Tag Archives: bullying

Letter 59: Get Off The Elevator

14 Jul

Dear me at 13,

You’re pressing the “close elevator” button as quickly as your little fingers can manage.

“1,2,3,4,5,1,2,3,4,5,1,2,3,4,5…” you count the pushes in your head as you plead with the doors to shut already. People are taking their seats. The ceremony is about to begin. You’re not quite sure where you plan to ride this elevator, but if it doesn’t take you there soon, you’re considering scaling the shaft yourself through the emergency exit. Anything to get you out of here.

Me at 13

As the doors begin to close you can feel the hot sting of tears in your eyes. You’re trying to keep them in there so they don’t smear the makeup that you don’t know how to fix.

You’re standing in the elevator of the Beth Tikvah Synagogue in North York, Ontario. Today is David L.’s Bar Mitzvah, and somewhere between the coat check room in the basement and the main floor you were dumped by your boyfriend of a week and a half.

He said his friends thought you were too controlling and that he needed some time to be single. How you could possibly be controlling through the course of a week and a half in which you only saw each other at school and talked on the phone twice is beyond me (and you). But the ridiculous nature of his logic doesn’t take away from the hurt you’re feeling right now.

Tonight was supposed to be a really big deal. Everyone cool was coming to this Bar Mitzvah. Everyone cool was coming with a date. In fact, coming here with a date was the single largest factor in being considered cool in the first place. For the last week and a half, your life has been consumed with planning for this evening. The dress. The hair. The makeup. Standing in front of the mirror twirling and smiling. Practicing your “Mazel Tov”s so as to sound as authentic as a nerdy suburban shiksa can.

When he first asked you out, you were nearly too shocked to accept. I mean, he was one of the popular boys. One of the boys all the other girls liked. One of the boys who generally didn’t give you the time of day unless they were publicly ridiculing your clothing or your straight A grades. How or why he would come to the conclusion that he wanted to date you was a complete and total mystery. You somehow managed to get your words together and accept.

Instantly, your social standing changed. People who had intentionally avoided you but moments before were now clamouring for your attention. Heads turned as you walked through the hallways. And not in the “Now’s the perfect time to stick the ‘Kick Me’ sign on her back” kind of way you had typically experienced. You could sense your peers re-evaluating your worth.

It was wonderful. You felt as if, for the first time, your classmates were actually understanding who you were. Like they were finally catching onto what you had known about yourself all along. You started to imagine what the remainder of your Junior High career might be like if you could just keep this up. And it felt as though a gigantic weight had been lifted from your shoulders.

And now, travelling in that rickety elevator to goodness-knows-where, that weight is resting firmly once again, although now in the pit of your stomach. You are terrified to face your classmates. To face the popular girls. To face him. You don’t want to leave that elevator, but you know you can’t ride it forever. Your parents might worry. You’ll need to eat eventually.

Here is the thing: This situation is a perfect example of how fickle the popular 13-year-old crowd can be. Kids go from A List to D List and back again in a span of days. And they even do it to themselves! Amanda S. might be popular today, but believe it or not, in a few months, one of her fellow clique members will start a rumour about a naughty dream and her stocks will plummet too.

If I were you, I wouldn’t put so much weight on being accepted by people incapable of acceptance. They are 13. They’re hormonal. They’re insecure. You are an old soul. And deep down inside, you know you’re way beyond this. You will grow up into a successful person who loves her life, who has amazing friends and an incredible family (including a super hot husband, by the way! Yipee!).

The bad news is: You have to exit the elevator. The good news is: This Bar Mitzvah only lasts one night. And you’re already part way through. As your Dad always said, “By this time tomorrow, it will be what it was”. So wipe your eyes, straighten your hair, march on into the sanctuary and watch your classmate become a Man.

And if the popular girls ask any questions, just tell them you’re glad to be single again. After all, he was pretty controlling anyway.


If you liked this post, you’ll surely like this one and this one!

*GUEST SUBMISSION* Letter 58: It’s Not Always Awful

11 Jul

The Author at 17

Katie writes:

Dear me at 17,

I know how miserable you are right now. You’ve just dropped out of high school. All of your friends deserted you after a slew of rumors were passed around the school. Your heart was broken by so many boys you’ve lost count.

You’re feeling useless, unwanted and forgotten.

I remember that feeling. Not understanding why you’re feeling so depressed. Confused about how people could treat you so cruelly. Trying to find some reason why these injustices were done to you. Wondering what you did wrong.

