Monday, August 18, 2014

Writers Against Bullying - why I am taking part

The Evernight family of authors is getting together to help get the anti-bullying message out via selfies and social media, and I thought I’d talk a little about what I know about bullying.

It hurts.

I’m forty-four years old, and I can still hear the taunts and cruel comments of my fourth grade classmates. I can remember the heartbreak of having my closest friends turn their backs on me. I didn’t know then that they too, were being bullied, pressured into going along with the mob. I only knew that I had lost all my friends.

I lost a lot more than that before the school year end. I lost my smile. I lost my confidence, and I lost part of who I was supposed to be. I had my childhood stolen from me by other children, and they got away with it because they were just “kids being kids.” One counsellor even told me that if I was being bullied, I must be doing something to cause it, that somehow I deserved it.

I gained things too. Scars on my back from being poked and slashed with those nasty little math set compasses we had to buy every year (but almost never used.) I learned how to fight, because I had to defend myself from constant physical attacks. I learned not to trust teachers or counsellors, because no matter what my parents had promised me, not every adult was willing to help, or even let themselves see what was happening to me on a daily basis. Being bullied gave me a spectacular set of anxieties that I still have to do battle with to this day.

Grade four was the first time I experienced true bullying, but it wasn’t the last. My self confidence was already shattered by the time my parents moved me to another school, and that was all it took to continue the cycle. I would never fit in again. That ship had sailed and I was stuck on the island of lost dreams with the rest of the social misfits for the rest of my academic prison sentence. (we were easy to identify, we were the ones with eyes downcast, scuttling down the hallways with our shoulders hunched, waiting for the next mocking taunt or random shove.) I was bitten, beaten up, mocked, teased and ignored. I ate my lunches hiding in the art room, under the protection of one of the few teachers who saw what was happening and offered me a safe haven.

These days, I don’t let anyone bully me. I’ve got a successful career, good friends and a life I am proud of. I carry myself with confidence. (or at least I try to.) I have tattoos, pink hair and enough ‘tude to carry me through just about anything. I’ll tell you a secret though, it doesn’t matter. Part of me is still that lost, hurt, nine year old girl. I still feel her hurt and hear her self doubts. I just don’t let it stop me from being who I want to be. Who I should have been.

Before the bullies took that from me.

No one deserves to be bullied. It’s never an acceptable way to treat another person, not as a child, or as an adult. Bullies come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. They can be a child in the playground, a boss, or a stranger on the street.

We can end bullying, but that means doing the one thing that scares most of us to death. It means standing up to the bullies and telling them to stop. If someone had stood up for me, I know my life would have been different.

This world can be better, but only if we all stand up for what’s right.