The One in the Past
Quick note to say that I signed stock of Brightly Woven at the B&N on 82nd and Broadway. If you're in NYC, maybe that'll entice you to swing by and pick up a copy? :) So, I've been thinking about Phoebe Prince ever since the news broke about her suicide. I've started several blog posts about it, only to stop when I realized I wasn't sure what I actually wanted to say. Everything I wrote seemed hollow and insincere, because, in the end, I'm not sure anything can really reflect the horror and the pain of what she must have gone through.
I have to wonder if one of the reason her stories has captured the attention of America is because there are so many people out there who can relate. Perhaps they weren't bullied on the scale she was, or in the same vicious ways, but they shared the common experience of having their self-worth put down and their ability to recover from physical and emotional abuse tested.
Would it surprise you to know that I was bullied both in school and online? It's taken me years to recover from it; it's the reason why I still have a hard time opening up to others and making friends, and why my self-confidence is devastatingly quick to waver in situations. For me, Middle School was just the worst. I'm convinced that it's worse than high school in many ways, because it's before you're expected to develop any kind of conscience. In sixth grade, I couldn't even ride the bus home without a group of eighth graders harassing what I wearing, what I was reading, the friends I was sitting with, my weak attempts at wearing make up... They were really fond of throwing stuff at me--it didn't matter what it was (Goldfish crackers, paper, water bottles, you name it) or how hard I was ignoring them. There's one bus ride in particular I wish I could forget. My mom had helped me curl my hair that morning and I was so excited and happy about it--but after that eighth grade girl told me I looked like a "stupid bitch" and that my hair looked like her pubic hair, do you think I ever wore my hair like that again? It doesn't sound like a big deal, I know, but I'm 23 now and every time I think about her and that bus I feel like I'm 12 all over again. It's not the memory of the events that hurt, but the memory of the pain and helplessness.
And you know what? I still remember the faces of the kids who sat around me and did nothing.
I've had people hack into my email account, post blog entries about me that would make a grown man cry tears of frustration, I've been tripped, called terrible names, and watched as my group of friends became the school's Mean Girls. And this was BEFORE Facebook, Twitter, and Craigslist came about. If that's the new face of bullying--relentless attacks you can't even escape when you get to the safety of your home--then I am terrified.
That's not to say that I've never been on the other end of bullying. I've been mean, I've said and done things I regret. They might have made me feel more in control and more powerful in that moment, but those feelings were only temporary. And, I'm sorry, but the idea of "putting others down to feel better about myself," just doesn't fly for me anymore. There's no excuse for being so vicious and cruel to another person, and there's nothing about subjecting another person to that particular brand of torture that will make you feel good and better about yourself in the long run.
If you're being bullied, or if you know of someone who is, silence is not an option. Do not be a bystander. Do not try to make yourself invisible in the hope that it'll all go away eventually. It won't. If you're not brave enough to confront the situation yourself, find someone else (an adult, a teacher, a friend) who can and will. No one deserves to go through what Phoebe went through, and no one should have to. Don't let that poison exist in your school--stand up for yourself and your right to feel happy and safe.