But I’m here to tell you that you did nothing wrong. The boys are just immature jerks who don’t know the extent of the harm they have done. Your friends don’t realize yet how much you need them or how much they in turn need you.

And most of all, you are not a failure for dropping out. I know it feels that way. And it will for a very long time. But I don’t think it was a mistake.

You are a very smart young woman. Never doubt that. You have enough imagination and creativity to accomplish anything you set your mind to. You are talented in so many ways and you can use those gifts to the benefit of so many people, including yourself.

I don’t want to ruin the future for you. But I will give you a few helpful and hopeful tips.

Don’t be afraid to work. It is the most rewarding thing you can do for yourself. Be dedicated to the things you try, work hard and you will be astonished at the things you will accomplish.

Not all men are jerks. There are so many that are, so be wary. Remember your experiences so far and they will serve you well. However, do not lock your heart away or be afraid to love. There are quite a few good men as well, and you’ll want to be able to give them your heart when the opportunity presents itself.

Take chances. Don’t be afraid to do something because you are afraid you will fail. Setbacks are a part of life. But if you hide yourself away you will never experience anything.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Don’t strive to be anyone else. The sooner you learn this, the quicker you realize how wonderful you are when you are just being you; the easier life will be. Don’t live for anyone else. Don’t strive to be what others want you to be. Just be you. You’re wonderful.

And most of all, remember that you are loved. You are so lucky to have people in your life that will never leave you. Your family is your greatest support, and they will always be there for you.

Life won’t always be easy and there is a lot that I don’t know yet. But I’ll tell you that it’s not all hard. It’s not all mean. It’s not all scary. There are so many good times ahead of you.

Don’t let yourself get lost in this hard time.

But then, I already know that you are stronger than you think you are. Trust me.

And one peek at the future: You’re very happy.

The Author Today

Katie is the writer of Simply Kate. She is exploring her life in Las Vegas, is currently editing her first novel, has a wonderful boyfriend and is very happy.


If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

Letter 44: You’re Not A Badass

28 Mar

Me (right) and my best friend (left) at 17.

Dear me at 17:

You’re sitting in the back room of a Queen Street tattoo parlour. Your boyfriend is by your side, holding your hand. You’re waiting for the piercer to come into the room and punch a couple of holes in a couple of very sensitive body parts.

You’re already regretting your decision, and it hasn’t even been made yet.

Let me tell you something here:

You are not a badass.

I’m sorry. I know you really want to be. But let’s face it: You’re an Optometrist’s daughter. You live in the Canadian suburbs. You like to eat chicken fingers and your Mother drives you to school every day in her blue Dodge Caravan. You’ve grown up in a neighbourhood so safe that you were able to meander your street with your jump rope late into the summer evenings. Neighbours would wave at each other as they took out their garbage.

Your family isn’t perfect. You’ve had your setbacks. But you’ve never once had to wonder whether there would be food on the table, or how you would purchase your next pair of sneakers. In fact, though they are blissfully unaware of its usage, the money to purchase your ill-fated piercing was given to you by your parents.

I’m sorry, honey, but I don’t think it’s possible to do anything remotely badass using Mommy and Daddy’s cash.

This whole badass deal began at the end of Junior High. You had been torturously bullied for being the token “good girl”. You wanted so badly to change your image. So you went about doing it the only way you knew how: running, full force, in the opposite direction. You chopped off your hair. You wore crazy clothes. You tried your darndest to become a “punk rocker”. Along with this came the piercings. First, all over your ears. Then your nose. Then your eyebrow. Now this wholesome little number.

To some extent, you achieved your end goal: You’re no longer the resident goody-two-shoes of York Mills Collegiate Institute. But this is more accurately because you switched schools. The bullies of YMCI have long since forgotten about you and moved on to some other poor unfortunate soul. But there you are, still sitting in that piercing room. Still trying to prove something to some invisible critic apparently stalking your every move. Who are you trying to fool?

You are sweet. You are naive. You are pretty. You love your family. You are a homebody at heart. You still sleep with the same stuffed animal you’ve had since you were three. Your favourite movie is “Little Women”.

You listen to punk rock because you love the music. You walk to the bus blaring NOFX “Perfect Government” and it sometimes gives you chills. But you also can’t bring yourself to sing along to all the f-bombs. It makes you blush. And though you sometimes try to talk the rich/poor political punk rock jargon, you will never be an anarchist. At the core, you feel way too blessed.

You don’t believe it right now, but these are all wonderful things. These are the qualities that will help you to build your truest and most meaningful friendships. These are the qualities that will draw your husband to you. These are the qualities that will make you an excellent mother (if I do say so myself).

