I am not one that lives in the past. Who sits and stews in anger and regret. I am not the type of person who holds bitterness toward people who have done me wrong. I am not a woman that has ever felt sorry for herself. I am not that kind person and I will never be but occasionally I see, watch or read something and it hits me right in my gut, immediately travelling painfully to my mind. And I relive things that I would rather forget.
I sit here with a pounding heart and shaky hands after watching the horrendously tragic video by Amanda Todd. If you're unfamiliar with her story, this is the beautiful young girl who was bullied, harassed and beaten so relentlessly that she felt she had no other option in life than to take it away with her own hands.
While reading it I was bombarded by memories of my own tween-aged and teen-aged years. And though I wasn't bullied horrifically like Amanda I have more than enough slides in my memory bank to make up a short sad film. I shudder to think what would have become of me if social media existed back then. I still don't understand why I was the occasional target of others hate - particularly one girl. And by no means was I always a total innocent. As young girls in public school there was a rotation of singling out one person - Mean Girl style - and it's shameful. I said and did my own share of things that I am not proud of...haven't we all? But here, I will tell my story, my perspective of what it feels like to be bullied, picked on, made to feel less than I should have or whatever you wish to call it.
I suppose it began when I went through puberty and developed at an early age. I was called names by boys as they tried to snap my training bra while also running past me to cop a feel. Like my bodily developments were in my control and because I had breasts I was automatically labelled promiscuous (I was not but regardless that's certainly not the point) and deserved this treatment. In grade 8 I moved to a different school, right in the middle of the year. If that isn't hard enough on a 13 year old girl there were rumours that a girl from my old school had 'sent' to my new school via a mutual 'friend' - completely and 100 percent false. I can't even type what they were because they were so crude. I lost my best friend to this girl, I lost a whole group of friends. I also made new ones at my new school but not without having to prove myself otherwise. Whatever that means. I was (looking back now, not realizing then) depressed and later became borderline bulimic. All of this was piled on top of my home life that was far from functional. I never really felt comfortable, confident or entirely likable in high school even though I was part of what was considered the 'in crowd'. Throughout my high school years there were times that were fun and times that were just awful. Those were the times I was pushed, told I was scum of the earth, screamed at in front of many people on several different occasions. For many years I just thought this was a teenage girl's right of passage.
How is that even normal to think that way?
These are feelings and events most people do not know about me. Not even some of my closest friends.
And I'm terribly uncomfortable typing this out. My hands can barely type at this point. But perhaps you have a story too and you're nodding your head along with mine. Or perhaps you cannot completely relate, possibly this could open your eyes a little bit wider. But I imagine you've all been touched by bullying at some point in your lives. Whether it happened to you, whether you stood by and watched or whether you were the bully. But this should not, should never be considered okay. Just kids being kids. Teenagers just being teenagers. Girls will be girls, boys will be boys and all that bullshit. Uh-uh. No way. Not on my watch.
The cyber-bullying that happened to Amanda is beyond cruel. I wonder how the kids that put Amanda through this are feeling right now. What are they going through? Though many people believe this raises cyber-bullying awareness to a whole new level, at the same time I am afraid of the aftershocks that this could very well produce. What about the parents of these kids? How are they dealing with this? I'm sure they're asking themselves where they went wrong. How they failed. I know I would. And Amanda's family. Well. It's just excruciating to imagine the nightmare they're facing...that video shattered my heart into a thousand pieces. But imagine that being your teenager?
This is not a confessional-type of blog about things of this nature, however, I have two sons. Sons who I want to grow up in a world where people are accepted for who they are. I want them to know that name calling, rumour milling, BELIEVING rumours, making people feel small and awful about things that are completely out of their control, bra snapping, bullying of any kind are NEVER APPROPRIATE. And, dear sons, if you see anyone doing this to another person I would hope that your father and I have taught you well enough to be big enough, brave enough, kind enough, compassionate enough to stand up for that person. Please. And if you're the person being bullied, I would hope that I would 'just know' but that's not always the case. So, I beg of you, talk to your Dad and me. We will always listen. We will believe what you have to say.
I am a strong person. I am by nature a very happy, optimistic person. I somehow had a reserve of self esteem that allowed a tiny part of me to believe I didn't really deserve the things that were said and done to me. Fortunately I did have a couple of good friends that I could count on during these terrible times. Amanda, unfortunately, did not. There's always something to learn from tragic endings like hers. It's up to us to keep these terrible events close to our hearts and fresh in our minds if only push us even more to keep the lines of communication open and flowing with our children, to talk to our children, and to ensure they are listening intently to us, about bullying.
We must instill in our children qualities of kindness, acceptance, empathy and courage.
It begins with us.
It's never too early.
But it could be too late.