. And I can tell you this now and if you are very young, I can assure you that if you hang on, your best revenge will be not only surviving the Lord of the Flies that middle and high school can be – but your success as an adult. I think about those people who made fun of my clothes and my hair, of where I lived and what I looked like – and I know I have a wonderful life. All the things they tried to make me ashamed of (and being honest, things I was ashamed of from time to time) they’re part of me. And all that goes into my books. It goes into how I parent my own kids. It goes in to how I try to treat other people.
I can’t lie to you and say that bullying didn’t change me. It did. It made me have to harden in ways no kid should ever have to. It did at a time before the internet. Before cameras on phones. Before the ability to set a vicious rumor out into the world where it would spread like wildfire. I know it’s hard. I know that hopelessness when it feels like things will never get better. When you feel totally and utterly alone. Like no one understands you. When you hurt so badly that just making it through the day seems insurmountable.
But I can tell you that on the other side of all that misery – the place you get to when you’re in your early twenties and you realize it’s okay to be weird – it’s okay to be different and to live in your head and make up stories you turn into novels, where you like books and movies no one has heard of – and then you connect with other people who are different too? THAT is so wonderful. You will. I promise you that you will connect with other people who get it because they’ve been there. When you get to that place when being weird is totally okay and wonderful because it’s who you are – that’s your revenge. That’s your freaking flag you can wave around all day long. They tried to stop you. They tried to make you feel small and make you give up. But you didn’t. More than that? You are fabulously different, awesomely other.
It does get better. It isn’t always easy. But it does get better. Just hang on and know you are loved and appreciated and beautiful. Know that there are adults out in the world who are trying their damnedest to make things better for kids and to curtail the damage bullying does.
Mandy M. Roth
Michelle M. Pillow
Jackie Morse Kessler
Jesse L. Cairns
Ruth Frances Long