Now listen, I’m not telling you to quit the punk rock scene. You Love the music. You spend hours sewing checkered ribbon onto your outfits and dance the night away at Slackers concerts and feel happier than you’ve ever felt. Those moments will forever be your favourite adolescent memories.

I’m just saying, quit punching holes in places you shouldn’t. Grab your coat, take back your parent’s money, and walk away. Don’t pierce yourself there. It’s going to hurt and look gross and you will most definitely regret it in your later years.

Quit trying to be a badass when what you actually are is a textbook Good Girl at heart. No matter how many piercings you get, that heart, and all the good inside it could never be disguised or hidden away.

And in its own special kind of way, I’d say that’s pretty badass.


If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

The Hindsight Notes: Frenemies

25 Mar

The Hindsight Notes is a recurring section created for all you readers wanting to participate in THL, but lacking time to write a full letter. Each Note is composed of a question. All you need to do is answer it, in the form of a comment (below).

This week’s topic is: Frenemies.

They’re your friend to your face. But behind your back, Ooooh, girl. They ain’t so nice. Everybody’s had one. That person that pretends to have your best interests at heart, but does everything in their power to sabotage your happiness.

Maybe you always suspected it. Or maybe it came as a huge surprise. Either way, we want to know all about your teenaged Frenemy. Who were they? Why were they your friend? What made them simultaneously your enemy?

As always, I’ll start us out:


If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!


The Hindsight Notes: Teenaged Archetype

11 Mar

The Hindsight Notes is a recurring section created for all you readers wanting to participate in THL, but lacking time to write a full letter. Each Note is composed of a question. All you need to do is answer it, in the form of a comment (below).

This week’s topic is: Your Teenaged Archetype.

Every teen movie ever created plays off of the teenaged archetypes we’ve gathered in the collective unconscious. The popular girl (Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz). The mean girl (Rachel McAdams as Regina George). The rich kid (James Spader as Steff). Though their personalities might seem specific to the stories, their character traits are broad enough to cover a spectrum of teenagers.

So this week, we want to know: If you had to pick one Teen Movie Character to represent yourself as you were during your adolescence, who would it be? Why? Are you still like him or her?

As always, I’ll start us out:


If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!


The Hindsight Notes: Rumours

18 Feb

The Hindsight Notes is a recurring section created for all you readers desperate to participate in THL, but lacking time to write a full letter. Each Note is composed of a question. All you need to do is answer it, in the form of a comment (below).

This week’s topic is: Rumours.

Ugh. Rumours. Possibly the ugliest part of adolescence. People, by nature, love gossip. And in the world of high school, where hormones rage and the name of the game is survival, a single nasty rumour can make or break your entire social existence.

You know you’ve been there. Maybe you spread a rumour about someone else. Maybe someone else spread a rumour about you. Whichever way it went, we want to hear about it.

As always, I’ll start us out:


If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!





*GUEST SUBMISSION* Letter 36: Skating Solo

31 Jan

This week, we are excited to share a Letter from THL Assistant Captain, Brianna Goldberg!

Brianna writes:

Dear me at 13:

There you are, cowering in the change room at the local skating rink. On the metal benches that pull at your skin-tone leggings, you’re fighting for breath under the lingering cloud of hockey player musk and trying to keep your eyes fixed on your skates. You pull the laces tighter, tighter— possibly too tight.

There is a haze of adolescent girlie chatter billowing around you. Much of it is catty. All of it is dumb. And it’s dizzying and confusing and you can’t quite keep up with what the Skating Girls are talking about.

It’s understandable. They’re all part of the “precision” (read: synchronized) skating team, and you are not. So you’ve missed out on the in-jokes and nick-names they came up with last weekend when they went to a competition and stayed overnight in the motel in glorious Nowheresville.

In a town like the one you’re from, being on this team gives them serious social currency. All the hairsprayed mothers and daughters with their matching sequined sweatshirts get a certain buzz from being a part of a competitive group like that. Though they would never say so out loud, they believe it’s incredibly prestigious. They believe it’s incredibly important. They believe you weren’t good enough to be part of it.

But you know that you never even tried out. You never even wanted to. You were too busy drawing cartoons, and playing softball, and building forts in the backyard with the girl from two doors down.

And so when you show up to skating lessons, in your kinda old and ill-fitting spandex outfits (…Lord help me…), the girls really like to kick their in-group chatter up a notch. Really go out of their way to remind you that you’re not part of something that is really super tops. That you are so not on the team.

As you sit there, wanting both to be part of their clique and at the same time to be left alone, and they go out of their way to laugh louder than when you’re not there, to look like they’re having more fun than when you’re not there…

Do not let them make you feel small. Different. Weird. Like something about you is wrong.

Because, honey, years later, you will be the one with a master’s degree, a great job, and a great man. You will travel the world, reporting on and learning from the most amazing cultures and people. Most nights you’ll phone your amazing parents who have never once doubted you and you’ll tell them all about your journeys. You will be challenged. You will be loved. You will be happy.

All that because you have grown to appreciate that you are a strong and independent individual– not just one of the girls in the synchronized skating line: Powerful in numbers, lost when alone.

And the Skating Girls? Some day they’ll have to leave the precision team. (Sadly, no one can wear sequined spandex forever… shouldn’t anyway…)

And once they’re no longer part of that skate-clad army, rumours about their dropping out of college, melting into breakdowns, struggling to cope with life in your hometown… those stories will be volleyed back and forth around the grocery stores and shopping malls of that old town of yours, perpetuating the icky and never-ending gossip game. One you were tenacious (or uninterested?) enough to walk away from, mid-set.

So stay strong there, as you pull those skate laces tighter.

Some day it’s you who will escape into a great adventure.

And they will have their memories of staying overnight in the Nowheresville Motel.

Brianna Goldberg is the Assistant Captain of The Hindsight Letters. She is a freelance writer and producer from Toronto who picked up her life and moved to the Caribbean. You can find out more about Brianna’s work on her travel blog or at her personal website.
If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

Letter 35: When You’re In A Valley

24 Jan

Dear me at 13:

Your headphones have been plastered to your ears for the last several hours.

You’ve got “High and Dry” on repeat. For whatever reason, Thom Yorke and the gang have been able to coax you through this morning. Something about the first few drum beats of that song- they’ve got some kind of a magical quality. They instantly calm you and allow your mind to float away.

You’ve just crossed over another state line. Farmer’s fields are blurring into one another outside your window. Each mile that you drive brings you further away from home and shrinks any possibility of escape. You can’t turn around now. You’re stuck on that bus.

It’s the big Grade 8 class trip and you’re on your way to Boston. While all the other girls are cozied up in the rear, gossiping and subtly stabbing each other in the back, you are sitting in the front. By yourself. You’ve got your legs stretched out on the empty seat next to you.

You didn’t really want to go on this trip in the first place. You didn’t really care about Boston. You didn’t really like any of the other kids in your class. And you’ve never really done well being away from home. You like your own bed. Your room. Your routine. You debated for many weeks about whether or not to attend. But you ultimately knew that skipping the trip would exclude you from the experience that everyone would be talking about. You couldn’t risk further alienating yourself. You had to go.

Initially, your childhood “Best Friend” promised to room with you. At least you’d get to giggle away with a familiar face. But days before the trip, you found out that she had signed on to be in a room with the popular girls instead. Everyone else had already booked their rooms. You were plunked in with the other girls who had been left without a chair during the latest round of musical cliques.

Your being stuck in the “runt” room gave the popular girls lots of ammunition. They wanted to make sure you knew how much fun they were going to have and just how boring and geeky your room was going to be.

Under normal circumstances, you spend your days being taunted, but ultimately have the ability to go home and escape each evening. To recharge before having to march back into the salt mines again. An overnight trip would be like an endurance test. With no respite from the battle.

Understandably, you have been dreading this trip.

I want to tell you something. Plain and simple. It’s the essence, really, of all these Letters I’ve been writing to you:

Your life won’t be like this forever. I promise you.

I know. It’s really hard to believe. You’re so young. You’ve only been on this earth for 13 years. The first 10 of which were relatively unblemished. Happy. Worry free. Then this whole puberty deal started. You entered Junior High. You met the mean girls. It felt like life would never be the same again.

Here is the thing: Life is essentially a series of peaks and valleys. There will always be valleys, and you have just entered your very first one. But I can guarantee you that if you just hang in there for long enough, you will always be met by the next peak.

There is something about Junior High that is so, so hard. So dramatic. So emotional. For whatever reason, people go really far out of their way to make each other miserable. Nasty rumours. Entrapment three-way phone calls. Stealing friends. Stealing boyfriends. You’re forced to spend every day with a group of people whom you have not chosen. You’ve been clumped together and told to get along.

No matter how old you get, being at the bottom of one of life’s valleys is daunting. It’s hard to see how you’re going to get out. And it’s easy to start believing that it might never happen.

I know you’re feeling a little sad. I know you’re feeling lonely. I know you’re feeling homesick. But you won’t feel this way forever. When you do hike your way out of your very first valley, you will turn around and look back at the distance you’ve climbed. You will be proud of your strength. And the next time you see a little dip up ahead, you will know for certain that no matter how deep this road might lead you, you will always manage to find your way back up again.


If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

The Hindsight Notes: Teenaged Nemesis

21 Jan

Andy and her Teenaged Nemesis Steff in "Pretty In Pink"

The Hindsight Notes is a recurring section created for all you readers wanting to participate in THL, but lacking time to write a full letter. Each Note is composed of a question. All you need to do is answer it, in the form of a comment (below).

This week’s topic is: Your Teenaged Nemesis.

We’ve talked about your Teenaged Bestie. Now let’s talk about your Worstie. You probably remember them all too well. That person that made your skin crawl. The person that made you want to run in the other direction when you spotted them in the halls. The person that you were so glad to leave behind when you left school.

So tell us- who were they? What made them so aggravating? Have you ever run into them since leaving school?

As always, I’ll start us out:


If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!


Letter 33: The Wicked Witch Of Windfields Junior High

10 Jan

Dear me at 13:


You have just successfully won the lead role in the school play. You will be Dorothy in “The Wizard Of Oz”. You were the only Grade Seven student to audition for the lead role amidst a sea of Grade Nines. And you managed to get the part.

Me as Dorothy, during the Big Performance

You should be proud of yourself. Take a moment to bask in the glory of this achievement. Because unfortunately, you’ll soon be wishing you could click your own little ruby slippers together and be anywhere but up on that stage, rehearsing for the big performance.

When the school play was initially announced, and you started to think about auditioning for the lead, you fantasized about how playing Dorothy would redeem yourself socially amongst your peers. After your unfortunate loss in the campaign for student council (something that we discussed in a previous letter), your circle of friends seemed to be shrinking by the minute. You desperately needed a win. Surely securing the lead role in the school play would give you some street cred. The Grade Sevens would think you were cool because you would get to hang out with the Grade Nines. The Grade Nines would think you were cool because your skill level was at par with theirs. Your popularity would skyrocket. A clear win-win.

So you auditioned, sang your little heart out, and nailed “Over The Rainbow”. When the music faculty first announced the results, you alone were named Dorothy. Ripples of dissent began to reach the teaching staff. The Grade Nines were outraged that a Grade Seven was cast in the lead. A chubby, tone-deaf Grade Nine girl named Jessica W. began leading the uprising. She was mean and loud and very convincing in her argument. You were told in a meeting that there would now be two Dorothies. You would each get to do two performances. Bureaucracy at its best.

You thought to yourself, “It’s not that bad. Maybe Jessica W. and I will bond over our common goal. Maybe we will encourage and learn from each other. Maybe we will become BFF’s”.

I love your optimism.

Jessica W. does not. Evidently, at some point her focus shifts from being the Best Possible Dorothy to making your life A Living Hell. Every time your turn comes to practice your solo, she snickers in the background. She all but forbids the other actors from talking with you at all, outside of practicing lines. She makes fun of the costume your Mother made you.

You seek sanctuary in your fellow Grade Sevens. However, they too are not pleased with your win. Having been cast as munchkins, flying monkeys and dancing trees, the other 13 year olds are feeling equally silly and insecure and are too frightened to risk associating themselves with you. You have unwittingly upset the delicate hierarchy of Windfields Junior High. There are many days where you consider dropping out of the play entirely.

My dear, sweet girl.

You auditioned for this role because you love to sing. You love to perform. And “The Wizard Of Oz” has been one of your favourite movies since you were a child. Yes, when Jessica W. snickers during your solo it breaks your heart a little. But ultimately, the joy that belting out that tune gives you trumps any negativity that she sends your way. And it’s that joy that will lead you to see your commitment through to your two big performances. You will nail them both. You will bring your Grandfather to tears. And when you look back on the experience, you will be so proud of yourself for refusing to allow an insecure, jealous Grade Nine take that joy away from you.

So, my dear girl, sing your little heart out. Memorize your lines as best you can. Go to each and every rehearsal and hold your head high. Own that role, regardless of what Jessica W. or anyone else thinks. And the next time you hear someone let out a snicker during your solo, take it as a sign to sing louder. After all, when you sincerely focus on your own joy, it will always drown out the din of your critics.


If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!